3 golden rules for effective leadership

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Matthew 7:12 NCV, see also Luke 6:31

This fundamental moral principle has appeared in many religions and cultures over thousands of years and it continues to be relevant today.

It’s a simple philosophy that we all genuinely believe we follow, but some of us are much better at it than others. This is especially true of the leaders around us and in the media. It’s not hard to see that some have become too self-absorbed to notice how their behaviour affects others. Some may never have known and others simply might not care. Yet, how leaders treat others will often determine their success.

Mike Smith - Former CEO - Anz Bank

Mike Smith - Former CEO - Anz Bank

While you may have worked hard to be in a position of leadership, it’s important to remember that being in that position is a privilege and not an automatic right. If you want others to follow you, you need to treat them as you would like to be treated at all times. The leaders who do this well tend to share these common characteristics.

  • They show respect to all others, regardless of who they are.

  • They treat everyone equally and value other people’s opinions.

  • They act with humility and can admit when they are wrong.

Showing respect for others

Within any group, there will be those with different values, opinions, beliefs, abilities and levels of experience to you. Showing respect as a leader means being considerate of these differences and seeing them as a positive thing. Having such variety enriches the workplace culture and often leads to increased performance overall.

Respect can also mean being considerate of other people’s time, space and personal needs. For example, allowing flexible work hours or catering for employees who may need physical or adaptive aids.

Christine Porath has studied the benefits of civility in the workplace with the Harvard Business Review. In her HBR article The Leadership Behavior That’s Most Important to Employees, she says:

 “I found that when it comes to garnering commitment and engagement from employees, there’s one thing that leaders need to demonstrate: respect. No other leadership behavior had a bigger effect on employees across the outcomes we measured.”

Treating others as equals

Just because someone else does not earn as much as you or have as much responsibility, it does not make them any less of a person. Even the newest or lowest level employees can contribute valuable insights that may benefit the company.

Mike Smith OBE is the Chair of York Butter Factory - the “destination point for innovation in Australia”. He also holds the position of Senior Adviser Asia Practice at PwC. His extensive CV includes 9 years as the CEO of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) and several top positions at the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd (HSBC).

In his podcast interview for The Mentor List, Smith readily admitted that he may have come across as arrogant in his early days as a leader. However, through experience, he came to realise that becoming a better leader also involved being conscious of how his actions affected those around him. This, in turn, involved engaging with people at all levels.

“The habit that I have insisted on every single day is that I always meet a customer, a staff member who didn’t report to me and what I would call mover, somebody of influence. That could be a major shareholder, it could be a politician, a media commentator or whatever … it is incredibly important to keep touch with your organisation and what it is that you are doing.”

Showing humility

The above characteristics work best when blended with a good ounce of humility. As success coach Brian Tracy says in his article The Top 7 Leadership Qualities & Attributes Of Great Leaders:

“Humility doesn’t mean that you’re weak or unsure of yourself. It means that you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened.”

Leaders need to learn to put their ego aside and to learn from others. You need to be prepared to admit your mistakes and actively seek feedback on how you can do better.

However, this does not mean that you can’t have personal goals when you are a leader. Smith certainly had clear goals for himself and his family alongside his workplace goals.

“I think it’s important that you have ambition. Ambition is sometimes seen as a bad word. I don’t think it is, I think it’s a good word. It’s good to be ambitious and to have a plan, to have a vision. That vision may change but you’ve got to set yourself some sort of opportunity, some sort of goal to achieve.”

Here’s what it comes down to. Leaders are not superior to everyone else. You can be a strong leader and still have the trust and respect of those around you simply by treating others as you’d like them to treat you. If you’re not sure how they would like to be treated – ask them.

Call to action…

The Mentor List’s interview with Mike Smith follows his journey from being raised in Kenya to becoming the CEO of several global banking groups and finding his home in Australia as the chair of technology start-up hub, York Butter Factory. Along the way, Smith has dealt with global financial crises, survived an assassination attempt and escaped during an attack on Central Bombay.

His interview overflows with the wisdom of someone who has lead many thousands of others yet values individual relationships. When you listen to the podcast, you are bound to find a message that resonates with you.

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au

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