During my Master’s degree in International Management at Paris 2 – Panthéon Assas last year, I had the chance to participate in a selective 5-day leadership and teamwork programme at the French army officer school: Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. This intensive programme opened my eyes to several things I already knew but never really focused on. In this article, I will share with you what I saw, observed, and learned during those few days about being a better leader.
A great leader recognises his own mistakes, reflect on them and have the ability to thoroughly think about them. Thus, creating growth opportunities for him and his team.
1. Be Humble
A great leader recognises his own mistakes and has the ability to thoroughly think about them. Thus, creating growth opportunities for him and his team. When we do mistakes or fail at something, we usually feel ashamed and try to hide them. But, by being humble and looking vulnerable, we actually build stronger bonds with others, because we are all imperfect human beings. Being humble means being able to accept our own flaws. But it doesn’t stop here, in order to be an inspiring leader, we need to do our best to recognise them and improve them.
2. Be present
Listening is the most powerful tool any person, leader or not, should foster. Talking is easy but listening is another story. We should not only listen with our ears but also with our eyes. OBSERVATION is key to learn more about others. Looking tired? Sad? Not talking as much as usual? Maybe this person is going through hardships and might not be 100% committed to his job. If we don’t listen or observe, how can we know that it’s not because he purely lost interest in the job but because he is having personal issues.
3. Face your fears and insecurities
Unfortunately, I can’t give you specific details on what kind of exercises I had the chance to participate in during this programme. However, I can tell you that most of us had to deal with our fears and insecurities.
Escaping from your fears means staying in your comfort zone, which consequently means minimal growth. By facing and overcoming our fears (highs, elevator, darkness, etc.), we expand our comfort zone and create more opportunities for growth. We also inspire others to just do the same. In the case of emergency, a leader must face his fears in order to support his team members. Let’s take an example. The company just lost a big client, you are the leader in charge, everybody is on the verge of breaking down. If you start to lose your temper and get also moody, how can you properly solve this issue? The mind is already full of fears and negative thoughts …
4. Share your vision clearly
Before starting any project or task, a leader should share his goals and vision to the team in a clear manner. We all need a “WHY”, a reason for living or taking action: in life, at school or at work. In life, it may be to be more stable financially. At school, it may be getting a job abroad in Management Consultancy. At work, it could be to reach a certain numerical target or a specific result.
5. Talk and discuss
Having an issue with one of the team members? or even a colleague? A classmate? Talk it out! Gossiping, or overthinking by speculating about what happened, what will happen, etc. won’t change the facts. The best way to resolve an issue or misunderstanding is by talking calmly face to face.
6. Press the PAUSE button when needed
One of the most powerful tool we don’t use enough for public speaking and even basic conversations is: SILENCE.
Authority doesn’t go well with screaming. When we are not being heard, we naturally tend to raise our voice which drives the other person to listen even less. One of the most powerful tools we don’t use enough for public speaking and even basic conversations is SILENCE. We live in a very fast-paced world and think that the faster, the stronger, the more we talk ,the more we will be heard. Let’s actually just take a deep breath and pause when needed. If nobody is listening, press on the PAUSE button, enjoy the silence and wait until everyone’s attention is back.
A great illustration of the power of silence is Eckhart Tolle, who as you can see in his talks takes deep breaths and enjoy pressing the pause button from time to time.
7. Make sure to leverage your team members’ strengths
Everyone is different in terms of background, personality, experience. It’s crucial that a leader can leverage these strengths to make the best out of the team. For a project, placing Mr. A who is good at problem-solving on the data analysis task would be optimal for him and the team. The more you know about your team members and their skills, the better the performance of the member and team will be thanks to an optimal division of the tasks.
8. Finally, a leader has the right to have a rest too
While we had several exercises per day, we did have rest time which allowed us to recharge. Working hard is necessary, but having some down time helps to be more productive at work. We also know that exhaustion can strongly affect our mood, performance, and behaviour. Some companies already started to take this seriously (such as Renault) and opened a nap space.