LinkedIn recently released its list of the most viewed profiles on its platform, which the company dubbed Power Profiles 2016, and it makes for interesting reading. Many of the people on the list are in lofty positions in their respective firms and industries, and there are few surprises (although we’re digging Krystal Choo’s education note, which says ‘I don’t agree with the structure of formal education’). Then, we began to wonder: how does rise to a position of power? We sought out four high-ranking professionals and asked them two simple questions. Here are their replies.
Avtar Ram Singh, Head of Social, Publicis Singapore
If you have to give tips to those in middle management on how to rise higher, what would it be?
The most important thing to remember is that when you’re a leader, people are coming to you for solutions. Sure, they’ll use words like guidance and help, but what they really want is a solution and key is how you provide that solution. I’ve found that the most effective way is to make them feel that they’re the one that came up with the solution in the first place and that this process should be a conversation, rather than a dictation. Guide the person through the solution, show them the right path, give them a workable solution with their input and help because let’s be real, no leader has 100 percent operational oversight on everything each of their team members are doing. This is what makes it important to get their input rather than dictate what the solution should be.
The second, is that every leader needs feedback. One of the pitfalls of being in a leadership position is thinking that now it’s your turn to start giving feedback to people and shaping them. What’s more important is the feedback that you receive from your team. Don’t ask for feedback the same time as you’re giving them feedback, or they’ll try and be nice so that you’re nice to them too. Find additional time for feedback sessions, and be transparent and honest. Ask them how they feel about you, ask them pointed questions like: how can I be a better boss? What kind of person do you want to work for? If I was gone tomorrow, what kind of person do you hope would be hired in my place? Give them the opportunity to describe the ideal team leader to you because that’s one of the ways in which they can give you feedback without directly pointing out your faults.
What was the first lesson you learned when you took over the reins?
I learnt this one the hard way, and it came at me like a freight train. People management is the hardest part of being a leader. The work isn’t the part that’ll trip you up. It’s managing your people, making sure they’re happy, making sure they work together as a unit and feel valued, and making sure bad apples are taken care of. That’s the tough part.
It’s easy to get busy and have no time as a leader, but if there’s one thing you should make time for, it’s your people. And they’re not the company’s people, they’re your people. You have to think of them as someone that you are responsible for. If they’re not performing well, the first person you must look at is yourself. Have you provided them enough opportunity to work well? Given enough feedback? Given a conducive environment to work well? Are their team members working well with them? As a leader, it all starts and ends with you.
Jean-Michel Wu, Chief Talent Officer, Asia Pacific, McCann WorldGroup
Tips for middle managers?
• Don’t get caught up in office politics. Instead focus on the quality of your work and make it shine.
• Jumping from role to role, or company to company doesn’t necessarily give you more experience – Aim to work somewhere for a solid period of time, where you can grow and learn.
• Allow yourself to be nurtured and listen to other people’s opinions. Work with people that inspire you to be better than you were the day before.
• Respect everyone in their chosen career – Whether it’s a blue collar worker, CEO and everyone in between. They all made decisions to get to where they’re at, and you should respect them for it.
What advice would you give to someone about leadership?
To try and not sweat the tough stuff. Personally, I was always so nervous around management that at times I felt crippled with fear. I tended to focus on what they thought of me, rather than what I could bring to the table. The truth is, they’re not really thinking about anything except themselves, so why bother working yourself up to a state. I wish I had been told to see beyond myself and just enjoy the ride, because paradoxically, the more relaxed you are, the more confident you become, giving you greater flexibility to focus on the job at hand and in turn, people will notice.
Darius Cheung, Founder & CEO, 99.co
How does one become a better leader?
Take on leadership without the title. Great leaders can lead and influence the team without the title or job scope to do so, they always pushes the team forward, and is always part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Be really good at one thing. I’ve found that people who are really good at some skill in depth – whether it is writing code or handling customer, end up being much better leaders than “professional managers” who don’t do anything in particular themselves.
What did you wish a mentor told you about leadership when you first started out?
I would say what Steve Jobs said to Nike CEO Mark Parker – “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
Leadership is about getting the best out of your people and giving them the best in return – but it is also as much about getting rid of the crappy stuff, whether it is a broken chair lying around, or a member of the team who is not pulling their weight.
Hari Krishnan, President & CEO, PropertyGuru Group
How do you lead your staff?
Firstly, have the courage to follow your convictions, and ensure that you contribute through your opinions and actions, whenever possible. Strong leaders help to SOLVE problems; they don’t just highlight them. Secondly, focus on your team. Ensure that you have the right people, stretch them sufficiently, empower them, and remove their obstacles. Finally, step out of the way and let them SOAR!
What’s the secret to great leadership?
All the great leaders that we’ve read about started somewhere. The reality is that they too did not know any more than we might in a given circumstance. In many cases, they made decisions based on incomplete information. So, be brave when you are given the opportunity to lead. Take the first step, take calculated risks and work your way from there.