Nine Themes of Outstanding Leaders Plus One

The British non-profit organization, The Work Foundation has released a paper on Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership (Authors:  Penny Tamkin, Gemma Pearson, Wendy Hirsh and Susannah Constable). It lists nine themes which characterize outstanding leaders.

1. Think systemically and act long-term
Outstanding leaders achieve through a combination of systemic thinking and acting for the long-term benefit of their organisation. They recognise the interconnected nature of the organisation and therefore act carefully.
2. Bring meaning to life
Outstanding leadership enables a strong and shared sense of purpose across the organisation. They emphasise emotional connection for people with a focus on passion and on ethical purpose.
3. Apply the spirit not the letter of the law
Outstanding leadership focuses on the few key systems and processes which help provide clarity, give structure, enable feedback, allow time for discussion and enable the development of vision. They use them to achieve outcomes rather than focus on the process, and put flexibility and humanity first.
4. Self-aware and authentic to leadership first, their own needs second
Outstanding leaders unite a deep understanding of others, high levels of self-awareness and a systemic appreciation of their symbolic position to become a role model for others.
5. Understand that talk is work
Outstanding leadership depends on trusting and positive relationships that are built over time for the long-term benefit of the people and their organisation. They spend a significant amount of time talking with people to understand what motivates and how they can support and boost enthusiasm in others.
6. Give time and space to others
Outstanding leaders both give significantly more time to people than non-outstanding leaders and allow their people considerably more freedom and influence over the work they do and how they do it.
7. Grow people through performance
Outstanding leaders passionately and constantly invest in their people and use the challenges presented every single day to encourage growth, learning and engagement.
8. Put ‘we’ before ‘me’
Outstanding leaders work hard on issues such as team spirit, shared decision making, collaborative working and a strong bond within and between teams. Sustainable performance comes from collective wisdom and intent, encouraging people to get involved, and giving them voice and autonomy.
9. Take deeper breaths and hold them longer
Outstanding leaders actively build trust by delivering on promises and acting with consistency, which in turn, leads to a sense of security and greater freedom of expression. They understand the power of trust to speed up interactions, enable people to take risks, diminish arguments or disputes and underpin innovation.
The report says that becoming an outstanding leader is likely to depend a great deal on maturity, self-awareness and self-development within the job. And points out that some of the outstanding leaders featured in the research did not originally have a people-focused approach, but realised the impact they were having on people and therefore adjusted their style accordingly.
The Work Foundation says it aims to improve the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organisations by equipping leaders, policymakers and opinion-formers with evidence, advice, new thinking and networks.
Read the whole thing here.
Perhaps this list of themes is missing a 10th item
Do no harm, especially when it comes to the office coffee pot. Outstanding leaders understand that people at work know how to use the office coffee pot properly.  They issue 3-page memos sparingly; in fact, only when people start using gin instead of water in their coffee.