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Professor Anne Lytle

Leadership with Professor Anne Lytle

Leadership is a word that gets thrown around a lot – at high school, uni and especially in the workplace. But what does it mean? What does being a good leader actually involve, and what makes someone stand out from the rest of the pack?

Professor Anne Lytle, Director of Leadership at Monash Business School, talks about what it takes to be a good leader.


At its core, leadership is about influencing other people towards a goal or objective. While we might have strong knowledge, technical expertise and make good decisions, getting other people to implement or agree with these decisions is more than half of the challenge. That’s where good leadership comes into play.

What makes a good leader?

Good leaders are both self-aware and other-focused. They know their strengths, weaknesses and how their behaviour impacts other people. They also care about other people’s welfare and appreciate the time and effort of others.

But it isn’t just about being self-aware and caring.

Resilience and communication are defining characteristics that turn good leaders into great ones. Being able to learn from your mistakes and frame ideas in such a way that others understand and connect are important aspects of leadership.

Leadership

A leader who displays all of these qualities, and someone who I particularly admire, is Nelson Mandela.

He was a role model for emotional intelligence. He had an ability to forgive, inspire others towards a vision, and put other people’s needs ahead of his own.

While Mandela undoubtedly had the innate gift of leadership, not all leaders are born.

Leadership can be taught and developed

Although the skills may come more naturally for some, leadership is a way of thinking and set of skills that can be taught and developed. And by constantly working on these skills and towards a number of small goals over time, a person can become a much better leader.

It does, however, take a lot of effort and practice to become better at leadership behaviours and embed them into our daily habits. The best way is to choose very small behavioural goals, and practice something small toward that goal every day.

So, what are some goals that we can work towards to make ourselves better leaders?

  • Start to develop “reflective practice” and a “growth mindset”.  This means to learn how to reflect upon and analyse your own experiences, learn from them, and improve yourself. Learning how to learn from successes and failures, and becoming your best teacher, is fundamental to self-development and successful leadership.
  • Begin fostering mindfulness.  In other words, learn how to be in the present moment, paying attention to who is there and what is happening, instead of being in a state of distraction. Not only does this help you to listen and hear important information about what is going on in the world and with other people, but it helps you to manage stress and your own emotions and thoughts in a more productive way.
  • Practice thinking about things from other people’s point of view, not just your own. Understanding other people’s perspective, and taking this into account, is a very important part of being a leader.  Don’t be afraid to ask others a lot of questions.

It won’t happen overnight, but over time, these behaviours will become easier, more natural and almost reflexive. And once you have these skills down pat, you’re on your way to becoming a great leader.