My Leadership Lessons, and woes.

I am only 18, so I can’t really speak from immense experience, but I feel that I would have learnt a lot more if someone like me, of similar age, had written something similar to this.

My personal ambition is to start my own business, preferably in the Technology industry. I love technology and the power you can harness from very little. Its something that has always intrigued me.

I have got half way there, as In starting a business. My business, Serenity Co, has been running for three years from when this post is written, and has been doing well. I am also a developer, self taught, and code various apps for various platforms mainly focussing on Windows. I love doing it but at the moment it feels more like a hobby than my business. University and study doesn’t help that as that has to take priority, but then thats when my degree comes in.

I do a great new course called Entrepreneurship, its not a new subject, but a new course in London, in the University of Westminster, that has been running in various areas around Europe. For the first year we set up a company, the second year grow it, and then third year sustain it, as a team. So all in all the course to its core is setting up a real business as a team.

I’m first year, so still new to the whole thing, but the things I’ve been able to achieve regarding my business have been huge!

Now I am deviating, you may ask what does this have to do with leadership advice. Well, here goes.

I was elected the first team leader of the team company, with my ‘Term in Office’ standing for the second semester and ending in April. I felt elated because I am a natural leader when it comes to business, its the place I most fit in, and I had my eye on the job since we started. It wasn’t an easy start at first, and thats the reason why I am now writing this article. This was the first proper ‘team’ company I had run, my personal business was always me until now. I now want to share some of things we do and some advice that I have learnt through doing!

The Circle, the best practice of dialogue 

One thing we know well on our course is the circle. Our room has no tables, only a circle of chairs. This is how we do dialogue. For two hours, we talk in the circle, no one has more authority or higher level than anyone else. This is my favourite way to engage dialogue in a team. Its natural, not artificial barriers such as tables and boards, no PowerPoints, just 21 people (The amount of us in the course) with great minds exchanging great ideas.

The first thing we do is something called Check In. This is where we go around the circle and share something we have learnt between last meeting and now. We then do Check Out at the end and this is when we share what we want to learn for the next meeting. Its great because it makes you think, “What have I learnt today?”. It makes the time between meetings useful, the meetings sort of act as a reflection rather than time where work is completed, the work is completed outside the meetings and the meetings are pure reflection.

Too many chefs spoil the broth

This was definitely a problem with our team in the starting phase. For the first two months, we had no leader, nor direction, or anything. We were to put it bluntly a confused mess going no where! I personally wanted a leader straight away, because of previous experience in these situations.

LESSON ONE: LEADERS ARE KEY TO A TEAM

When people say that a leader isn’t needed, they are lying. This is one thing we learnt the hard way, at the cost of a lot of time and effort. We thought that twenty one of us would agree and we could go by votes. This didn’t work, we got nowhere. If you are reading this and disagree, then contact me I would love to have a well informed debate, and if you didn’t have a leader and succeeded please tell us the secret!

In my opinion I feel people were fearful of dictator style leaders, which I can understand, and being dictated orders too. Leaders are not for that purpose, that is a dictator. Dictators and leaders are two completely different people. Leaders provide direction, and spark conversation, the team members do the rest. Leaders lead, not dictate, once they dictate things with no harmony with the group then they are no longer leaders.

Leaders lead, not dictate, once they dictate things with no harmony with the group then they are no longer leaders.

A leader provides streamline communication. A centre focal point in the group that can relay things to the appropriate people and a person to relay any concern or questions. They can also decide the final decision which has been placed by the group, this speeds up decisions and speeds up business process. Too many people taking control and having a free for all spoils the broth and the business or project or process just doesn’t work. It really doesn’t.

So when you get given a team task, elect a leader.

LESSON TWO: COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNCIATION

Communication was one of my biggest pledges when I got the job of leader. It’s something that just has to be right for things to work. I never was good at communication. I have always been a quiet individual and never liked to take ‘the spot light’ if you would put it like that. Since starting college, and more so in University, I have really come out my shell for this reason, because groups will bicker, groups will argue, groups will get demotivated if things are slow, which they will be when you are first trying to start a business.

I had to use my voice. If I didn’t I would appear weak and not up to the job. We don’t have to be the biggest voice in the room. Most often the biggest voice in the room actually has the least amount to offer in terms of useful ideas, so that’s why they use their voice, not always but in most cases. However, the quiet people in the group usually are the most vibrant with great ideas to go forward but don’t have the ability to share them in a group situation. I wanted to be in the middle, not the loudest but not the quietest. I wanted to not offer the ideas of where we were going, but use my voice to kick start these conversations. I put together a loose agenda each week so people in the team have an idea of what we will be talking about in the upcoming meeting.

This is what really helped me, and also I hope helped the team too.

Last but not least, is be motivated 100% of the time. I like to share quotes from a range of people, mostly Steve Jobs, because he was an idol to me and one of the main reasons I wanted to go into the world of business. His life lessons and teachings have become teachings I like to offer the group, through these motivational quotes. They may not be big or huge ways to motivate, they may not be a great charitable run, or money, or a huge buffet at the end of a gruelling day of exercise. However they are the most effective. They play on your mind, get into your head, and soon enough become your bread and butter. ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’, a simple mantra, but effective.

 

I hope someone reads this and takes something from it, Im not saying I’m the best leader in the world, far from it! Im only young and have a lot to learn in the future, but this is what I have learnt and if anyone was like me at 16, and wanting to lead their own business, a post like this would have really helped!

 

B 🙂

 

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