10 early lessons in leadership

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CEO, David Rai

As part of this week’s #ComeBackStronger campaign to help graduates kickstart careers post-Covid 19, we asked some of our senior team members to share helpful advice and insights for those seeking inspiration for future training and employment.

I established Sparta Global in 2014 with Sparta Global CIO Tim Staton, the second business we founded together and one of many entrepreneurial opportunities I have been lucky to be a part of. With more than 20 years’ experience in leadership roles, I have learned a lot about developing a leadership mentality, collaborating with big and small teams and how to drive personal and professional progression.

It’s never too early to assert your leadership capability. Here are some of my top tips for how to be a good leader:

1.Talk less, listen more

A great leader is someone who pays attention to what is happening around them and what their employees say. By listening and acting on what you hear, you can gain trust in your teams and build meaningful working relationships.

2.but don’t stop communicating!

Say too little and your message will not be heard, say too much and people won’t be able to digest what it is you are really trying to get across. It’s a thin line, but a strong communication strategy and culture is critical for leaders who need clear messaging to get the results they want.

3. Focus on a few things

As a CEO it’s my job to oversee everything in the business, but I still aim to prioritise a few things at a time. There may be a hundred different distractions and demands on your time and a hundred ways you could respond, but it’s the dozen carefully chosen actions that will help you deliver the results. By focussing on what really matters in the short-term, I am better able to push our business forward.

4. Everyone can teach you something

Observing how others handle themselves – peers, management, and other external leaders – is a great way to learn.  Whether you agree with how a situation is handled or not, the experience can teach you how to approach a similar issue in the future. Keep your eyes and ears open.

5. Lead by example

Part of leading effectively is having the respect of your team. It’s very hard to gain or maintain that respect if you don’t set the right example. Everything you do, everything you say on the job – or off - is setting a leadership example for your people.

6. Praise in public

If someone does a great job – makes a sale, wins an award or books a new meeting – always congratulate them in private. However, if the opportunity arises to do this in public – let others know how well they are doing too. People like to celebrate together and see those who work hard rewarded.

7. Learn to lead with data

Instinct is one thing, but leaders won’t get by on trusting their gut alone. Gather the right sets of data and use your findings to make an informed decision. When decisions need to be made quickly, don’t be hyper focused on all the small stuff – gather what you can, analyse it and make a call to the best of your ability.

8. Find the right people for your team

You’re limited by what you can achieve as a leader if you don’t have the right people working under and with you. Make it a priority to set up a great team. Only then can you begin delegating responsibilities, managing direction, and getting people to work better together. 

9. There’s more to it than profit

Even the most well-intentioned leaders can succumb to worries about budget sheets and bottom lines and lead their employees based on concerns that may arise around profit. However, financial gain shouldn’t always be the number one goal or measure of success. A leader should also focus on responsibility - particularly regarding their teams’ value, purpose, and sustainability.

10. Always strive for a good work-life balance

Leaders should not let their level of responsibility negatively impact their personal lives, but it also remains more important than ever that leaders ensure their followers have a satisfying work and home experience. A happy person is a more productive employee.

While these are 10 of the lessons I have learned across my career, ultimately, no two leaders can ever be the same. There is no manual to help new leaders understand how to be better in their roles, or rule book as to how to move to a position of leadership as your career progresses, but there are plenty of inspiring people with stories to learn from.