Get back to the basics of leadership

leadership basics - photo of woman's hand holding autumn leaves and a cup of coffee sitting on a deck railing
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

With the days getting shorter and summer starting to wind down, I always think of September as a time for new beginnings. Maybe it’s the old habits of back to school, but September feels more like a time for new years resolutions than January does. This September, I’m refocusing on the basics of leadership.

These are those things that seem so obvious by now that it’s easy to forget about them. They may have been some of the first things you learned about on your leadership journey and are no longer a focus for you as you moved on to practice more nuanced skills. When these start to slip, though, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down!

Everyone probably has a different list of ‘basics’, but to me, these are self-management, delegation, and setting direction.

Leadership Basic: Self-Management

What is self-management?

Self-management or self-regulation is the idea of having control over your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. It involves having self-awareness and controlling your reactions to events. It can sometimes be thought of as a set of related skills or behaviours, such as self-awareness, goal setting and planning, positivity, responsibility, and decision-making.

Why is self-management important to leadership?

This is an important skill to support your leadership because it allows you to provide stability and predictability to your team. If you’re able to effectively control your emotions, your team knows that you can remain calm in a crisis and effectively problem solve with them. You are also able to withstand any impulses to abandon course for a new shiny thing and help your team remain committed to long-term goals.

Maybe most importantly, self-management allows you to be a conflict resolution superstar. By being aware of and in control of your own emotional reactions, you can better manage conflicts within your team and with other departments. Remaining in control allows you to make better decisions and better advocate for the needs of your business and your team.

How to know if you’ve slipped

You may be slipping on your self-management if you find yourself getting uncontrollably frustrated or angry at situations where it would have served you better to remain at an even keel. It may also become more difficult for you to remain focused during less exciting tasks or to make unpopular decisions and weather the outcomes.

If you’ve found yourself in that situation, you may benefit from refocusing your energies on improving your ability to self-manage this fall.

Leadership Basic: Delegation

What is delegation?

The definition of delegation is simple enough. It is merely the act of transferring responsibility for a task from one person to another. The act of delegating, however, is far more challenging! Delegation requires trust in the person you’re delegating to, clear communication, and self-management.

Why is delegation important to leadership?

As a leader, delegation is the only way to get all your work done. If you have been assigned a team, it’s because your responsibilities require more work than one person can possibly do, so you’d better figure out how to leverage that team to get it all done!

Workload aside, delegation is also important to ensure that your employees get development opportunities to improve their skills and perhaps one day become leaders themselves. Employees whose managers delegate interesting, challenging tasks, feel more engaged in and committed to their work.

How to know if you’ve slipped

If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by all the tasks you need to complete, you could probably be delegating more. Alternately, if you’re trying to delegate to your team, but are finding yourself frustrated by people constantly coming back to you seeking more direction, you could probably be delegating more effectively.

Either way, you may want to spend this fall focusing on your delegation skills.

Leadership Basic: Setting Direction

What does it mean to set direction?

Setting direction means to provide a clear vision for the future for your team. This provides them with the ‘why’ for the day-to-day tasks they’re meant to complete and allows them to plan and to make better decisions. Depending on your level in the organization, you may be looking months ahead or years ahead, but you should always be casting your eyes further into the future than the people you’re leading are.

Why is setting direction important to leadership?

Having a clear direction is a key component of creating empowered teams. When people know what greater aim they’re meant to achieve, you enable them to decide on short-term initiatives that support that goal. This allows decision-making to shift off your shoulders, reducing your workload, increasing employee engagement, and improving the overall alignment in the organization.

How to know if you’ve slipped

If you don’t have an idea of what your team should have accomplished beyond the next few weeks or if your team seems unclear about why they’re doing their short-term work tasks, you’ve probably fallen down on setting direction. Also, if your team is looking further into the future than you are, you would probably benefit from finding some time to do some long-term vision work.

What else would you consider to be a key basic of leadership? How do you rank on the three behaviours of self-management, delegation, and setting direction?

If you have some areas for improvement, working with a coach can help! Find out more here or contact me for a free discovery call to learn more.

  1. Self-regulation. VIA Institute On Character. (n.d.).
  2. What is self-management, and how can you improve it? What Is Self-Management, and How Can You Improve It? (n.d.).
  3. Self-Management Skills. Carleton Online. (n.d.).
  4. How to delegate effectively: 9 tips for managers: HBS Online. Business Insights Blog. (2020, January 14).

Leave a Reply