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How To Master The Art Of Leadership

Written by: Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


I wonder if you think that leaders are born or developed. This is a vexed question because it is similar to the nature/nurture debate. How do we know which comes first and which is most important? Is it the environment that shapes a person’s abilities or is it how they are nurtured? While it is true that some leaders may inherit the genes of their parents there is also a good argument for the leader who grows by being nurtured. Even if a person has leadership genes they still need to cultivate and hone down the skills that are synonymous with leadership. This begs the question of how leaders become exceptional and how they make a lasting impression on others. It may be that some people are born leaders, but it is equally true that learning how to lead has a central role to play in one’s eventual success. This article proposes that it is possible to master the art of leadership by focusing on and promoting five key skills.

Aligning your values with your Leadership Style

A person’s values are bound up in their worldview, in other words how they see life through their prism which is based on their upbringing. Their core belief system represents the principles they stand for and subscribe to. It is our values that allow us to priorities what is more or less important. Values are for the most part hidden because they are personal. Others may not necessarily know what we are thinking until we demonstrate a value through our verbal and non-verbal communication. Values define a leader and his/her scope of influence beyond the office. Values are about the relationships a leader develops with staff, whether or not they are able to work collaboratively with others and how fair and equitable they are. There will doubtless be many differences within the staff group you are leading, but if you develop the skill of examining your values and make adjustments where this is necessary, if you outwardly demonstrate commitment to honesty, integrity, teamwork, efficiency, loyalty, compassion, motivation, passion and respect, staff will be drawn to your style of leadership. In order to master the art of leadership a leader must be on the lookout for behaviours that are oppressive and discriminatory both in themselves and others. There is no doubt that what is beneath the surface can be more powerful than what is above. This is similar to an iceberg where we see only the tip of the iceberg but do not see the 90 percent mass that is beneath the sea. Before you think of becoming a leader, think of your values and how they might influence those you are attempting to lead. If you are already leading in some capacity, evaluate your practice and examine your intentions. Consider your attitude towards others and ask if it promotes collaborative working and teamwork. Here are three tips for aspiring leaders.

Grow in self-awareness

Mastering the art of leadership requires self-awareness which is linked to the development of emotional intelligence. There is much danger in thinking that the title of leader gives the permission for others to blindly follow, but this is not a realistic way to think. Although a title may be prestigious, it is far more important to be respected for your awareness of other people’s feelings and emotions. Self-awareness is an internal process where a leader takes time to go through a process of self-inquiry asking critical questions about their level of consciousness. The most important questions that will help you to develop self-awareness are:

  • who am I as a leader?

  • Am I a leader because I founded the company?

  • Am I a leader because it is a family-owned business and I have an entitlement to lead?

  • Is it because I was successful in my job application?

  • Is it because I got good grades at university and have a first-class degree?

  • Am I a reflective listener? Am I approachable and can I build trusting relationships?

A critical question to ponder is how emotionally intelligent you are? Daniel Goleman stated that “emotional intelligence is your ability to recognise and understand emotions in yourself and others and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviours and relationships” Further, he argued that it is not intellectual intelligence that guarantees business success but it is emotional intelligence. He proposed that people who possess emotional intelligence demonstrate four types of awareness

(a) self-awareness


(c) social awareness

(d) awareness of other people’s emotions.

The leaders who possess these four qualities are far more likely to become successful in mastering the art of leadership.

Case example

I coached a managing director who had a photographic memory. He could read a book or documents and memorise information in a rote fashion. He was conditioned to look at a page and take in the words without actually struggling to interpret meaning. It was helpful a skill to develop when it came to presentations. However, he admitted to lacking patience and used words such as ‘stupid’ and ‘moronic’ to describe people who were not in his opinion up to the mark. He had no difficulty in recruiting staff because he purposefully looked for, and quickly sifted out and interviewed applicants that met with his notion of intelligence. He could easily tell the applicants who would quickly fit into the job and perform well. However, his ability to connect with people and lead them in a way that was compassionate, engaging and encouraging was almost non-existent. He judged members of his staff harshly; he was highly critical when they were unable to quickly grasp an idea or show intellectual ability. Sooner or later team members felt harassed and adopted a victim stance. As a leader, he lacked three of the qualities Goleman identified, namely self-awareness, social awareness and awareness of other people’s emotions.

Understanding how you think

“As a man thinks so is he.”

The best leaders understand that the way they think is who they are. They will examine their thoughts when there is a misunderstanding realising that their thinking might be skewed at times. It is equally important to consider one’s actions because our actions are intricately linked to what we think. They will seek to challenge misguided and erroneous ideas based on early learning and values that do not belong in the workplace. The thoughts we have are not obvious to others until we express them through our verbal and non-verbal communication, through decision-making, problem-solving and situations that result in conflict. Therefore, learning how to express one’s self in ways that takes account of other people’s feelings no matter what position they occupy within an organisation is an essential skill for a leader. If a leader thinks that the doorman or the cleaner is less valued than the CEO it gives a clue to what they think about another person’s worth and thus, what they are contributing to the organisation. If some people are consistently passed over for promotion it gives the message that the leader is denying or failing to acknowledge a person’s right to be given the opportunity to grow and develop. A good leader will be open to the ideas of every person in the organisation by giving them the opportunity to grow. He/she will create a culture of safety, and belonging.

Understanding how you behave

One of the most valuable skills a leader can possess is understanding the multiple ways in which their behaviour impacts on others making efforts to change behavioural patterns that are unhealthy. Behaviours such as shouting, reprimanding staff in open and public spaces, demoralising, discouraging and showing disrespect are unacceptable behaviours. The better behaviours are to create a safe space to talk to a member of staff, give support by setting clear deadlines and targets. Make supervision a dedicated activity to give and receive feedback. Let staff know that you have an open-door policy so that they can approach you when necessary but indicate when you are not to be interrupted. Be explicit about time-keeping, rules, procedures and give guidance about your expectations. Open communication is imperative because it improves work relationships and hence productivity.

Understanding how you act

Actions speak louder than words, therefore the best leaders will understand that their actions can be positive or negative depending on their values and worldview as well as their personality. We are all different, therefore there must be willingness to work with people from diverse backgrounds and encourage inclusivity within the organisation. It is the courage to change actions that are harmful to others that helps a leader to make their mark and shine out above others. In the work environment a leader wants to achieve good outcomes for his/her company but this is only possible when each member of the organisation is rewarded for their commitment and when they are encouraged to explore their potential and to perform as strong contributors to the company. If a leader acts in a way that is discriminatory it will destroy goodwill and team spirit.


Leaders have considerable power and at times may feel that they do not want to share it with others, perhaps thinking that others cannot do the job as good as them. I have heard a director say this business in my baby. To master the art of leadership, you must be willing to share power through a process of mentoring. It means giving people the opportunity to grow. A good leader is intentionally innovative and sees the potential in others. He/she does not set people up to fail, but after appointment to a post they are given support through training, supervision and personal development programs to make them eligible to perform tasks that may not be within their job description. It may mean giving guidance so that an employee develops a new skill and grasp certain concepts and requirements of the job. It means empowering people to walk in your footsteps. One of the most important skills a leader can develop is the confidence to reduce their personal level of stress by dividing the work, assigning tasks and setting systems in place to accomplish personal and organisational goals.

Here is a tool that you can use to assess your leadership style

  • Do you frequently assess your ability to lead others?

  • What is your capacity for listening to others in a reflective way?

  • Do you see others through your prism or do you assess them on the basis of who they really are?

  • Are your values in alignment with your role as a leader?

  • Do you habitually help others to grow?

  • Do you give and receive feedback in relation to performance?

  • Do you design systems to measure equality of opportunity?

  • How effective is your communication with those below and above you?

  • Do you need to improve your leadership style?

  • How could a coach help you to achieve your objectives?

To learn more about Lynda’s conceptual framework of leadership contact her for an initial forty-five minutes free sessions:

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Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr Lynda Ince-Greenaway began her career in 1982 when she qualified as a social worker. After making child-care her specialism, she became a team leader and a manager. She has worked for forty years in the public and private social care sectors making a significant contribution to the development and learning of others. In her role as a manager, she developed leadership skills which she has used to teach and influence others. She became an educationalist working as a lecturer for many years. As a life coach, keynote speaker and author Dr Ince-Greenaway is known for her enthusiasm and passion concerning such issues as leadership, social justice, social inclusion, empowerment, personal development as well as the development of others.



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