Two questions that will make you a better leader

Take the lead

We’re all supposed to be leaders in our businesses, but what exactly is leadership?

Here are some examples that might help.


The Wallabies and Coach Michael Cheika – Facing fan fury

When the Australian Rugby team lost to Scotland on 17th June 2017, an Australian Rugby fan, Jack Quigley, let fly with a Facebook rant (check it out here if you’re interested). The rant then went viral, picked up by Australian and New Zealand media, as well as by the BBC here in the UK. (The Scots played brilliantly by the way)

Michael Cheika, the Wallabies coach, called Jack on the Monday after the game. Here’s how Jack describes what happened next in a follow up article on The Roar.

“When I picked up the phone at lunchtime on Monday…a long silence was eventually broken with “Jack. It’s Michael. How are you?”

He wasn’t angry at all. He was calling to thank me for caring as much about the Wallabies as I did.

We spoke about my letter, and he totally got it. He told me how he’d printed it out and it had been waiting for the players when they arrived, and was now stuck up on the dressing room wall.

He told me how he’d encouraged the players to read it, and to those who initially reacted angrily, he had explained to them this wasn’t a piece of hate-mail. It was a passionate letter written from a perspective of frustration, but ultimately from a perspective of love.”

Cheika did three things brilliantly in my opinion.

Firstly, he engaged with a genuine fan who cared about the team. He didn’t let the anger and the frustration of the rant mask that. Michael didn’t blame Jack, which would have been easy to do. He engaged.

Secondly, he helped his players see where fans were coming from, instead of seeing it  merely as an attack.

Thirdly, on his call to Jack he stood up for his players in one aspect and one aspect only; the part where Jack had accused them of not seeming to care. Cheika explained that they cared deeply about representing their country in this sport.

He cared. He took action.

A great response from a true leader.


Tesla and Elon Musk – Leading from the front

Most people are familiar with high-end electric car maker Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk. What you may not know is that they’ve had some serious health and safety issues too.

An article by Justin Bariso in Inc. Magazine said that: “California nonprofit Worksafe, a worker safety advocacy group, recently made headlines when it reported that the injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant was more than 30 percent higher than the industry average in 2014 and 2015.”

What did Elon Musk do? He wrote this letter to his employees:

“No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.

Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.

This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.”

He cared. He took action.

That’s a pretty solid response.


How does this apply to you?

Both of these are great examples of leadership in my opinion.

In the Inc Magazine piece Justin Bariso suggests asking yourself:

  • What is my team’s biggest challenge or pain point?
  • What can I do to make things better?

You could add to that, lead from the front, like in the Elon Musk example. He and his managers jumped on the production line to do the jobs the employees were doing too, to show solidarity and to experience first hand any risks their employees faced.

You could also add to that, don’t shy away from tough or negative feedback as in the Michael Cheika example. He was able to turn a tough piece of feedback into a way to engage with a true fan, and also to create a learning opportunity for his team.

One of the great quotes used by the New Zealand All Blacks coaching staff is that “Better people make better All Blacks.” They believe that character matters, not just talent. Cheika took the opportunity to help his players become better people in that leadership moment.


Rise to the challenge

In his book, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday says that sometimes your biggest challenge can be the key that unlocks the door to your future success. In fact, he believes that is almost always the case if you are prepared to work through the challenge.

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

What’s your team’s biggest challenge or pain point?

What are you going to do to make things better?

I know you care. Now take action.

Let me know how you go.

“That which is an impediment to action is turned to advance action. The obstacle on the path
becomes the way.”
Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 AD, last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome


“Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to
improve our condition.”
Ryan Holiday

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