The adverts are flooding our screens, the trees are going up and the countdown to Christmas has begun. If you want to feel 'Christmassy', the environment has got to be just right. In our house the Christmas tunes are already playing, and there are more candles glowing than at any other time of the year! I know it's still November, and I'm risking my family with Christmas fatigue, but this time of year is my favourite and I do everything I can to embrace it and help the people around me to gather momentum as the Christmas season moves into full swing!
I wonder what kind of environment you are seeking to establish? The environment we create makes a huge difference. It sets the tone, reveals the intention and communicates the level of expectation. Sometimes we create it intentionally; often we create it without even realising what we have done.
Environment stretches way beyond the physical, it’s much more than lights, music and smoke machines! It's a conceptual thing as well, particularly when we begin to consider leadership. I wonder if the environment you create is an effective space for raising up leaders? The clearer we become about how to do that, the more effective we become at developing a leader-rich culture. You can deliver brilliant leadership training, improve people's competencies, give them examples of great leadership, but if the environment is wrong then it will count for very little. It's like planting an acorn but never giving it the water and light it needs to grow.
So what are the environmental 'must haves' for seeing leaders raised up? You'll know some for your own context, but here are three essentials to kick-start the process:
In our cotton wool society where health and safety has made things dangerously risk averse, I can almost hear your sighs of agony at the suggestion that safety is an important environmental factor, but sadly we don't give it enough credit in the leadership world. When people feel safe they become more open and ready to try new things. I'm more likely to jump out of a plane if I've got Bear Grylls strapped to me, why? Because I feel increased safety. I trust him. If we want to raise up leaders we have to ask a tough question: do people feel safe around my leadership? If they do, then they are more likely to follow, more likely to learn and more likely to make the big jump into becoming an effective leader in their own right.
Being given the gift of courage to have a go is the first step in every leader’s story. If you want to raise leaders you must set your heart, words, tone and body language to communicate encouragement at every turn. If people around you know that their faltering efforts will be met with a warm smile then they won't be put off by the pressures and responsibilities that they think go hand in hand with leadership. Every renowned multiplier of leaders that I've had the privilege of meeting scores highly on the scale of encouragement.
3: Awakening belief
We all get weighed down by the day in, day out realities of life, but every now and again someone spots something in us and sparks the belief that we are more than we have presently become. Of course we are, but we forget that all the time. As part of your encouragement, tell people what's possible. Call the very best out of people in a bid to maximise their potential. Don't just tell them once, keep telling them until they can see it too. If they can catch even the faintest glimpse then you're on the journey from possibility to reality.
Have a great Christmas, and as you deck the halls, take a moment to consider what environment you are creating for leaders to grow and thrive around you.
Pete Wynter is Executive Director at Onelife, Director of Leadership College London and curate at HTB.
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