Dr Who’s Guide to Leadership – Part 1
“You can’t rule the world in hiding. You’ve got to come out on the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle.”
– The Fourth Doctor
Doctor Who is one of those TV shows that has transcended itself. From its humble beginnings as a BBC feature in 1963, The Doctor has been rebooted, reimagined and re-energised. Over the course of 55 years, it has developed its own culture and fandom that exceeds some of the most well-known shows out there. But more than that, Doctor Who has been inspiring millions of people to become better versions of themselves. To share The Doctor’s values and live more meaningful lives. And that’s because he (and now she!) is a truly great leader.
You might be wondering what on earth we are doing waxing lyrical about Doctor Who when we are supposed to be serious business people helping you with your business finances. But here’s the thing. Every business needs good leadership, but not every business knows what that looks like. Without good leadership, your business can’t be profitable, or successful. And rather than shutting our minds to it, we should be looking for examples of how to be better leaders everywhere we can. The Doctor travels through space and time in a fantastical series of adventures, true, but he also inspires those around him to follow him (even when they aren’t sure why they should), and he demonstrates the best qualities a leader should possess. And today, we want to showcase The Doctor as the truly amazing leader he is and show you how you could benefit from his lessons.
What is leadership?
“You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.”
– Rose Tyler
The word ‘leadership’ can conjure up images of many different things. You might, for example, think of a political leader pursuing a passionate, personal cause. You might think of an explorer, bravely cutting a path through the jungle so that others can follow him through. Or you might think of an executive in an office, developing her company’s strategy and people to beat their competition. No matter what exact scenario you think of, the qualities of these people are all the same. They all help themselves and other people to do the right thing. They set the direction, build an inspiring vision of the future and act as the driving force to help their team get there.
Leadership is critical to every company, regardless of size or industry. Without a good leader at the helm, employees will have no one to look up to, learn from or to show them the path to success. But being a leader isn’t the same as being a manager (we’ll get to that later). Instead, a leader acts as the motivator for a group of people, helping them work towards a common goal. But leadership is not just a thing you are – it’s a set of skills that, together, make you a good leader. Those skills are incredibly important, whether you’re an entrepreneur, running a multinational organisation or just starting out in your career. But rather than rehashing what’s already been said – we want to share with you what it means to be a leader, and what it means to your business, in the words of Roselinde Torres:
Why leadership is so important in your business
We’ve put a lot of pressure so far on the idea that leadership is critical to your organisation – and it is. It’s important to the way your company makes decisions, how it acts in the marketplace, and even down to how your employees feel about working for you. This last one is particularly important because your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Yet research has shown time and time again that employees rarely quit jobs – they quit managers. The management level of a business should be chock full of leaders who can inspire their employees to greatness, and all too often we see it full of people who don’t really know the first thing about being a good leader, for their colleagues or for the business. But their leadership skills (or lack thereof) will permeate deep into your business and have a knock-on effect. If you still don’t believe us, we’ve got 9 reasons why leadership is one of the most important things in your business:
1. It defines your company’s purpose in the market
For your business to make money and be successful, you need to have a clear message. This message doesn’t just come out of thin air – it’s the leadership within the business that helps define why you are the business that can fulfil your client’s specific needs above the competition. Management often tries to come up with such messaging, but this usually results in a lot of bickering, a lot of confusion and no real clear message. Instead, it’s the leaders of the business that define its purpose and spread that message to all employees and customers, keeping the business clear and focussed.
2. It provides guidance for others to follow
Think back – when was the last time you followed someone who didn’t know what they were doing or where they were headed? I know I can’t remember it! That’s because human beings have a pre-programmed instinct to follow the best person around. It started by following the strongest hunter, and now it’s all about following the person who is best at what we do so that we can be our best. The person you choose to follow – who is best at what they do and has a clear direction in mind – is your leader. I like to think of this as following my yellow brick road as I’m skipping along towards Oz. I will have obstacles or maybe a witch to two to defeat along my journey, but it will be worth it when I reach my destination. But without a solid yellow brick road to follow, how will I know how to get there? You have to set a strong example if you want your employees to follow in your footsteps. But if you have a laissez-faire attitude, then your team are likely to act the same way.
3. It unleashes the passion in others
When we talk about the passion in others, we don’t mean it in the ‘lighting the fire inside’ way. Instead, we mean it in the sense that good leaders make their employees want the business to succeed. When people love their job and their environment, they are driven to keep doing their best. If a leader can inspire this feeling of commitment and love for their job, the result is a fully engaged team, a team who are enjoying their jobs and actively thinking of new ways for the business to succeed.
4. It refines the skills employees need in order to succeed
Good leadership creates a better working world for everyone in the organisation, from the bottom right up to the top. A great leader will set an example for everyone so that others can see what skills they need to be successful. But beyond that, a good leader will also work with their employees to recognise, utilise and refine their skills. After all, their success is success for the business.
5. It builds the platform of values in your business
Have you ever worked for a business that has a very defined public image, but doesn’t actually practice these things internally? For example, a publicly eco-friendly company who doesn’t even provide recycling bins for their staff. This type of disconnect is nearly always down to management. They aren’t actively passing down the company’s values to those below them, or leading by example to uphold that culture. This results in unhappy employees and sub-par work. A good leader will be in sync with the business values, and make sure they are being implemented across the board. This creates a positive platform for employees to model their own behaviours and attitudes after.
6. It demonstrates that people matter
Employees are the lifeblood of any organisation – without them, most business would simply collapse. A good leader understands this, and makes a point of demonstrating it to the employees when they can. Employees that feel valued, that know that they matter, will bring that feeling to the customers they talk to. They will pass on the company’s belief that people matter and your customers will know that they are being heard. Being a leader does require you to have a heart, and if yours doesn’t work, you might need to take a trip to OZ and visit the wizard
7. It generates commitment and loyalty
Commitment is a scary word to some people, particularly in today’s fast-paced world. But regardless, a leader’s job is to inspire commitment to the business in employees who may struggle committing to where they want to eat that night. But by demonstrating that you are committed to helping your employees succeed, you will in turn generate the kind of commitment and loyalty that makes great businesses (and leaders) stand out.
8. It motivates by action
Have you ever tried to tell a child to do something you wouldn’t do yourself? Or to stop doing something that you are doing? My guess is that bit didn’t work very well. And it would work even less if your response to ‘why are we doing this?’ is ‘because I said so.’ As human beings, we don’t really like being told what to do. But what we do like is following the leader. So, if you want your employees to be more engaged in the business, or have a particular attitude, it needs to start with you. A good leader will show their employees the culture, attitude and best practices expected, so that they can imitate and adopt them. After all, if you’re not doing these things, you can’t expect your employees to.
9. It attracts like-minded behaviours
Finally, great leadership attracts like-minded people. Human beings have a pack mentality, and we tend to prefer to surround ourselves with people who share our views. So, if you are exhibiting all the signs of good leadership, creating a fun workplace and a rewarding environment, you will attract people who want to be part of that culture. After all, like attracts like!
But above all of that, leadership is essential to any business because it is the driver of success. By having that strong vision for the future at the helm, your business will never meander and lose its way. And with that inspiring and motivational figurehead at the helm, people will find themselves following in those footsteps, even if they aren’t really sure why. The reason we’ve brought Doctor Who into this is that it showcases everything a good leader should be. The Doctor is strong, compassionate, logical, inspirational, motivational and above all – has ‘that little spark of humanity’, that drive to create a better world for everyone he meets. If that’s not a good leader, we don’t know what is!
Can leadership skills be learned?
Now you might be looking at all the above and thinking ‘how can I possibly hope to achieve all that?’ Well, the bad news is that you will never be able to be an eccentric time lord flying through time and space in a box (sorry). But the good news is you can learn how to be a good leader.
Every day people are promoted to positions of leadership and management in the workplace, often without any real training or support. Now some people are lucky – they already have natural leadership abilities and can make the whole process seem effortless. In fact, there have been studies on the fact that the brains of great leaders are simply wired differently to the rest of us. But while these papers claim that this means great leaders are born, not made, the authors do still state that the conventional wisdom of leadership being a skill is largely true. Meaning that it can be learned by those of us who weren’t born with the gift of leadership.
If you want to learn to be a leader, the best thing you can do is be around great leaders. It’s a bit like an apprenticeship – you need to know the technical ins and outs of what makes a good leader as a baseline (which is why you’re reading this paper), but the real change is going to come when you see those skills put into action. So, in a sense, learning to be a leader is just like learning to be a plumber. You apprentice with an expert and learn their secrets. Good leaders learn by being apprentices to other leaders – even if they don’t realise it.
Learning to be a leader is all about watching other leaders and emulating their behaviour. They may be reading about Churchill and choosing to emulate his leadership style, or perhaps their leader is their father and they want to honour him with their own leadership. As they begin to go through life, these potential leaders seek out more and more mentors to teach them how to handle situations and become quality leaders. They begin to improve from feedback that they receive from those around them, which they then put to use.
Leaders also develop by experimenting with different techniques. Every leader is different, and to be truly successful as a leader you need to understand your own leadership style (don’t worry, we’ll get to that later). This means trying out different leadership techniques and figuring out which ones will work, and which ones won’t. Analysing your own performance and understanding that every failure is an opportunity to learn more about where you went wrong and how you can improve in the future. Taking control of your own development and curating a deep understanding of your core business, and your core people. The research shows that leaders tend to do best when they have a deep understanding of the core business of the organisation, but being an expert alone is not enough to make you a good leader. That takes time and dedication. But it can be done.
Are leadership skills transferable?
Regardless of the type of business you work in or your position within it, there’s no denying that leadership skills are valuable. Whether you want to scale your career and reach a position of official leadership or simply want to inspire others to work better together, it’s your ability to lead that will set you apart. And while we now know that leadership skills can be learnt and developed, the next question you might want you to ask yourself is, are leadership skills transferable?
There are two things this can mean. The first is, can leadership skills you have gained outside the workplace be brought inside it. So, for example, if you have learned some leadership skills through volunteering at an organisation, could you use those skills in your work? Or it could mean that you are leaving your business for something new and completely different, and you want to bring your well hones skills into a brand-new environment.
There are those that believe you can’t transfer these skills – and that leadership is something fostered within a certain environment. But let me ask you this; if leadership skills aren’t transferable, then how did US President Reagan transfer his leadership skills from Hollywood’s silver screen, into the military as a lieutenant and finally into the White House to lead the country? How did Steve Jobs move his charismatic skills from Apple, into running Pixar Studios and then back to Apple, without missing a step?
Since leadership is, in essence, all about creating the environment that allows people to be successful, and supporting them in that success, in theory, the skills should be able to accompany you everywhere. In Doctor Who, we see The Doctor land in thousands of alien environments, with no link to the people around him, and still time and time again he is able to inspire and act as a leader almost instantly. Of course, he has had over 900 years of practice!
One of the issues you may find in transferring your leadership skills from one organisation to another is a slow start. Fostering the environment for good leadership takes time, and more importantly, it takes the trust of the people you’re working with. Unless you’re as instantly charming and charismatic as David Tennant, it’s unlikely people will follow you right away. Instead, you need to establish yourself, earn their trust and show them why they should follow you first. This can take time, so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing results in just 1 month!
We’ll be back with more on leadership next week – so stay tuned, and keep planning 😉