A simple tip to become a better leader. Avoid Osmosis!

I am going to share a simple tip for many of you who want to become better leaders. Over the past 20 years I have mentored and coached thousands of leaders through their 360 degree feedback process or when consulting on how to improve their performance. Along the way I have seen some common leadership themes emerge. They don’t apply to all leaders but they do apply to many.

The common strengths I most often see in leaders are:

  • Results Focus
  • Technical Skills
  • Accepting Accountability
  • Commercial Acumen
  • Planning & Organising

And the skills that most leaders need to develop are:

  • Coaching & Developing People
  • Managing Performance
  • Managing Conflict
  • Delegating
  • Leading Change & Innovation
  • Building Teamwork

These are all critical skills for motivating and managing people. When I work with leaders to develop these skills, I ask a couple of simple questions. I consistently get the same answers.

The first question is:

Can you write down The Six Steps to ……?

You can use 4 or 5 steps – the number does not matter. So, for example, write down the six steps to coach effectively. Or, write down the five steps to manage conflict effectively. The response I usually get is:

  • I don’t know the steps, or
  • I don’t have a process, or
  • I didn’t know there were any steps to follow

Sometimes, people just make up some steps without any real knowledge of the subject.

The second question is:

How did you learn to …..?

Leaders often struggle to answer this until I help them. There is one answer that they usually agree with:


This response is the biggest leadership failure in my experience. Many leaders admit that they have absorbed their knowledge from people around them and the leaders they worked with. They have done very little reading or research into leadership best practice.

My next question is:

How good were those people at ……?

I often get the same common response. Not good. Actually, pretty poor. And, sometimes, terrible!

How can you be good at something if you 1) absorbed it from people who are not very good at it, and 2) accepted that approach without doing any research.

So, here is my simple leadership tip to avoid “Osmosis

Open a web browser or Youtube and type in …. Steps to …… effectively.

  • Steps to coach effectively
  • Steps to manage conflict effectively
  • Steps to build teamwork
  • Steps to manage performance
  • and so on!

When it comes to developing leadership skills, most leaders I meet with never think to do this. They use web search for so many things. But rarely do they think to use it to help with the specific leadership skills they need to develop. They are quite stunned at the resources and advice at their finger-tips.

Here is the takeout

Next time you are faced with an important leadership activity, ask yourself the following questions.

“How did I learn to do this?”

“What are the best practice steps to follow?”

If the answer is Osmosis and you don’t have a structured process to follow, then jump on the web and do the research. There is a body of knowledge about leadership best practice available to anyone who takes the time to look.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions.

Mark Sinclair

Founding Director, Spark Chart

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