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Secrets to becoming a highly-regarded leader at work

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They say employees leave managers, not companies.

But I’m currently facing a situation where I don’t ever want to, but have to, leave my manager.

That’s right, folks, after almost three years of daily reporting and debating on the top HR issues of the day, I have decided to move on to a role which is closer to the industry.

I am excitedly looking forward to applying my theoretical knowledge of HR in my new role – knowledge which has been accumulated over the years thanks to my wonderful interactions with all you senior HR practitioners.

These interactions will, I know, continue via LinkedIn and Twitter and I am confident all of you will continue supporting us through our smashingly relevant daily e-newsletters, thought-leading conferences and dazzling award shows.

But ever since I resigned, I have come to realise all of that I will be letting go of in Lighthouse, especially, working with our regional editor, Aditi Sharma Kalra.

While having worked with her for only two years (man, they flew!), I can honestly say her leadership style, and mature approach to handling both professional responsibilities and relationships have left an indelible impression on my mind – elements which I have tried to emulate while leading my own subordinates.

But perhaps what impacted me the most is her ability to neatly demonstrate the value of the most humane tenets of leadership – having the fortitude to smash targets while being sensitive towards the needs of people helping her smash those targets.

As such, as a last tribute to all that I’ve learnt while working with senior HR leaders, with Lighthouse, with Aditi, and with my juniors at work, here are some key leadership lessons I have learnt which I would like to leave all of you with:

Always recognise everyone’s, and I mean everyone’s, strengths
Right from the CEO of the company, to the junior-most employee, everyone, and everyone, is good at something. I realised this first hand, when I learnt short-cuts to editing videos from Meghna, our editorial intern on her first day at work.

This is perhaps even more important in situations where you don’t particularly agree with your junior’s views or don’t get along with them. Everyone, and everyone, is good at something, and you’ll only win if you focus on their impressive traits – no matter how deep, deep, deep down they may be.

Balance between being a senior and a peer
Nobody likes being told what to do, and even if throwing your weight around with your subordinates might ensure the work gets done, it might negatively harm your employees’ engagement rates.

Earn, instead of commanding, respect. Do this by being sensitive to the needs of your employees, and explaining your decisions to your juniors to ensure they know the context in which you are operating in. This will allow them to identify with your thinking and make it easy for them to accept and internalise your orders.

A secret to enabling your staff to relate to your thinking is by sharing small, personal details with them. Every Monday morning, me and my team gather for five minutes to discuss what we did over the weekend – even if it only involved sleeping for 18 hours over 1 day (right, Jerene?)

Admit your mistakes
As leaders, nothing irks us more (at least me) if nobody takes accountability for mistakes and points the blame at others. As such, why should the situation be different when it comes to senior management in the company?

Admitting your mistakes only makes you more human, along with giving you a newfound appreciation of the nuances of what you do and the importance of being more careful in the future. This also sets a good example for your staff. For instance, having seen Aditi honestly take the blame for blunders in the past, now I don’t hesitate to acknowledge my errors made on my end.

Over time, I have learnt that it is not difficult to be a a great leader – but all that depends on your definition of greatness.

It is one thing to be great by fulfilling targets and boosting company revenue, but another to be highly regarded by your subordinates and colleagues. The latter can only come if you focus on the more humane side of leadership, which emphasises on you being honest and sensitive towards others.

So thank you Aditi, for teaching me the beauty of being a humane, yet effective leader. And thank you Lighthouse team, for giving me the perfect environment to learn and practice all of this in.

See all of you around, and till then, let’s not forget to be humane and sensitive in everything that we do.


Ed’s note: No special payments were made to AK for writing this column 😉 And from all of us at Lighthouse, we’ll miss you AK!

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Akankasha Dewan

Human Resources Magazine Singapore
With a passion for the written word, and a deep interest in the wide-ranging secrets of the HR industry, Akankasha spends her time writing and conversing about the people dimension of the corporate world. She also fights criticisms against Fifty Shades of Grey by night.

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