Leadership is not just about calling the shots, making the big decisions, or directing the team. Leadership is also about taking responsibility for your actions, setting an example by performing to the best of your ability and making a difference. We are all leaders to a greater or lesser extent, but becoming an effective leader requires dedication, thought and effort.
Ground & Water Director, Dipalee Jukes, is devoted to being the best possible leader she can be for her team. For Dipalee, achieving this is about helping and guiding them to become the best versions of themselves they can be.
On my journey to becoming an effective leader, I have learnt many lessons; more than I can list here. Following Ground & Water’s 12 year anniversary in September, I underwent a period of thoughtful reflection, so that I could understand the most important lessons I want to take forward and improve upon.
Here are my 10 most valuable leadership lessons:
1. A big dose of COURAGE every day – Being a leader requires pushing out of your comfort zone. As Roosevelt famously said in his man in the arena speech: “It is about acknowledging the person who dares greatly and not worrying about the critics.” Over the years, I have learnt to make this a deliberate habit. It hasn’t always worked out or been easy, and failure is part of the process. It’s also important to have the courage to say no to things when they go against your values.
2. Setting healthy boundaries… It starts at the top – The culture of a company is a direct reflection of how its leaders behave. I believe it is critical that the leaders set an example of how and when to work, when to switch off and when to say no. I think many people, myself included, are people pleasers. We don’t want to let others down and burn out as a result. Over the past few years, I have finally learned how to say no to things that aren’t serving me and delegate effectively where I can to capable team members. I am working hard to be disciplined with switching off when not at work, turning off my emails and social media and being present with the people around me. For me, family and health must come first.
3. Time is the most precious commodity – Jim Rohn sums the concept of time up perfectly: “Time is more valuable than money. Either you run the day, or the day runs you”. I was one of these people who always said: “I don’t have enough time.” Now I tell myself: “Life doesn’t get easier; I have to get better”. None of us have more time, it’s how we choose to use it. The skill of time management stumps most people, I know. It is a skill you can develop, and I am still working on it. That said, I find planning at least two weeks ahead, saying no occasionally, constantly checking over my priorities, setting goals, and slowing down in between tasks to reflect; all help me be more productive and focused.
4. Listen more than you talk – Over the past few years, I have been busy mentoring and coaching our leadership team. Through this process, I am learning the importance of listening with appreciation and openness and staying curious. Our personalities govern how we see the world, and what we stand for. So how do we remove our own biases and learn to see the best in things? We have to stop critiquing, finding flaws and be present. Situations may not change, but our perspectives can.
5. Lead by example, “walk the talk” – I feel a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to my team. I have been given an opportunity to lead them, and in return, I must ensure that I am serving them to the best of my abilities. I asked my coach last year how can I inspire my team? His answer was that I had to inspire myself first. By constantly learning and growing, staying curious and pushing my own comfort zone, I am inspiring myself and hopefully others.
6. Live and breathe your values – The Ground & Water values are my guiding light, my north star, especially when it comes to making difficult decisions. A recent example, which I’m incredibly proud of, is when we had to furlough some team members last year. We made the decision to top up their pay so that they didn’t suffer financially. Our core values have always been about being honest, fair and working with integrity.
7. Establish daily stress recovery rituals – Let’s be honest, the mental load of being a leader is heavy and generally exhausting on your mind and body, if you let it. I have learnt the hard way that looking after yourself and putting you own mental health at the top of the agenda is critical to be an effective leader. I have developed daily rituals which I absolutely love. For me, these include meditation, prayer, affirmations, visualisations, physical exercise, journaling, practicing gratitude and reading. Through these rituals, my mind, spirit, and body are nourished and refuelled every day.
8. Keep learning – I enjoy reading, but once I had children, I was too tired to read a book for more than a few minutes. I have finally learnt how to incorporate reading and learning into my everyday life. I substitute it for TV and listen to podcasts or audiobooks whilst driving or doing the household chores. I now associate chores with time to myself. Also having a mentor who supports you, challenges you, holds you accountable and who helps you focus; is a big help in the learning process. They will introduce you to more creative ways of addressing situations.
9. Be authentic and lead with compassion and empathy – It’s all too easy to take the hard line, make demands on others and judge when they can’t deliver. I haven’t always got this right, but I believe if we can change our thinking to see that the other person is coming from a place of positive intent and listen to their story, we can create space for compassion and empathy. But as a leader, it can be hard to let your guard down with your team and express emotion or how you really feel. You are fearful that some might see it as a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength and demonstrates you trust them. (Read my previous blog on this subject from Sept 2020).
10. Understand your WHY – Working out why I’m in business and what purpose it serves, took some time to understand. Purpose drives us forward and gets us focusing on something bigger than ourselves. As a Hindu, for me it is about dharma. Dharma is the religious and moral law governing individual conduct and represents the aim of life. My dharma is wholeheartedly embodied in everything Ground & Water does and represents. This means doing the right thing, working with integrity, living with humility, and adding value to peoples’ lives. (Read about Ground & Water’s WHY).
In order to be an effective leader, I now understand I needed to become the change I wanted to see in my company. I am passionate about continuous improvement, so I will keep on learning, pushing myself and evolving. This is why I firmly believe that being an effective leader is a mindset and not your position. It is about having values, living by them to set an example and making the difference. Dealing with a well led business means clients get great service, from its motivated and empowered employees. We know you will find this to be the case at Ground & Water.