On Friday 1 December, the one and only Nigel Latta delivered a talk on leadership at the Skills end of year event. The use of our social brains, our ability to empathise, and the capacity to take risks were all covered.
“Leadership is about getting people to do stuff.” It seems simple enough, but as famed clinical psychologist Nigel Latta went on to say, it really isn’t about having the loudest voice. Things are so much more complicated than that.
The talk was an intimate event offered by the Skills Wellington office. As Garry Fissenden, CEO of Skills, said in his welcome: “It’s a great way to round off the year, discussing an important and often difficult to achieve topic – effective leadership.” It coincided with the launch of the brand new Skills Prospectus showcasing all the programmes of learning the Skills team can partner to deliver.
As Nigel walked the crowd through some reasoning behind great leadership, he often used his own personal experiences. One story he revisited throughout was a young girl he’d met who felt the need to push back against authority (and use many expletives). Nigel said that in the workplace “other people will find ways of not doing what you’ve asked them to do.” It won’t always happen, but it happens often enough. What leadership is all about, is “getting people to follow you.”
Life has taught us that there is more than one way to be a leader. In Nigel’s talk when comparing Trump to Obama, he asked “which one will sacrifice their own happiness for you?” He emphasised the importance of making your teams feel this way, that you are willing to go further to support them. For Nigel, this was the skill to nurture for better results, as he said “the most important bit of leadership is understanding people around you… even looking at things practically in order to get stuff done, empathy and compassion are amongst the most important soft skills.”
It’s how our brains are wired. If you can master empathy, Nigel hinted, you unlock effective leadership.
With this in mind, Nigel lauded the importance of “those who can pivot.” In all organisations, but particularly those in the room working in the public sector in Wellington, flexibility is a daily need. Change is occurring at so many stages of an individual’s career, they need to be able to adapt to this and still be high-performers. “Leaders must be nimble, take risks and have courage.”
How can this be done? Well, towards the end of his talk the crux of the matter became constant learning. This should be a culture at an organisation, and importantly, “the people in this room set the culture not necessarily those at the top.”
And when individuals are encouraged to learn and grow and be flexible, what then? The final slide said it all in big bold letters – “make people’s lives better.” If we want people to follow us, we must be helpful, show we care, and improve their prospects.
It was a key takeaway from a very successful afternoon, with an exciting atmosphere. As Stephen Waters, General Manager of the Skills State Sector & Local Government teams said, “We’ve learnt a lot about how to drive effective results, and that’s understanding what makes a great leader.”
And if this wasn’t enough to end the year on, Margaret Cassie, Principal HR Business Adviser at The Treasury had her name pulled out of a hat to win a delicious festive hamper.
Thank you to everyone that could make it. The team at Skills looks forward to partnering with you in 2108.
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