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Gina London: 'New Year an opportunity to renew leadership skills'


The communicator: Gina London

The communicator: Gina London

The communicator: Gina London

I paid a visit to my old stompin' grounds recently: CNN. I walked past the red-lettered logo I know so well, having worked there for nearly a decade. Past the desks of assorted producers and editors. Past the interview studio. Out to a balcony overlooking palm trees and modern-looking buildings that bear no resemblance whatsoever to Washington or Atlanta, where I spent most of my CNN years.

That's because I'm still in Abu Dhabi, where I've been since St Stephen's Day.

On the first day of the new year, I took a taxi to the city's so-called 'Media Zone' to the top floor of a building that houses the self-proclaimed 'fourth global hub' of CNN's news empire.

I spent about an hour swapping news stories with a friend who has lived a most interesting life.

Originally from the UK, he's worked all over the world covering a wide-range of policies, politics and personalities.

Most recently, however, he was asked to take a more managerial role, and this brings us to the part of our wide-ranging conversation that may be most significant to you.

"I hadn't realised what effort it takes to manage," he shared with me. "That whole people thing." His observation struck a chord.

I remember when I traded in the news room for the board room.

Consistently and effectively managing a group of people is a heck of a lot different than managing an interview or shaping a news report for an audience.

As we look out together upon this first full week of January, perhaps you are a seasoned CEO or a middle manager. Either way, research shows your team of employees is hopeful you will demonstrate a particular set of skills.

A recent survey published in the Harvard Business Review of over 300,000 bosses and employees interestingly revealed that these skills are expected and appreciated at every level of an organisation.

Yes, I encourage us all to keep learning and layering more techniques and strategies on top of existing ones, but we're not allowed to grow complacent in one area while we focus on a new one.

My first list of the new year: Attributes of an effective manager.

1 Inspires and Motivates Others

I remember one of the first Irish executive coaching clients I had when I moved to Ireland.

The head of the subsidiary of a large multinational, his team had always met or exceeded every target or projection they had set. And yet he also consistently received lower marks than his counterparts in other subsidiaries when it came to managerial style. Why? Because he mistakenly thought the numbers were enough. He hadn't actively considered or planned ways to encourage or inspire. Together, we mapped out a series of campaigns that allowed him to show a more human side. You can do it too.

2 Displays High Integrity and Honesty

I think you all know what this entails.

It does not mean blurting out the first thing that 'honestly' comes to your mind in every occasion, but it does mean that you can be trusted. Trust is still a big deal.

3 Solves Problems and Analyses Issues

You can't be a leader and not help your team cut through some of whatever impasse is impeding their development or progress. Be collaborative, yes. But also, dig in and be decisive.

4 Drives for Results

My coaching client definitely delivered the numbers and as you can see here at number four, this is key. But it's also here at number four. So, if productivity is your only gauge, it's time to recalibrate.

5 Communicates Powerfully

Tah-dah. You knew communications would have to be a trait in here, didn't you? Of course, I would argue that numbers one through four are also dependent on communications abilities - thereby making this skill number one - but I defer to the survey results.

Any way you stack these top five skills, it once again emphasises just how important it is to identify and actively develop and refine your executive style.

From your inner core, to your outer expression, this stuff matters.

Back to my conversations with my CNN Abu Dhabi friend. Between us, I'd say we have more than two decades of experience.

We laughed recalling the many headline-grabbing, high-profile scandals we covered.

Then, as he escorted me down the elevator, he shared one final memory of a rainy day when he covered President Nelson Mandela. Shaking hands in a receiving line of other leaders, my friend watched as Mandela's eyes glanced past the officials and toward a group of local South African workers who were outside the velvet rope.

Mandela beckoned them over and then proceeded to shake each of their hands too. They stood in their wellies as equals alongside the visiting dignitaries.

That's the sign of a true leader. Someone who leads by example. Someone who inspires. Someone who takes time to figure out how to let you know they care.

  • With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

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