Ruth Penfold-Brown


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Leadership isn’t easy. It can often be a bumpy transition that sometimes takes you from delivery to enablement, from friend to almost foe, and from autonomous being to a calendar full of meetings. 

I didn’t quite realise all that stepping in honestly. I kind of assumed that because I was pretty good at building relationships with people, it would just come easily. Some early leadership experiences seemed to confirm that, until I learnt through feedback that I had some very clear development areas. 

The truth is, we all do. There is always more to learn in how we show up for others and ourselves, and trust me, if you aren’t getting any negative feedback from your team – it really doesn’t mean that there isn’t any.

Why is it so hard? 

Humans are complicated, and leading them in a way that works for them takes a lot of effort. It means taking the time to truly know, care for and understand the people you are working with. It means learning how each person likes to give and receive feedback, and making sure that you create the opportunity for that. 

Why it matters? 

Innovation leadership is even harder because we are asking people to do something that feels scary – to take the risk of getting something wrong. As humans we are hard wired to do the opposite of that, our brains are working to keep us safe. Safe means we often stay part of the group and don’t challenge the status quo. To create environments where people feel safe to innovate in a transformative way, that takes even more effort, more care and more understanding.

Before I freak you out entirely, now is probably a good time to share the four pledges that I wish I’d learnt to make sooner as a leader, so that you have a better chance of not making the same mistakes.

Here we go: 

1. I will always show up fully for our 1:1’s.

If you need to do something else, that’s okay, but unless one of us is OOO, I will never cancel the meeting. We will focus on whatever is on your mind first and work back from there. I am happy to share ideas on a structure, but this is your meeting to own and get the best out of. I will also use this time to communicate any news or feedback with you in real time. My goal in this meeting is to know you and support you.

2. I will be careful about how I communicate with you. 

I will be straightforward when I message you and communicate as clearly as I can what the situation is, what the implications are and what action I am needing from you (mostly, can you take this and run with it haha). I will also give a timeframe if there is one. If I ever communicate with you in a way that isn’t clear, please let me know. I will tell you clearly when I am worried about something, so that you aren’t left wondering what is wrong. 

3. I will support you to create the space to thrive.

You knowing you is the most powerful thing you can ever do. When we know ourselves, we are better equipped to know when we are struggling and ask for the help that we need. I will make sure that you have time to do that, so that you know where to recruit me when you need back up. The team will thrive when we are all thriving, and also know each other well enough to when something isn’t right.

4. I will help you to uncover what you really want.

Whilst I am delighted we get to learn and grow together now, no job is anyone’s end game. I want to see you grow and become whatever you want to be. Together we will work to get clear on what that is, and get you all the experience we can to get there. We will build trust in each other so that we can grow together.

5. I will never make a promise that I cannot keep. 

Posted with no comment haha. 

What do you think? What else would you have on your list?

About the Author

I help Founders and People leaders to build and scale purposeful businesses, whilst scaling themselves at the same time.

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