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Thoughts on Leadership

Over the years I've had a wide variety of clients.

And while my job has always been that of a physical fitness trainer or injury management coach, I regularly get asked questions about more esoteric topics.

Such as earlier today on a Zoom call with a remote client we were talking about leadership.

So what about leadership?

What is it?

Why is it an important topic?

And why does this shaved monkey who shouts at people for a living got any say in what is and is not leadership?

My underlying thought process in my own journey through fitness, which started in martial arts before leading to strength and conditioning, has always been to become a "better human animal"

I actually toyed with the idea of having "better human animal" feature as the title to this website.

I still might...

And part of becoming a good leader is to first become a better human animal.

It is my opinion that the role of leader is not assumed, it is granted. Just like respect. You could say that leadership can't happen without respect, therefore respect is leadership?

As I mentioned, I grew up in martial arts, Wado Ryu karate being my first (and foundational) of those arts.

Japanese Karate has a very strict hierarchy, signified by the belt structure. White belts are at the bottom of the pile, and the instructor or Sensei sits at the top.

How did the Sensei get there?

Well, in a good school / club / dojo, the Sensei got there because of their knowledge and experience which were hard earned over years of study and training, buoyed up by their personality and genuine wont to help people. This instructor attracts students a bit like a light attracts moths. They shine bright and those who are willing and wanting come to them. The students show respect because the instructor first shows them respect for simply showing up, for putting in effort, for continually listening and applying the lessons. Respect is first given by the instructor before it is then given back by the students.

This was my experience growing up in martial arts.

And this shapes my views on leadership.

The role of leader is best won by earning a following. You maybe step forward to lead, maybe everyone steps back to be lead by you. But either way, the leader, like the Geese in the photo, nothing more than the person at the front of the group.

And if the group don't like you there, it doesn't take much for them to swap around and remove you.

Nobody has to come to me for coaching. Back in my security days, the security team was always outnumbered, our authority only meant something as long as the crowd accepted it. As soon as they don't, what can 5 men do against 500?

Authority then is granted.

It is a gift.

How can you attain that gift? How can you maintain that gift?

I'd first start by being bloody good at the thing you want to do!

Then, you must study communication. Communication is more about listening than it is talking, it is about body language, tone and inclusion.

Active listening is one of the more valuable skills I've been taught. This is the act of deliberately listening to a person. The majority of people don't listen most of the time. Most of the time people are thinking of what they're going to say instead of listening to what the other person is actually saying. It's why, when you hear two intellectuals discuss a complex topic, there are pauses. Before a person speaks they need a few seconds to formulate what they are going to say because as the other person was speaking, they were listening and trying to understand rather than formulating a response.

Pauses in a conversation are natural, silence is not to be feared. It is a tool to be used.

Actively listening may slow down a conversation, but it ensures that the listener feels respected. And if you don't understand, you have the chance to paraphrase the persons input back to them to ensure you are both on the same page.

Essentially we empower the speaker by listening. We can then ask them questions, both open and closed questions to see f you can inspire them to answer their own questions, the questions they came to you with in the first place.

And if we recognise that they genuinely don't know, at least we can learn how they think and like to communicate so that if we know the answer we can phrase it in a manner they will best understand.

After all, I can tell you to: "Flex and internally rotate both hips while extending the spine in the sagittal plane, flexing the knees and dorsiflexing both ankles."

Or I can ask you to squat, maybe with a visual demonstration as I say it.

Which set of cues I use is determined by the audience I am talking to. A good leader reads the room, and presents at the level of that room.

Not above to try and show their brilliance Not below to patronise the audience But at their level.

Communicating good ideas, being able to draw those ideas out of people, empowering people to be better versions of themselves is what leadership is all about.

Anyone who assumes leadership and starts making demands and laying down their law, that's not a leader, that's a dictator.

Be the person people want to follow.

Better yet, be the person that YOU want to follow.

That is leadership.

Dave Hedges

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