I read with interest today a post on Medium by Dennis Yang, CEO of Udemy, entitled "3 Small Things That Separate Great Leaders From the Good Ones" - who writes that "Staying connected with employees is a top priority" to avoid "losing touch with your employees". This is easy to happen when a start-up grows rapidly in to a large organization where the "easy intimacy of those early startup days fades away as headcount increases". In my previous job, where my employee number was 36 when I started in 1989, the company grew from being very small to very large (500+ employees in Dublin office) - I could see this first hand. So what does Yang recommend to "temper that disconnected feeling and help 21st century employees find humanity in the workplace" so that leaders are "great" rather than just "good"?
- Establish personal connections: by learning everyone's name
- Maintain an equal footing: by having an open office plan and embedding in teams in rotation
- Be yourself but manage your emotions: by maintaining a calm demeanor in the face of adversity
|A Great Leader: Abraham Lincoln.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
I never had the guts or the opportunity to set up a new company like Dennis Yang, and I won't be doing so in the less than 10 years left of my working life. I never regarded myself as leadership material. In my Project Management classes, I often say to my students that PMs need to be leaders to be successful - where there are leaders, there must be followers.
I have worked with some great and not so great leaders in my time (who I will not name or give a clue to identity here). Instead I turn to outside my own environment to hail other great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Pádraig Pearse, Mick O'Dwyer, Éamon de Valera, Roy Keane, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, and many more. Some will say that circumstances (war, sport, protest) made these people what they were - nevertheless they responded in a way that great leaders always do.
Some will say that a person is born to be a great leader, that you don't just pick it up off the ground. But leadership can be learned, and taking Dennis Yang's simple advice shows that those who aspire to leadership so that others will follow can do inspiring things to become "great".