Posted by: Kunle Awosika, Microsoft Kenya Country Manager
Respect. Results. Recognition. These are my three R’s of leadership. Eight months ago, I was appointed as Microsoft Kenya’s country manager, or, in other words, ‘The Chief Servant’. I see my number one priority as leading a high performing team to greater success. I know that if I don’t show my team mates respect, they won’t be motivated to be results-driven. Likewise, if I don’t recognise the good results they produce, they won’t continue producing them. It’s a cycle that maintains itself – and it’s a cycle that every good leader should live by.
I’ve been in various leadership positions at Microsoft over the last nine years. A key part of my leadership has always been keeping employees satisfied, dealing with ambiguities, navigating challenging conversations, and selling solutions, services and now devices. My experiences have helped me to learn some very important lessons around these Three R’s. Needless to say, I’m still learning, and that’s one thing I love about my job. But here are a few of my insights so far…
One of the profound truths I’ve learnt about respect can be summed up into this formula.
As a leader, how do you earn trust and respect? You build a relationship with your team, colleagues, partners and customers that is based on three things: Increased value, credibility and reduced risk.
To add value and credibility, you act with accountability. A good leader should always accept responsibility for their actions and the actions of the team. Be accountable and share all your key learnings, successes and mistakes. By being transparent like this, your team will see you as a vested member who is genuinely interested in their growth.
As a leader, you should also show your vulnerability. You won’t always know the answers, and so you should be willing to gather them from your team members in different ways. The best leaders earn the respect of their peers and team members by being open and respectfully challenging, and by always inspiring a shared vision or goal. As the saying goes, respect is earned and not demanded; trust is built and worthy leaders are naturally followed.
Once you’ve established trust and respect, your employees will be eager to work hard for you and collaborate as a team. It’s important for you to continually challenge them to act, and to inspire them to sustain and even exceed their results. Use their achievements to help grow and develop them into leaders of their own.
Think of your team as a team of oxen. Every ox or team member has the potential to grow as big and strong as you, their leader. Be humble enough to both remember and encourage this. It will only help you pull your load faster and, eventually, hand the reins over with greater confidence.
Every leader knows how important it is to recognise people for a job well done. It drives motivation and productivity. But what a lot of leaders miss is self-recognition. This includes recognising your own wins, and failures. Recognising failures and being self-critical is quite difficult for most leaders, but it’s essential in helping you to grow and develop. I personally have no issues with being respectfully challenged by my team members, so long as it’s constructive and for the common good of the team.
Being able to look inward and recognise where improvements can be made helps you to lead with integrity. Evaluating yourself doesn’t need to be a stressful or damaging exercise. It should be empowering – a strategy to see how far you’ve come, and where you still can go.
Together with the Three R’s, my core values as a leader have always been: Accountability, Openness, Respect and, most importantly, Honesty and Integrity.
I fundamentally believe the following 3 principles:
1) Everything rises and falls with leadership
2) You must have a high leadership lid
3) If your leadership lid is 5 your organisation cannot grow more than 4
It is critical to always challenge your team for better outcomes, help grow and develop them for future leadership roles, drive consistent results, and publicly recognise the individual or team when good work is done.
As country manager, I hope to do all this. But I also hope to inspire my team to always take the lead in innovation – to always take new ways of doing things and build a belief system that nothing is impossible. Because, as a leader, ‘Impossible is Nothing’.