Dear Reader,

How do you view the prospect of leadership? Do you view it as a new and welcome challenge? Or does it seem like a dreaded but necessary obligation?

Whichever situation you are in, if you have to take on the mantle of leadership then your best course of action is to set for yourself the goal of being an inspiring leader. You should aim not only to be able to lead the team with hard skills, but wear your hearts on your sleeves in caring for your charges.

That’s the advice of Bharat Avalani, head coach at the APMFx Leadership Bootcamp held on between 19 and 21 September 2019. Avalani is the CEO of Connecting the Dots Marketing Consultancy and the Global Partner of Anecdote International, recognized as a world’s leader in the use of storytelling in business.

Organized by Asia Pacific Media Forum (APMF), APMFx is an in-depth workshop that APMF prepared tailored-made for specific knowledge. APMFx is an activity in addition to the biennial APMF conference. The APMFx Leadership Bootcamp’s objective was to prepare a new generation of professionals that have been identified as up-and-coming leaders by their companies in the marketing and communications industry. Its focus was on developing basic skills to shape us into effective leaders.

During the three-day bootcamp, attended by 24 participants from 10 agencies and corporations, our most useful lesson in leadership was to discover ourselves — to appreciate our strengths and accept our weaknesses.

Avalani told us that knowing ourselves was the most important thing to do in preparing ourselves as a leader. This is very often the biggest obstacle to effective leadership: a failure to appreciate our own true value. We often doubt our capabilities to take on huge responsibilities; question our decisions too much, or even feel insecure on how our team members are perceiving us.

Co-coach at APMF Leadership Bootcamp, Kua Theng Hong, also emphasized it by saying “Whenever you are doubting yourself, you are actually belittling and disrespecting not only yourself, but also the ones who trust you.” Kua is the Principal Trainer of Mind Connect, a training and consultancy that focusing on marketing skill enhancement.

By discovering ourselves and accepting who we are, a leader can appreciate team work better. This is because we will then realize that we’re not perfect but that’s OK because it’s the type of knowledge that informs us which areas we should step up and which we may need to lean more on the team. There is little point of having a team if all you can do is lean on yourself?

The other useful lesson, dear reader, is to practice empathy. A leader, we learnt, should practice three kinds of empathy: cognitive (think), affective (feel) and compassionate (act). In other words, a leader should put themselves in their team members’ shoes whenever they make a decision, assign tasks, or make any requests of their team members. Failure to do so would result in them sounding bossy and probably losing the respect of their team members.

Leadership, however, not an easy journey, especially if we’re still adapting to the status. More often than not we might fall into the victim mindset where we focus inordinately on the problem and immediately (subconsciously or otherwise) start asking ‘why’ instead of asking ‘how’. Why is this happening? Why did we make this mistake? Why they don’t listen to us? Why? Why? Why?

Such a mindset will not help to solve our problems or effect any changes. Leaders instead tend to focus more on the ‘how’ instead of the ‘why’. Doing this automatically switches us into a responsibility mindset and this would create a positive environment for the team to solve the problem together.

Sometimes you make a second mistake after making the first. At which case you should also accept responsibility for it and move on to find a solution rather than dwell on it. By taking responsibility in what you’ve done, you would have displayed the grit required of becoming a leader.

Leaders, we were taught, should continuously and consciously move away from criticism and negativity toward acknowledgement and responsibility. This is because we may not be able to control the circumstances we find ourselves in but we can still control how we react to them.

As Mark Manson said in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, “The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.”

The beauty of leadership, we learned, is that everyone has their own style. There’s nothing wrong to appear assertive or – on the other end of the spectrum – to appear sensitive. Our styles will evolve, but throughout the journey we should be mindful of accepting the responsibilities of leadership, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, valuing ourselves, and practicing empathy.

If we are able to do that then we’d be on our way to become visionary leaders.

So, dear reader, with the new value that we place on ourselves, we’ll (hopefully) see you at the top in a few years!

Cheers,

Mira (Associate) & Ambar (Associate)

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