Leadership is…

Leadership is… having so much fun that others want to join you.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with an organisation in Africa. The charity needed support to develop a strategic plan that would help them apply for funding to deliver their work on women’s rights.


During my time with them, I was asked by the Director ‘what is our main objective?’ which made me think it would be useful for them to have their vision and mission at the heart of the organisation to make sure their objective was clear to all who worked there and all who visited.

The main entrance to the office led to their kitchen and the first thing people saw when they visited was a noticeboard which up to then had been empty. This seemed to me to be the perfect place for a vision board so, being a creative type, I took myself off to buy some craft materials and set to work developing a visual display that would communicate the organisation’s key aims.

At first, they thought I had gone a bit mad and it started off being my project and colleagues looked on as I started work. I was in my element bringing something to life in a way that was meaningful. Slowly, people started to want to be part of the project and began helping to cut out letters and stick them to the board.

By the end of the process, they were creating their own board and I was able to take a step back and enjoy the piece they were bringing together.

This was when I realised that having fun is an essential part of leadership. If it isn’t an enjoyable experience, why would anyone want to come with you? Since then, I have made sure my team enjoys what they do and I positively encourage them to have a good time as often as possible.

Of course, sometimes things get serious and everyone understands that but in my teams I ensure there is a healthy balance and the hard serious stuff is rewarded by building in something they enjoy. This might be having the team meeting off site where they can have coffee together or enjoy brunch. Or it might be going for drinks after a big event that they have been working on for a while. Or even it might simply be allowing them to not take things so seriously.


Too often I see managers who bear down on their people because there is something important ahead and they want it to be right. This puts pressure on individuals and can make work unpleasant. The best thing you can do as a leader is trust your team and encourage them to enjoy what they do. After all, people spend a lot of time in the workplace so why not make it somewhere they want to be?

For more photos of my trip visit: A Woman’s Place in Lesotho, Flickr


A Woman’s Place in Lesotho: www.cteg.org.uk/a-womans-place-in-lesotho/

Lesotho lawyers speak out: www.cteg.org.uk/lesotho-lawyers-speak/




About the blog

Welcome to 3minuteleadership.org and thanks for visiting.
Over the last few years, I have been observing different forms of leadership and management and thinking about what works in today’s workplace.

Striving to be a good leader myself and create an environment where individuals can thrive, I have spent much time pondering how to help people to achieve and deliver to the best of their ability.

Through this site, I plan to share leadership lessons in bitesize chunks of 3 minutes or less.  I hope that the blog can provide a space for likeminded people to share thoughts and ideas on leadership for the 21st Century.

By doing this, I hope that we can change the way we lead and transform the workplace, developing people that are inspired and empowered to make a difference in the world.


About the elephants…

I’ve chosen the elephant image because the matriarch influences the herd more than any other.  With a quiet and confident leadership style, she sets the direction and allows others to follow.


Mastering motivation

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and found myself engaged in a debate around what motivates people at work.

The colleague I was talking to was from a large public sector organisation and seemed to be a Theory X thinker, assuming that people would rather be anywhere than in the office and only go to work for money.

My perspective is that whilst people ultimately work because they have bills to pay (who wouldn’t prefer to be on the beach or in the garden), once that basic need is met, money ceases to be the main motivator. In this sense, Theory Y is where I sit as I assume that people want to work and manage my people with this in mind.

Most of my thinking has developed from a concept set out in Daniel Pink’s book called ‘Drive’. This book is so recent that it was not covered in a recent management course I attended. We were told in the session that ‘there hasn’t really been any theory developed on motivation since Maslow’.

But some of us know different.

Pink starts off with an argument that book that generations coming through today are not motivated by money. He believes that the model of performance related pay where people are set targets which are rewarded with bonuses is out of date and actually those joining the workplace over the last couple of decades are driven more by values than money. With this in mind, according to Pink, the first thing employers have to get right is to ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.

Once the basic financial need has been met, we can move away from Maslow’s basic needs of food and shelter and move towards the top of the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualisation.

So to bring it back to Pink’s ideas, achieving motivation requires leaders to allow our employees to achieve the following three things:

Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

Basically, to motivate people we need to trust them to do things their own way, setting the direction and letting them get on with it. This is AUTONOMY.

We need to give them the space and support them where necessary, allowing them to get really good at what they do. This means that they are able to learn and improve until they achieve MASTERY.

And we need to be clear about why they are doing what we have asked them to do so that they know what they are doing is for a good reason. This means they understand their PURPOSE.

Applying this to the way my team works completely changed my focus and delivered some fantastic results. Of course it didn’t mean I left them on their own completely, it just changed the way we worked together. Instead of telling people what to do and how to do it, this approach requires leaders to set the direction and support individuals to achieve. It requires managers to ask more questions and find out where you can add expertise to improve the outcome. What you will find is that the team checks in with you more because they want to get things right. It’s definitely worth adopting because the rewards of empowering people are immense.

Go on try it! I dare you…

If you want to hear it from the man himself, check out this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

Or you can buy the book here:


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