What characteristics do you think a good leader should have?
I think a good leader needs good communication skills, which promote positivity. They should be confident and have influence, but always be self-aware with a degree of empathy and respect for those they are working with.
What do you think is the difference between management and leadership?
Anyone can be a manager, but not everyone can be a leader.
Do you think that leadership is taught or learnt?
I’d say leadership is something which is learnt. As you face different scenarios, work with different people and are put in different situations you have the opportunity to learn how to be a better leader and develop your own style.
Good leaders do teach others, but indirectly.
Tell us about something different a leader did that has stuck with you.
Listening is really important. One leader who I worked with made a big effort to listen to our team, taking onboard ideas and input – but never just as lip service.
One instance was when some of the team were unhappy with one of our main processes and put forward changes which they thought would make it more efficient.
“Our manager was always compassionate and supportive, but this time really helped improve the situation.”
Although she knew not all the changes would work, our boss instead took the opportunity to sit down and consult with the team. We went through the process step by step, she listened to the proposed changes and tweaks which were possible to make it more efficient were made. Everyone in the team had chance to give input and be listened to.
Giving everyone a chance to be listened to and be part of the process created greater team buy-in and removed any previous frustrations.
Have you worked or coached with or played for an unlikely leader? Someone who stepped up when they weren’t expected to?
All the time. I recently stepped down as vice-captain of my rugby team, but as former vice and a senior player there is always an expectation to take some sort of lead.
On the pitch, it’s interesting to see how different players step up at different points of the game or in certain scenarios. Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader in some way.
We have visible leaders, which could be girls communicating with the team, shouting calls and moves or keeping our defence onside. And we have more discreet leaders, players working hard throughout the game, leading their teammates by setting a good example with their play.
Winning or losing, leaders are necessary to build a strong team that works together.
“We have visible leaders… and we have more discreet leaders.”
Tell us about a time a leader showed empathy and compassion and improved a situation.
I remember at Wasps Rugby putting season tickets on sale for the first time using our new ticketing system. There had been various challenges and changes up until the on-sale and we also had the added pressure of a home game that day. Myself and all of the team were feeling the pressure and were desperate for everything to go smoothly.
Our manager was always compassionate and supportive, but this time really helped improve the situation. She spoke through our concerns, admitted to being a bit nervous too, but reassured us that she knew we’d all worked hard and if there were any issues would be able to sort them together. It really meant a lot.
What have you learnt from the leaders you’ve worked with and how has that affected your own behaviour in the workplace?
I’ve learnt so much from different leaders, but one of the key things is to be authentic.
There’s often pressure to fit a certain mould in the workplace to gain the respect of colleagues and peers – otherwise you can feel you’re not ‘doing it right’. From working with different leaders, I’ve gained more confidence to just be me. I’m now more confident to share my ideas, ask more questions and bring my persona to roles.
Have you ever had a mentor and if so, how was that experience?
I’ve not, but have worked and work with some fantastic people who I’m able to learn a lot from. I would love the opportunity if someone wanted to mentor me.
Bad bosses can have a negative effect on workplace environments, productivity and even mental health. Have you ever been affected by a poor manager?
I unfortunately have. This particular boss showed little trust in the team and enjoyed shouting at and belittling people whenever there was the slightest opportunity.
Although the team all got on, the negative atmosphere made the job difficult to enjoy. Most people left after a short time in the role; staff turnover was very high.
Have you learned what not to do from the bad bosses and leaders?
Absolutely. I guess it’s about looking back at why you thought someone was a bad leader. Maybe there was a situation you felt could have been handled better or you didn’t like the way you were treated. Being a leader or boss can be hard, people aren’t always going to like the decisions you make or agree with your approach. However, you can look back at those past situations and work out what you would have done differently – then try not to make the same mistakes.
Emma Clueit has worked in live events for companies such as Live Nation, British Athletics, The NEC Group, and Wasps Rugby and Netball, and is now part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. She has played rugby union for 17 years, currently for Sutton Coldfield RFC Ladies.