Leadership learning: making the most of ‘small’ moments

nigelhamilton11Sir Nigel Hamilton was head of the NI Civil Service for 6 years until his retirement in 2008. He is the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Belfast and has been chair of Ulster Rugby. He and his wife, Lorna, are members of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast.

Recently he attended our ‘Crucible’ leadership morning at Edenmore Golf Club and later he shared with me some of what he has learned through his own leadership experience.

Interestingly, he was keen to mention examples of leadership behaviours which appear small, but he’d want to argue that they are powerful in terms of relationships.

1 – The importance of shaking hands with everyone, not least reaching out to people who are not from our camp. They may even be people who oppose us. Do it, with grace and humility.

2 – The importance of paying attention to some of the people in an organisation who might be viewed as being at a more junior level. Make a point of taking time to talk with the security man or the doorman. Not only are these folk are a point of knowledge in relation to what is going on in the organisation, but they also have a vital part to play in that they often serve as the first point of contact between the organisation and the outside world.

3 – The value of saying thank-you, especially to those who have done something for us. It can be a spoken word or a scribbled note in a card. Not only is it a gracious act, but it can be very affirming to the person we thank.

As you can see, these are often relatively simple gestures. However Sir Nigel suggests that in fact ‘they are more important, initially, than visions, strategies or plans’. Leaders who don’t demonstrate these kinds of characteristics have lost their followers.