When it comes to leading people, besides you will be taken back, you can also stay without those you used to lead.
This is exactly what happened to our hero from the previous blog called “The night I swam across the Danube“. Led by the lights and glow from the other side of the river, after several attempts, he finally gathered enough strength, reached the other side, the side of leadership, but after that, he realized that the lights on this side were not that shiny, nor that the bank was so gratious – as it looked like from the other side. So, he will have to start swimming upstream, but the difference in this venture unlike the previous one is in the fact that, this time – he will not be swimming alone, and will not be responsible for himself only.
Until became a leader himself, our hero had carefully observed other leaders, and noticed that all of them had different styles. He realised that all those styles bring certain results – some bigger, some smaller, same of them are desirable, some are not, some are in line with his character, some are not. So he had a big dilemma – which style to apply? Either to stick to his familiar style or combine more of them?

In order to solve this dilemma, I decided to ask for help from a professional, my colleague Dragana Ilić – a psychologist and certified coach with lot of psychotherapeutic experience. She and her team for knowledge management are responsible for tailoring trainings designed to help frontliners, both salesmen and leaders – to be competent and ready as of first day – to carry out all and constant changes in a dynamic industry they belong to. Dragana also has a long experience in the peacekeeping as well as democratic and sustainable growth sector in the Balkans area.
We specifically talked about the challenges, every leader faces once he reaches the other coast.

Milan Mitić: In the previous blog, we discussed about the necessity of a leader to change during and after “the venture of swimming on the other coast“. We advised a leader what he should know – but how is he supposed to obtain such knowledge?

Dragana Ilić: The fact that an individual swam the river, regardless the number of attempts and weather conditions, originally tells us that such a leader already has a certain need for responsibility, enough patience and persistence, as well as some courage to embrace something unknown. These are the elements of leadership, that he, sometimes and somehow has built. It is important that he continues to nurture those elements carefully and develop his new role, i.e. a part of his new identity.

Milan Mitić: How should one create a part of leadership identity?

Dragana Ilić: In such a way that one has to believe in the power of creating a change. A change is an undeniable biological fact. Whether we like it or not, we are changing minute after minute, even second after second. A leader should have a desire to lead the change – both of his own as well as the one of the others. How? In a costant communication with the sales staff, other colleagues, everyone else…He should actively experiment with different ways of thinking and behaving, by asking an open minded feedback from his colleagues, by being open for attempts and mistakes – as legitimate/the only way of learning, by shifting his own boundaries prior to shifting the ones of the others, by having enough passion not to give up, but also by being able to give up when the time comes – not from the goal he set but from himself.

Milan Mitić: What does it mean: “To have a passion not to give up and to know when to give up“?

Dragana Ilić: When I say here “one should know when to give up“ – I mean to give up from his own behaviour patterns and strategies once he realizes they do not bring the desired results. I essence, not to give up can mean a healthy persistance and a winning spirit, but it can also mean hostility or as people would say – stubbornness. “Not giving up“ as the highest principle of leadershipo behaviour may also be devastating, because it destroys the experimental spirit of a leader – which should be vital, agile. creative, ready for constant testing of ideas and courageous enough to make mistakes and learn quickly from them. The less vanity one has – the faster he will learn, i.e be ready to abandon some of his initial ideas and to create new, wiser and more fuitful ones. And so on, again and again. This is also a way in which a leader will create his own leadership identity.

Milan Mitić: Which tools can be offered a retail leader to make him better in leading people?

Dragana Ilić: A retail leader generally, works in an exciting environment. He is constantly a part of different “life stories“ of the local comunity he belongs to. Retail is a kind of constant, uninterrupted play with different characters coming on and off the stage, whose dialogues meet and interact without a particular order or rules. This is an oustanding “game platform“. In order to “play“ responsibly a leader has at his disposal feedback and coaching – a worldwide recognized tools for development of both teams and individuals. In order to use those tools in a sensible and ethical way – people have to be offered an adequate and continous training and cleverly designed development process – the one in which they will be active participants. This means that leaders must be given an attractive playground as well as enough time to practice how to handle with those tools, which is – The Retail Academy. Only by practicing in a proper way and with adequate support, they will become better in retail – both for themselves and the others and at the same time – for everybody else within the company they represent.

Milan Mitić: What would be the adequate way of work of a leader or with leaders?

Dragana Ilić: The adequate way would be the one which creates open-minded and responsible leaders capable of bringing quick and clever decissions. The way where those leaders do their best to create witty and creative salesmen. The way through which we celebrate the variety as long as it does not contradict to (business) ethics. The way where it is desired to swim upsteram, if such a decission can improve the business. Eventually, the way where we cherish taking the responsibility, patience and courage, because without them – it is not possible to swim upstream.

Milan Mitić: In the end – what can we advice the salesmen when it comes to entering “leadership waters“ and swimming in them?

Dragana Ilić: To be wise “at instant“, I will reccomend ten rules:
1. There is no “right moment“ for “entering the water“ – you are creating it on your own
2. The “swimming conditions“ are not always the same – since “the river of life“ is variable. Panta rei.
3. Swimming is not natural for us – although we originate from water. Leadership is not natural, but we al have it inborn.
4. Becomming a better swimmer considers a lot of practice practicing in different waters
5. This is not a short run. Carefully distribute your strength and set your rhythm
6. When the river is flooded you are the first to enter. When it is still, you enter last.
7. Practice various swimming styles, and search for your own – constantly.
8. When swimming with others – act like a sportsman.
9. Do not give up from reaching the shore you are heading for – but sometimes give up the way you swim – in order to find the new one.
10. Remember – it is good to swim upstream!

Dear leaders and all of you wishing to become so – I hope the interview with Dragana as well as the the piece of advice she shared – helped you take a better look of yourself related to the expectations from a leader. I hope you have spent some time thinking about it and made your “(not) to do list“ – because, sometimes, knowing what you should stop doing – is a precondition to start doing something else.

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