Real Life. Real Leadership.

We live in a turbulent world.  More than ever before, people are looking to their leaders to provide clarity and purpose.  In this series of interviews, we pose 5 questions to respected leaders.  These leaders lead anywhere from the front line to the corner office, but they have one thing in common – they are highly effective and well regarded.  Put aside the theory and read on for an insight into the stories of some outstanding leaders.

Lana King is a professionally qualified Human Resources practitioner with over twenty (20) years’ experience in both the Resources and Professional Services industries.  She currently holds the role of Head of Human Resources for Clough, an international Engineering and Construction company.  In this role, she is responsible for the delivery of strategic HR solutions designed to meet the organisation’s goals, enhance the people culture and support operational delivery.

Red Emu: Tell us your leadership story – how has your leadership evolved over the years and what has shaped your approach to leadership?

Lana King: Leadership does exactly that, it evolves and takes on a variety of forms in response to situations at hand.  I didn’t set out to be a “leader” as such, like most people it was part of the career journey and at times an opportunistic appointment.  In general, I have shaped my leadership style around a few key principles – fairness, transparency and encouragement.  If you surround yourself with good people, treat them well, provide feedback and support them through opportunities, you will create a team that is loyal, committed and driven to deliver high performance. I expect these things from my leaders, and I can see the positive response I get from my team when I take this defined approach to leadership.

Red Emu: You have responsibility for a significant, complex organisation – how do you create clarity for your team and the broader organisation?

Lana King: For me clarity starts with giving individuals context and purpose.  Outlining the ‘why’ upfront, is so important, it brings your team into the situation and makes them feel involved rather than just transactional and responsible only for the output.  In doing this it helps team members with their role development and job satisfaction, when people have these two elements it ultimately leads to greater engagement and discretionary effort.

To further solidify context and purpose, I believe regular communication is a non-negotiable, be it formal or informal, together with a team culture that supports the notion that “there are no stupid questions”.  I’ve also found that understanding the audience is fundamental, different leadership and communication styles appeal to or resonate with others – learning to adjust style is a key skill that develops over time.

Red Emu:  What is the biggest sacrifice or trade-off you have had to make in your leadership journey?

Lana King: I reflected on this question for a while and have to say that in the main, there really haven’t been many sacrifices or trade-offs during my leadership journey.  I have 2 children and have been fortunate that despite taking time out of the workforce, I have continued to build my experience and career.  Once again, being clear with expectations, and being open and honest is critical.  Work hard to build trust and deliver, you will be rewarded in the long run.  As a leader, assemble a team that you trust to get the job done, encourage them and reward them – they will give you loyalty and performance back in spades.  As an employee; communicate, be flexible and recognise where you may need to adjust something to meet a work or personal commitment.  As a parent or care giver, be organised, ask for help and take care not to miss the moments that matter.

Red Emu:  As you reflect on your career to date, what advice would have been helpful to you when you started out?

Lana King:  See problems as opportunities and seek guidance through collaboration – no one expects you to solve every problem, all the time. Feeling like you need to provide solutions to all problems independently or risk failure is a common trap earlier in your career. Upon reflection, it is those times where you leverage the collective knowledge of your colleagues that the optimal outcome is achieved.

More broadly it is important to be true to your inherent values, courageous and resilient. I think these all go hand in hand.  To be courageous and speak up you also need to be prepared to be challenged and or receive feedback that you may not like. Courage coupled with resilience allows you to push yourself but more importantly pick yourself back up when things don’t go to plan.  Always communicate your views in a considered and purposeful way to gain the greatest engagement.

Red Emu: How do you continue to develop your leadership and the leadership capability within your business?

Lana King: Engaging with my team for feedback gives great insight into my own leadership style, likewise, it creates an environment where feedback is welcomed and therefore provided without being purposely sought out.  Self-reflection is also important, taking time to look inwardly is something we probably don’t do enough of.  In terms of capability development, this happens through formal learning, but equally through our shared experiences. At Clough we provide our people with a mixture of technical and leadership development however, some of the best development I have had has been on the job, with feedback provided in real-time. Leadership is a journey that goes on for life.