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Kasia Lania’s #leadership tips

Head of Engineering

Kasia is a people magnet with infectious enthusiasm, she attracts a great team and relentlessly invests in their career development and personal growth. And she does this without ‘thinking’, because by nature, she is a people centered leader that places the success of her team before herself.

Who is the best boss you had and why?

The best boss I’ve ever had was Mr X. He had an amazing trust in my abilities, gave me the reins where I thought reins would not be given, allowed me to learn through experiences and risk taking, listened to what I had to say, took things on board and gave me feedback.

He had an excellent way to ‘set things for success’, re-think and not jump to decisions immediately. I’ve learnt that failures are not actually failures but opportunities for growth. I’ve observed lots of his strategies and interactions over the years and I think being able to build positive relationships by listening and acknowledging are his prerogative.

Another reason for calling him ‘the best boss’ is the fact that I never felt inferior or subordinate, more of a peer and partner in collaboration, I felt valued and respected. I was always prepared to give more than I needed to, I knew I would be appreciated. Amazing people person, who understands the importance of the work life balance, clever, highly articulate, a great example of being accountable and REALLY REALLY funny.

What are your top 3 tips for being a better leader?

1a. Intelligent disobedience. Being an awesome leader is just as crucial as being an awesome follower, and its mostly up to the leaders to develop courageous, critically thinking followers. These two roles are mutually inclusive, one doesn’t make sense without the other; encouraging both roles to work as peers rather than trying to preserve individual egos. Leading on from this is my most favorite concept of ‘intelligent disobedience’. Many workplace risks and issues could be prevented if leaders encourage people to think critically and say ‘no’ to us, challenge us, make us see situations in a different light. If you favor a more submissive behavior, people will be stripped of an opportunity to flourish and reach their full potential. A more effective leader recognizes that people around them will become better in some areas than the leader. A good leader would embrace this and recognize the valuable contribution and future leaders.

1b. Calculated risk taking. This ties in with point no 1, however it’s too important not to feature it on its own. Allow people to take risks with a view that things may fail, but on a small scale. Encourage your team members to pick up the pieces, learn from experiences and have another go. Protection and prevention has its place, hence risk management frameworks. However, when you can afford it and the business won’t suffer, encourage calculated risk taking. Don’t control and breathe on your team’s neck, accelerate their professional growth through a hands-on approach to risk taking. You will build trust and positive relationships.
2. Accountability. As a leader in my previous job, I found that letting go of a controlling approach is the most difficult task, however you see results fast when you do. Owning a piece of the business is empowering — ideas, energy, creativity and critical thinking are born. Accountability is a stimulus. Your team will deliver amazing results, feel a sense of belonging and ask for more challenges.

3. Make an environment where people want to be at work and not miss a day. Be silly, have fun, dance around and sing along. A creative, healthy environment positively impacts people, and therefore the business.

What conventional corporate wisdom no longer applies in today’s workplace?

I attended my daughter’s high school orientation day and the school participates in the new IB MYP (International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program). It places an emphasis on developing well-rounded students who become critical and reflective thinkers, empowered people who respond well to challenges, apply what they learn in real world situations and are able collaborate well.

Inquiry rather than regurgitation of information is the key learning area. This is good news for our future leaders, with new education principles and concepts, information delivery and an interest in human interactions. We are up for a huge, positive leap forward.

In that context, the corporate wisdom that will slowly vanish in my view is the top down approach. We shall see amazing creativity, empowered thinkers and great peer relationships between leaders and followers (I think this term will also dissipate).

Workplaces are changing, I predict that…

Workplaces will become more innovative, we will see flexibility in working arrangements such as working hours/days, different ways to motivate people, feedback and performance reviews will become more behavioral based rather than performance based. Resilience and mental strength will be crucial, we will need to re-focus on self-critiquing and continuous improvement of oneself rather than pointing out inabilities of others, human interactions will remain extremely important.

More about Kasia on LinkedIn