Leaders don’t have to be experts in everything or have all the answers, they just need to set direction … Leadership Guru Katie Anderson tells Shannon Chamber members


Having delivered a series of six workshops to members of the Mid-West Lean Network in 2021, Shannon Chamber completed the year by inviting internationally renowned leadership coach, author, speaker and lean practitioner, Katie Anderson to virtually address members of the network and share her views on leadership.

The event, which was supported by Enterprise Ireland, drew an audience from a wide range of companies throughout Ireland, north and south, so keen were attendees to hear Ms Anderson, who is recognised among continuous improvement practitioners around the world for her work inspiring people to live and lead with intention.

She drew immediate attention in her opening remarks when she stated that effective leaders don’t have to be an expert in everything or have all the answers, they just need to know how to set direction and help support their teams to move in that direction, without giving them all the answers.

“Leaders should develop their people by giving them a mission or target and then support them in figuring out how to reach that target. They should provide a challenge on what is needed, not what is achievable. They should tolerate mistakes and even go as far as thanking people for making mistakes, thus showing that it is safe to not always do things right. They should create a sense that it is acceptable to learn, grow and develop.

“A leader’s purpose is to set direction, provide support, and develop self, which means that in developing their staff, they are also developing themselves.,” she stated.

Advising attendees that to be more effective leaders they should make a habit of taking intentional time out to reflect and improve, she said: “Reflection is where learning happens and where wisdom is created. You should regard yourselves as a business condition that requires improvement.”

Zoning in on problem solving, she focused on what discourages people from thinking and taking responsibility for solving problem, cautioning leaders against jumping in to tell their employees how to act, or taking over the resolution of the problem.

“The unintended consequence of such an action is that the leader takes over the problem and takes responsibility away from the employees,” she said.

“Focus on creating an organisation where everyone is growing. Be a content expert and allow your employees to be stretched but stay in the background and give them support. Get comfortable with seeing people struggle, that’s where coaching has a role,” she advised.

Quoting Toyota’s Isao Yoshino, she added: “You have to let the person you are helping explore ideas and fail. It is only by understanding what the process was to get to the wrong answer before they might actually land on the right one.”

Before concluding her 90-minute session, Ms Anderson asked each attendee to examine their leadership style and assess whether they tell instead of ask, project themselves as an expert rather than a coach, challenge rather than support and, are overly focused on business outcomes rather than people development.

Enterprise Ireland’s senior lean advisor, Robert Hernan, described the webinar as refreshing and challenging and an ideal topic to bring the Mid-West Lean Network’s series of events for 2021 to a conclusion.

“We want the Mid-West region to be a centre of excellence in continuous improvement, to prosper and grow. Events such as this leadership masterclass are the ideal platform for taking in new learning and a step closer to attaining our ambition.”

Shannon Chamber CEO encouraged attendees to avail of the range of supports available from Enterprise Ireland for companies commencing or improving their lean and continuous improvement journeys.

“In consultation with the Mid-West Lean Network committee and network members, we look forward to delivering a programme in 2022 that will build on the knowledge shared since the Network was formed in 2016,” she added.