Sally Henderson
Powerful change from the inside out




5 promises every leader should make

The summer break gives us all a chance to enjoy some well-deserved time off in the sunshine with family and friends. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on our leadership, career, relationships at work – and that might include making some resolutions before you head back to your desk, hopefully renewed and refreshed, in September. 

But let’s forget resolutions. 

Making a resolution is as good as saying “I know I should, I want to, but let’s be honest, I won’t”. 

So instead, let’s talk promises

I’ve come up with five ‘promises’ that you could think about while you’re enjoying that sunlounger – but we need to make those promises count, by making them not to ourselves – that’s too easy. Instead, let’s make some promises to the most important people in our business – our employees

Here they are - 

Promise one: “I will always mean what I say” 

Trust. A five letter word that’s easy to say, but not so easy to instil. 

As leaders, we all know the importance of trust. It gives those you lead the confidence that you will point them in the right direction. That you will do right by them, and always strive to give honest, helpful feedback. 

But it’s hard to achieve simply because it’s so much easier to tell those little white lies that help you get through the day that little bit easier. How often do you say “I’ll think about it”, or “Give me a minute”, when you really mean, “I don’t have time now”? Or congratulate someone on a job well done, when in fact they could have done things differently and achieved a better outcome? 

Trust is built just like a house. The bricks are what you say, and the mortar is what you do. Over time, with enough honesty, you will build something strong and dependable. But you have to remember that it’s the little things that count. It might make a few moments each day that little bit more challenging, but the end result will make it worth your while. 

Promise two:I will listen” 

Remember the saying, “we have two years and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak”? It’s old, but it’s still good. A great leader is one who listens attentively, actively, interestedly. But be honest with yourself – when was the last time an employee tried to talk to you whilst you replied to a couple of emails, or shuffled through the paperwork piling up on your desk? 

Listening, I mean truly listening, is about more than paying attention. It’s about forming a human connection with someone. It’s about showing respect, and ultimately that leads back to point #1 – it builds trust. 

Promise three: “I will ask more questions” 

Knowing more than everyone else  is not  a good reason to be in charge. Knowing more about being a good leader  is  a good reason to be in charge. Acknowledging that is perhaps the bravest thing we have to do as leaders. But as soon as you do, your business stops being an autocracy of one, and becomes a democracy of many. 

Promise to ask more questions than you issue instructions. You will quickly discover that your employees have more combined knowledge than you could ever hope to possess. And that knowledge is available to you and your business. Give it a try. It feels like waking up and realising your house was built on a gold mine. 

Promise four: “I will invest in myself” 

You know that budget you have ring-fenced for development and training? It’s for everyone, including you. 

In the creative sector, it’s often the most accomplished who take on leadership roles. But more often than not, very little investment has gone into developing practical leadership skills. 

So seek out leadership training and coaching. Empower yourself with a support network who can guide and mentor you. Attend conferences, listen to podcasts and read books. Do whatever it takes to nurture the leader in you. Because ultimately, the better you become at what you do, the more opportunities you will create for your employees, and inevitably, your business. 

Promise five: “I will have more fun” 

Think about the first time you decided that the creative industry was where you wanted to be. Can you remember what you were excited about? Was it the long meetings, tight deadlines and last minute crises? Probably not. 

These things are an inevitable part of any job, but to be successful in the highly competitive environment of the creative sector, you need to remember what made you great in the first place - creativity. 

Being able to experiment with ideas is what creative people are drawn to. Stamp it out and you have no competitive edge. Your job is tough, but don’t let your day-to-day stresses extinguish the fun. Ultimately, that is what will make your business successful. 

I hope whatever you’re doing, you manage to have a brilliant summer break and that the above tips will help you and your business reach full potential.