Leadership: My First Meaningful Experience


I have always prided myself on my management and leadership skills throughout my career.

I have always tried to be extremely conscious of leading by example, giving colleagues freedom to make their own decisions and to foster trust, self organisation and ownership within teams that I have managed.

In hindsight, I feel that this has been the illusion of leadership dressed up as good management and I have only had my first real experience of myself as a leader very recently.

One of the teams that I am responsible for is recruiting for a new team member. I had left the team’s director and team leader to run the recruitment process and I would only be involved at second interview stage to sense check and offer a second opinion.

The two people that I met with were very different and I had quite strong opinions on whom we should hire.

Being relatively new to my role, I have already built up a strong relationship with the team’s director and I know how long it has taken him to build up his team and to build a great level of trust, self organisation and ownership – much like how I have prided my teams in the past.

There I was, sat with him and his Team Lead trying to convince him that my opinion was right. I caught myself doing this and very quickly realised that I had been on the other side of the table on the receiving end of such a conversation in the past and how I had felt.

I’m meant to be helping, coaching, and mentoring; not dictating, persuading and influencing like other managers had done to me.

Very quickly I stopped what I was saying mid-conversation and apologised. I explained that I was letting my passion for doing what I felt right for the team, cloud what I should have been doing… Trusting my team to self organise and own the process. Going against the very principles that I had prided myself on.

This has been a very important lesson for me and this is definitely a moment where I can see my leadership qualities starting to come out.

Being self conscious and striving to lead is important, but it really needs to come from within and be a part of you. It also takes time to learn and for it to be a natural part of your everyday being.

I have read many books and blog posts on leadership so I know the theory. Even though I have been putting these things I have learned into practise, it’s only now that I feel that I am taking that important first step into being a great leader.

Author: Mike Dixon

Mike is a Senior Director with 16 years’ worth of digital experience across data, digital analytics, advertising / marketing technology, product management, project management, leadership, coaching, mentoring and team building. Mike consults with large companies so that they better understand the opportunities that data and technology can unlock and works with senior executives ensuring that this is at the core of their business and decision making processes. Mike has also created, developed and delivered award winning propositions across all digital platforms – desktop, mobile, tablet and Digital TV - utilising strong business, technical, analytical, product and project management experience.