Are You the Best Leader You Can Be?

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show, we explore what it means to be a great leader and ask the question of whether everybody needs leadership skills, or is it okay to be a follower?

This week’s show is sponsored by Slickplan and TeamGantt.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show, we explore what it means to be a great leader. And ask the question of whether everybody needs leadership skills or if it's okay to be a follower. This week's show is sponsored by Teen Gant and Slick Plan. Hello and welcome to the Boagworld Show. A podcast about all aspects digital experience, digital design, digital strategy and working digitally. My name is Paul Boag and joining me as always is Marcus Lillington. Oh hello Paul Boag, I seemed to have turned into some kind of Mickey Mouse. Yes, there you go. Let's do the whole show like this. That won't annoy people at all.

Marcus Lillington: I'm not doing that.

Paul Boag: I don't know why I'm being so bloody cheerful because I'm actually in a grumpy ass mood.

Marcus Lillington: Oh come on you're getting to look at the worst websites I've ever seen in a decades. It must be brilliant.

Paul Boag: Exactly. It is just that I'm not.

Marcus Lillington: The thing you posted this morning. It was just the funniest thing I've seen anymore. So how would you rate our website or whatever or institution, the best, excellent, very good or good. That's it.

Paul Boag: There you go fantastic.

Marcus Lillington: So that that way you will never get a bad report. But you know, everyone thinks you're at least good.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus Lillington: Why don't we all do this?

Paul Boag: I know. They are well ahead of the curve. I tell ya, it's incredible.

Marcus Lillington: There you go.

Paul Boag: Actually to be honest, that isn't what I'm grumpy about. Well I'm sure it's a contributing factor. I don't know at the moment I keep coming across a lot of design articles and stuff like that, that you know, design is changing the world, with our future lies in our hands and all this kind of stuff. And about, oh we work in the digital field and we're putting a dent in the future and a dent in the universe. That's it. That's the Steve Jobs quote. But you know…

Marcus Lillington: Maybe Steve did, Steve did put a dent in the digital event.

Paul Boag: He did. But here's, here's the really funny thing. You will not believe me. Right? You will not believe me. But I swear to you, this is true. So you've heard the dent in the universe quote before?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Yeah, everybody has. Steve Jobs famously said, we like to employ people who put a dent in the universe, who want to put a dent in the universe. Do you know where he said that originally? In an article for Playboy magazine. There you go.

Marcus Lillington: Well didn't Playboy used to be, it used to have kind of a business articles in it.

Paul Boag: Did it really?

Marcus Lillington: Yes, I think it did it to make it kind of, acceptable for a gentleman to read it. You know, that kind of thing. I think that was the thinking anyway.

Paul Boag: That is just brilliant. I love it. I love it. Simpler times.

Marcus Lillington: We don't know Marcus. I've only, so I'm going to go with what I've been told.

Paul Boag: Yeah, obviously you wouldn't know yourself.

Marcus Lillington: I think I read an article about it once.

Paul Boag: In the Financial Times, something like that yeah. So yeah, it just, this gets on my wick, because it's like these things were always written by people that are working at Google or Facebook or Apple or you know, or working on some trendy startup. And most of us don't get to work on stuff like that. Do you know what I mean? It's like, yeah, I work on university websites.

Marcus Lillington: There's different levels of everything.

Paul Boag: It's true.

Marcus Lillington: One of our, we kind of share offices with our accountants, which is kind of cool, but they're a great bunch of people.

Paul Boag: It's not cool. You can never say sharing an office with an accounting company is cool. I, don't get me wrong.

Marcus Lillington: Cool from the point of view of they're nice people. But that's all I meant. Not that they're not adding Q dos to head scape.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: They're a bunch of accountants. But I was having a chat with one of the guys there and he sort of said, Oh do you want to come along to, our offices are in Winchester and do you want to come along to the kind of one of the local, it's kind of a chamber of commerce thing, but it's sort of like, Oh, we're a local business, but it's not, not a heavy pressure sell thing, but just come along and have a chat and tell people what you do kind of thing. And there might be some synergy man. And it's just like I know for a fact that I will be wasting my time.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Because we do work at the university level at the kind of large Corp level. And I guess so what I'm trying to do is if you do work at Google or Apple, it's kind of fair enough to a certain degree to kind of like, live in that bubble and to tell stories from that bubble is what I'm trying to say. Because I'm in my bubble and then there's people who are in their bubble and you know.

Paul Boag: And that's fine. I know I'm fine with that. I accept that we all live in our own little filter bubble, and trust me as somebody that has been, ranking and Egyptian websites, I'm very conscious at the moment that there are other bubbles out there.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: But I think it's where one of those bubbles makes another bubble feel inadequate. This year it's a big thing for me a lot. It's like, all best practice, we should all be doing testing and we should all be doing this. It's like, and if you're not doing that, you're lesser somehow, right. It's like there was a stage where people were saying things like, if you don't code your own, if you don't code or if you can't code, you're not a professional web designer. Well screw you. We don't need to be judgmental about each other like that and it just gets on my nerves. And also it's this assumption that the only way you can put a dent in the universe is through your job. Right? Or through what you're doing between nine to five. And that's bullshit. There are a lot of people that are doing amazing things in their spare time, right?

I got distracted by Louis in the comments. See, this is why I hide the, so yeah. And there's lots of ways to do it. So for example, I'm very conscious that in my job I'm solving first world problems. So there's no way around it, right? I'm solving pointless, silly little things. And yes, there is a value in that. Yes, we all live really stressful lives and a website shouldn't be making things more stressful, and businesses should treat each other like human beings. But I'm not putting a dent in the universe through the work I'm doing. I'm just doing hopefully a good job and helping those clients and that's okay.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: And I put a dent in the universe in other ways and I don't even want to put den in the whole universe. I'm quite happy to put it in one little corner. So I'm posting a video tomorrow and I've shared it in Slack channel already where I talk about, the fact that for me, my business exists to generate money that I then put into a school in India. And there's a school in India, I do lots of charity work, don't you know. There's this…

Marcus Lillington: Charity.

Paul Boag: Charity that that's going to go completely over the head of anybody outside the UK and anybody under about 40 but other than that it's really going to hit their target market there. But yeah.

Marcus Lillington: We are noisy and smashy I've just realized.

Paul Boag: We are this is horrendous.

Marcus Lillington: Smashy and noisy, do a lot of work for charity.

Paul Boag: Oh no, this is terrible. So anyway, so that for me is my motivation. That is what keeps me going in our industry and in my job is it's that whole thing of being able to put good back in that way by supporting this school and charity, et cetera. So, you know, we all find our value in different areas I guess is what I'm saying. I've just got, I'm ranting now. I'll stop. I'm stopping. I'll let it go. Although I do want to come back and talk about Bethesda next week. The Bethesda's the charity.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Because I want to talk about them next week because it's last in the season and I'm trying to find some partners to help me with that. But anyway, that that can wait. Marcus, what's your thought for the day?

Marcus Lillington: Okay. My thought for the day is entitled translating design ideas. So a kind of proper work one this week instead of a sort of rambly one. I'm going to do a rambly one next week. I don't know what it's going to be on yet, but it'll be in proper radio four style hopefully. This is something that we covered briefly a few weeks back, so I thought I'd put some more meat on that bone. So how do we reliably translate design ideas from discussions in a workshop to something visual. Words to pictures, if you like.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Also, how do we know if we're all speaking the same language? Is your vision of, for example, strong and impactful, the same as mine? I suspect it isn't. It's almost certainly not. And I think everyone has at least a slightly different idea of what they think different words say creative, or approachable, or academic, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Actually translate into look and feel. So, we use an exercise called word-pairs, which I think deals with this really well. And, I mentioned this recently, but I thought I'd give a bit more detail on that. What do we mean when we say, "Our brand is innovative?" Or, "The design needs to be formal to support what we're about?" Or, "We're really trying to show dynamism?" And, that goes on, and on, and on. And, we use this thing called word-pairs, which works by us putting together, before we meet in a workshop situation with our clients, mood-board type things, of visual elements that we think represent certain words. So we say, before we start, dynamic say, as I, pick out a word I've just used, these elements, these visual elements represent dynamic. Okay?

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: And we'll do the same for lots of others. So, the idea is pairs. So it could be, say, formal and informal. And, the point is that what we've chosen, what those words mean from a visual perspective… So, we are making decisions based on something real or we're all making decisions based on something real, rather than it being subjective. And, that's the real point there. But you need to be careful, or you need to choose your words with care. I mean, you can do opposites like formal and informal to test how… Basically you're testing how far in a certain direction we should go.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: And I guess what I mean by that, to explain how it actually works is we'll show a mood-board representing formal. And then, we'll show a mood board representing informal. And then, we'll put them next to each other, and we'll have a slider underneath the two and say to our clients, "So out of those two, which way are we leaning?"

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Often you'll get a reaction of very strongly one way or the other. And, often we'll just get a slight. We might lean very slightly to that way. And this is all basically really, really useful. Real feedback that we can use when we're creating the design. It gives us real guidelines instead of guessing about stuff, instead of going, "I wonder what they meant by dynamic." We can go, "What they meant is really, really like those examples that we said dynamic were." You can also, with the words, you don't have to just use opposites. You can pit two brand-words against each other.

For example, dynamic, I'll use that one again, but you could have dynamic and friendly could be brand-words. And then, instead of doing opposites, like say we do one which would be dynamic versus safe, and friendly versus cold, say. We'd just go straight to a direct comparison between dynamic and friendly. And, that way, that's really useful because it tells you amongst the words that are important to the organization, which ones we need to represent more in the look and feel of the design that we're putting together. So, a lot of the exercises that we do have been devised to take guessing out of the process, and this is another example of that. What it means is that we end up happier, because we're not doing stuff over and over again. And, our clients end up happier, because we often hit it on the nail a lot quicker than if we were doing guessing. So that's it.

Paul Boag: I think that's really good. To the point where I'm going to rip that off. I like that one a lot.crosstalk 00:13:27 So, can I ask you some follow-up questions?

Marcus Lillington: You may.

Paul Boag: Is cross-examination aloud?

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So, do you have a default roster of words that you'd go in with? Or, do you decide on the words beforehand with the client, or what? Where do the words come from?

Marcus Lillington: Both, is the answer to that.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: We have a library of four or five pairs that we can just pull out whenever we want. They exist. And, I could show them to you now, but I won't because this is a podcast.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: And also, that can be useful as just a generic exercise because you can use words like, formal and informal, is a really good example. Or, of course, in these situations you can never remember any of the others.

Paul Boag: No, I know what you mean.

Marcus Lillington: Energetic and calm, is another one. That kind of thing. And, there are more generic examples of imagery that you can associate with those words, but it's also really good to do brand-keywords as well. Dynamic and friendly were two key-words associated with the client we were working with last week. Although, I mentioned last week. And it was really good to get.. Because we've been talking about, not dynamic, daring and friendly.

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington: Those are the key words. And obviously daring is a word that you, attach yourself to a lot. Less from a design point of view. So it was like, "Well how far do we go down that route?" And, actually not that far at all, based on… We actually need to be more human and friendly, and those kinds of things.

Paul Boag: I think that he's absolutely brilliant. I love the idea. Yeah, like you say, of making those words real. Turning them into something tangible. And I've always… I've talked about collaborative mood-boarding in the past, where you get the client to go through that process. Which I guess, achieves a similar thing, but it takes longer, and also maybe, it constrains the designer a little bit more.

Marcus Lillington: If you do the word-pairs first, that gives you a really good idea of what you should focus on in the collaborative mood-board session.

Paul Boag: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: It's a good starting place.

Paul Boag: Yeah, you need to write blog-post on that, and you need to share your mood-boards so that we can all rip this off without making any effort of our own.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: This is your homework, Marcus. See, this is what happens when you come up with good ideas. It just leads to more work.

Marcus Lillington: It would merit to come up with this idea about three years ago.

Paul Boag: Oh, well make Ed do it. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. No, it's a great idea.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it is.

Paul Boag: So there we go. All right. Okay. So we are on the penultimate episode of our current season on stuff that everybody should know, and learn a little bit about. Whatever your role in digital, we're looking at different skills that it's helpful for you to have at least a grounding of, or at least an understanding of. We looked at so many different ones this season. In fact, 13 if you want to be exact, and we're about to look at number 14 which is leadership. So we're going to look at the subject of leadership. Why having leadership skills matters. How to go about gaining those skills. What kind of skills you need, and where you can learn more about that. A face value of… Oh, right. Before we dive in, all right?

I think it's really important to do a couple of things. Right? First of all, I want to clarify that we don't all need to be leaders. I'm not saying that. All right? Because if we're all leaders then that causes problems. Okay? But we all need, I think, an understanding of leadership skills. And probably the vast majority of us need leadership skills in some areas, right? Not everybody is a leader in every area of their lives, right? So, I might be a leader in some areas, but in other areas I'm very much not. And so, it kind of varies doesn't it? So, we all need leadership skills. We don't necessarily all need to be leaders. The other thing I want to say is notice that this is about leadership skills, and not management skills. All right? I think we have far too many managers, and not enough leaders. And, the reason I say that is because I don't think we need that many managers these days. And don't get offended if you've got management in your title.

I'm not saying that you're irrelevant. I'm just saying that there is a subtle difference between management and leadership. Because, people only need managing if they are not capable, highly skilled people themselves, right? So for example, somebody working on a production line probably needs management. All right? They need very specific instructions and a structure to work within, right? But most people in digital, are highly skilled individuals. All right? Who probably know more than their managers about their specialism. Okay? So therefore, they don't really need management so much as they need leadership. And often where we need to exhibit leadership skills, okay, we're not always necessarily a manager of the people that we're leading. Okay, and we'll come on to more about that in a minute. So that is that. So why does leadership skills matter? Well, it's kind of obvious if you're looking to progress your skills, right? If you want to assign, not your skills.

Marcus Lillington: Career, yeah.

Paul Boag: If you want to progress your career in certain directions. So-

Marcus Lillington: If you want to become a manager, for example.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. If you want to be a senior manager, you need leadership skills. If you want to run your own agency, you're going to need leadership skills, right?

Marcus Lillington: Do you?

Paul Boag: Yes crosstalk 00:19:44. You've done… It's all right, Chris deals with that bit, you don't have to worry about it.

Marcus Lillington: Not true.

Paul Boag: Which is bullshit, yeah. But also, if you're going to head up a team, you need leadership skills. All right? Any kind of team. But to be honest, I think really having leadership skills is useful for pretty much everybody, right? For example, there's very likely to be an occasion where you are the expert in the room, right? On a particular subject. Okay. You might be the only developer in the room, you might be the only designer in the room, you might be the only marketer, whatever-

Marcus Lillington: You might be the only, sorry, you said you might not be, so you might-

Paul Boag: No, you might be.

Marcus Lillington: Okay. Great.

Paul Boag: Sorry. And that means that in that field, in that situation, at that time-

Marcus Lillington: You're the leader.

Paul Boag: You are the leader.

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Definitely.

Paul Boag: Then also a lot of us have to deal with stakeholders and clients, right? And that is where I think that many of us are poor from a leadership point of view. And actually we take a subservient or submissive role with clients or stakeholders, when actually what they need, and often what they want is, leadership. So that's another situation where you want leadership skills. And then also really, you need leadership skills in any situation where you're looking to inspire or encourage others to do something, right? So if you want your organization to take digital more seriously, user experience design more seriously, whatever, all right, you want to convince them to do, you need to demonstrate leadership skills in that kind of situation.

Marcus Lillington: It's true.

Paul Boag: It's really important. I think it's a really important area. And then on top of all of that, obviously, it's good to understand the leaders that are surrounding us. Even if we're not a leader, we work for leaders, or work with leaders and so we need to have a good idea of who those leaders are, what they're trying to achieve, what skills they need to use. And it's just really useful to know what good leadership is, so you can spot the shit ones, right? Because then you can avoid getting yourself into situations when you're being led by shit leaders. That's why we're going to look at it as a subject. I think it's a really good subject to look at… But before we get into that more, we are going to talk about our first sponsor, which is TeamGantt. TeamGantt have been so lovely to support the show, and we really appreciate their involvement.

Marcus Lillington: I'm quite surprised, Paul. I'm surprised that they're still supporting the show after everything that you've said about them so far. Obviously-

Paul Boag: What do you mean?

Marcus Lillington: Wonderful product, but can everyone spam Brett, I believe is what you said every week.

Paul Boag: Yes. And I still maintain that, but you see, you've got to remember, and this is the important thing, whenever you're getting sponsors for a podcast like ours, you get them to buy all the episodes up front, and pay up front.

Marcus Lillington: Quite right.

Paul Boag: So really-

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:23:18

Paul Boag: Yeah. It's been suspiciously quiet from Brett. He probably can't open his email client, because he's got so many emails. And so he can't write back to me. Anyway, TeamGantt is a beautiful, intuitive, lovely project planner. As somebody who is a designer at heart, I can't use ugly apps. They offend me. So, TeamGantt… That really shouldn't be why you pick an app, should you? Well, maybe you should, I don't know anyway.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, no, that's just… Hold that thought.

Paul Boag: Oh, interesting. So TeamGantt makes it really easy to manage your projects, or it gives you nice visual timelines, you can see what's going on. All of that gives you that sense of control and kind of feels like you're being rescued from the project chaos that often happens and the deadlines that suddenly appear out of nowhere and all that kind of stuff. It really is a tool that you can use whatever the size of your team, whether you got small team, or large team, or even in my case, a team of one. Project managers, and team leads, could love it because it easily lets them see the big picture of what's going on, with everybody that reports into them. But it also can help you dig into the details of specific projects, and specific people, and specific resources. And if you're a specialist, like a designer, or a copywriter, or a marketer, or somebody like that, you really probably want to encourage your organization to take a look at TeamGantt because it will enable you, put you in a better position as well.

Because you can limit your… And control what you're seeing. You can see what tasks are assigned to you. You can easily switch between different views. I made a comment in an early show about how I don't actually get on very well with Gantt charts. I find them quite difficult. But in TeamGantt, obviously those people that need and understand Gantt charts, can use Gantt charts. But I can look at it in a calendar view, or as a simple list, or whatever suits me best. You can sign up for a free plan any time by going to, But this is where the spamming Brett comes in, if you want a couple of months for free of their advanced plan with all the time tracking, and the extra stuff you get, then drop Brett an email, and he's very keen to hear from you, which is why I encouraged people to spam him with any questions, even questions about project management. Because Brett is an old hand, he is who I follow for project management. I think I said last week, was it last week? Or sometime-

Marcus Lillington: All merges into one pool.

Paul Boag: It's all one big, long stream of verbal diarrhea.

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Just going to say, I have a recent experience of how important things looking nice are when you're buying them. Or-

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington: In this case it's not even that nice, but striking.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: I was looking to get myself a new bank account, and Lee opened his wallet and said, "I've got this new bank account with a bank called Monzo." And they have-

Paul Boag: Oh yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Basically bright, orangy, pink cards. And I said, "I'm going to get one of those because of the bright orangy pink card." That's it. No other reason.

Paul Boag: So when all the people in the chat room were just taking Michael, and joking about how designs need to pop and wow you, there you go. Evidence that it's actually true.

Marcus Lillington: It's not completely true because, I think he said, "Oh, and the app's really good." I was like, "Well, I do then." crosstalk 00:27:11 it's great. inaudible 00:27:13 but it's just like, with the orange card. Yeah. Shiny.

Paul Boag: But, was it the orange card, or was it the word of mouth recommendation from a close and trusted friend?

Marcus Lillington: Probably a bit of that. Anyway, yes. I was surprised. I made myself laugh by how quickly I'd signed up for it.

Paul Boag: I know. Yeah, its funny, isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: I was looking forward to getting my orange card.

Paul Boag: I'm just to say inaudible 00:27:39 I've got one of these all in one cards, where you can put multiple bank cards on a single card, and it's titanium, it's metal. And it's like, Oh wow, I must be a millionaire having a titanium card-

Marcus Lillington: Is that to stop people kind of beeping it? Because you can get-

Paul Boag: No, no, no. It's good for scraping the ice off your windscreen.

Marcus Lillington: Excellent. Yeah, yeah. Good.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Especially in… What?

Paul Boag: No inaudible 00:28:07, no. I know Apple's sexist Apple card is titanium. But no, this is a different one. They don't have Apple card in the UK yet. But obviously, I'll be getting it because I'm a male so I can.

Marcus Lillington: I don't-

Paul Boag: Have you heard about this crosstalk 00:28:24?

Marcus Lillington: No, no, no. Is it only for men?

Paul Boag: Apparently-

Marcus Lillington: It's men only.

Paul Boag: Apparently they've had some problem with their algorithm, where, it favors men over women. I don't know how accurate it is. I'm really read this story very much. So I'm not commenting on this because I have no idea. But apparently that's the case. Right. Oh, apparently a lot of credit cards have that problem, that's weird isn't it? Anyway, let's get back to how to get better at leadership. Right. Let's begin by looking at, well, what things do leaders do well, right? So what does good leadership skill look like?

Well, I would say there's probably four things I personally think are key things that a good leader should do. One, is I think a good leader facilitates and protects those he's leading or she's leading, right? In other words, their job isn't to tell their team what to do, as much as it is actually to protect and facilitate them in doing the thing that they need to do right? So in a lot of organizations, that means protecting them from internal politics, making sure they've got the resources, and the time to do what they need to do. Protecting them from shifting priorities, all of that kind of stuff.

The second thing I think a leader does well is help establish the direction and then maintain the focus. Now, that's not to say they dictate what the direction is because I think that, in truth, a good team should work together to establish the direction, but it's the leader's job to facilitate and guide that process of establishing the right direction to move in and then stop or discourage the team or anybody else from losing focus as the project goes on. Right? The second key aspect of leadership is a leader is somebody who's willing to take initiative. Right? And willing to make decisions. So, I would say-

Marcus Lillington: Very good point.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and I would say, I'm by far not the best example of a leader in the world, which is why I now work for myself and don't have any members of staff. But one of the big leadership traits that I have to show when I'm working with clients is that willingness to take decisions, to take the initiative. And a lot of the time that is why I am hired, is to make those decisions where internal teams are unable to do so.

Marcus Lillington: Have someone-

Paul Boag: Yes-

Marcus Lillington: … that you're hired, Paul, so that people can blame you.

Paul Boag: Exactly.

Marcus Lillington: That's kind of true.

Paul Boag: It is kind of true. And that brings me onto the final thing that a leader is willing to do, which is take responsibility. I think a lot of the time those last two are the bit that a lot of people find very hard. Right? It's scary being the one that makes the decision, the one that takes the initiative, the one that stands up and says, "Yes, we're going to do this," or "No, we're not going to do this."

And in answer to Paul Eberts's comment in the chatroom, yes I am a thought leader, obviously. But to some degree, that that is the… If you think about that term thought leader, which is a completely dickish term, to some degree, a lot of that whole thing about taking responsibility, speaking out, being the decision maker, being the person with an opinion is what a thought leader is.

Marcus Lillington: I think that there's another thing as well.

Paul Boag: Oh. I wondered whether I'd missed something. Go for it, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: It's about delegation, which sounds very top down. I'm going to delegate because I'm so important, but that's… I read a quote, and this is why this comes to my mind. It was all about being a good CEO or something. It was an article that I read about a paragraph of, but something that came out from that was a good leader should only do what they can do, which I thought was excellent. We all know from that point of view the leader that won't let anything go, that has to check everything, you know, every minutiae. You have to trust people, really, and then … and do what you're good at and allow everyone else to do what they're good at. So it's that kind of … Which is the kind of delegation type of thing. That's another aspect.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And I was going to come… I was going to talk about some of the core skills, and I think delegation is absolutely one of the essential ones. I don't think people who… You come across a lot of… Entrepreneurs are terrible at this. You get a lot of entrepreneurs that are leading companies, leading in inverted commas, but they're not. They're doing it all themselves. That's not leadership. It's not leadership if you're doing the job yourself or micromanaging somebody else doing it. See, again, that's management. You're micromanaging, you're not leading, you're not setting the direction and giving people the freedom to get on with it.

To some extent… Paul Edwards has said this as a question, and I would agree with him, that everybody who has client contact, who's working with a client in any degree, in any capacities, needs to demonstrate some leadership skills, some leadership potential, because they're all going to be required to make decisions. They're all going to be required to provide direction, and guidance, and all of those kinds of things.

Paul then goes on to ask, well, does the leader… Sorry. Does the client need leadership skills as well? Yes, they do. They need leadership skills in another area. In the area of the business requirements and those kinds of things. So, to a degree, everybody… This idea that there are leaders and followers I don't think is a particularly helpful idea. There are different people that have got different expertise, different leadership skills, in different areas. And to some degree, yes, you can point to, yes, that is the overall leader with this project and this team, but there's not only ever one leader, I don't think, personally. Perhaps I'm being a bit wooly and hippie-ish over it. I don't know.

Marcus Lillington: We're all leaders, man.

Paul Boag: Yes, exactly.

Marcus Lillington: We're all followers.

Paul Boag: Right. Yeah. Oh, actually, it doesn't matter. That's a tangent. So, let's get back to-

Marcus Lillington: Oh, go off on you tangent, Paul.

Paul Boag: Well, I think it's a tangent I've done before. Did I talk about the Ted video with the guy that was dancing?

Marcus Lillington: Yes.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And if you hadn't listened to the previous show and heard about that, then you'll never know then.

Marcus Lillington: It's your loss. Yes.

Paul Boag: There we go. It's your loss. You'll have to go back through every show we've ever recorded to find that one anecdote. Okay. So, we've said delegation is a core skill that you need. Another one, a core skill, has to be communication. You have to be able to communicate with other people well, articulate yourself well, express how you… The requirements, the direction, all of those kinds of things, and handle that with sensitivity. As Andy has just posted in the chat, you also need empathy. When I say you need communication skills, that's much as… is as listening skills as it is speaking skills.

Marcus Lillington: That's-

Paul Boag: He says, hypocritically.

Marcus Lillington: That's something that I think takes a long time.

Paul Boag: It does.

Marcus Lillington: I'm much better at being empathetic now than I was 20 years ago, because I was kind of… I suppose I'm more sure of the fact that I'm happy in my position, I suppose. 20 years ago, it was all new and yeah. So therefore, it's always a bit of a panic and you kind of find yourself maybe being more critical, unnecessarily, nearly always. So, yeah. Empathy is something that we should aim for.

Paul Boag: Yeah, absolutely. It's a hard skill. It's a skill that partly becomes with life experiences, that the more you experience of life, the more you can empathize. Very hard to empathize with somebody who's going through an experience you're completely unfamiliar with in any sense. You can't make any kind of connection, which makes it harder. You could be sympathetic in situations like that, and you can be aware of it, but to truly empathize, I think, is quite difficult. I also think it partly comes with age as well, because you become more self aware the older you get.

And actually, that, I would say is one thing that I think is incredibly critical to good leadership skills, is becoming self aware. And I think that's why I've become a much better leader as I've got older than I was when I was younger. When I was younger, I couldn't have listed all of my strengths and weaknesses particularly well. Now, I could very accurately. I'm acutely aware of what I'm good at and what I'm not. How do you do things like delegate if you don't know what your shit at?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: How do you know when you should be the leader in the room or someone else should be the leader in the room, when you can't make a independent and clear judgment about whether your knowledge and expertise in that area is better than the other people? That's part of the problem with those that micromanage. Those are micromanage are often … If you're in a room and you're thinking a lot, Oh, nobody else gets it. Nobody else understands it, then that's probably an indication you're not very self-aware.

Marcus Lillington: Correct.

Paul Boag: Because, I'm sorry to break it to you, but we're not always the smartest person in the room. And then this is an embarrassing admission on my part, but I honestly used to think that a lot. I honestly used to think nobody was as smart as me in the room. They weren't getting it. You could laugh at it, Marcus, and of course you're laughing at me. It is funny. You may be laughing because you think I still think that, but you probably remember me when I was like that.

Marcus Lillington: I do, Paul, with affection.

Paul Boag: Yeah. But you do learn, don't you? As you get older, you realize that you don't know everything, and that there are other people…

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. You made a comment earlier about entrepreneurs aren't great at delegation. You were more entrepreneurial when you were younger. You made things happen. Yeah. But yeah, this isn't a conversation about that. It's about leadership skills, which you weren't as good at then as you are now. And same, I'm exactly the same. I think it's something that comes, it really does come, maybe it's not with age, it comes with experience. Because you might have started doing something when you were 10 years old and the time you were 20 you would have the leadership skills. So it's not a life skill, it's just an experience thing I think.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that's a good way of putting it actually. It always used to annoy me when I was younger. See now we're, oh yes, it comes with age.

Marcus Lillington: That's exactly, when you're up to my age, laddie, you'll know what it's all about. But that's not what I'm saying.

Paul Boag: No it's not. Is it? You are entirely right. But I like to pretend it's to do with age now because I am the old one.

Marcus Lillington: No, you're not.

Paul Boag: All right, not as old as you maybe. There's old and then there's old.

Marcus Lillington: There's really old.

Paul Boag: Another thing that I was shit at now that I feel like I'm better at, which is consistency and trustworthiness. It's not that I was ever untrustworthy.crosstalk 00:41:23

Marcus Lillington: Snake oil, come one, that was your nickname.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Okay. That wasn't, I hope that…

Marcus Lillington: You'll never live that down.

Paul Boag: No, I won't ever live that down. I always interpreted that, perhaps I interpreted it wrong, but that was cause I was slick in my presentation, in the way I talked and stuff like that.

Marcus Lillington: Absolutely, yeah. A hundred percent.

Paul Boag: I don't think, yeah, it wasn't… Shut up. Shut up. It wasn't I ever lied or manipulated or anything like that necessarily, but that said, I was a lot more flitty and a lot more unreliable perhaps than I am now I would say. So being consistent, there is nothing worse than the manager that moves the goalposts on you the whole time I think is what I'm getting at. It's a long way of putting it. Right? It can be really frustrating when you have that kind of that person over you that you think, are they going to care about this tomorrow? Or are they going to back me up? They've said they're going to back me up, but are they really going to back me up when it comes to it? And that kind of thing. So I think being trustworthy and consistent is a really important skill to have.

Another one I think is really important is to be positive and motivational. And now I might be very biased on this because I'm like an overexcited puppy half the time, but having that positive attitude towards your employees, I think it does very little, and so many so-called leaders seem to just chip away at their staff. Or even even people that aren't managers, but that person in the room that goes, oh yes, you haven't understood properly. Or, no, you don't understand that you're in, shut up, that's not your thing. So I'll sit in a meeting listening to clients bang on about design that they don't really understand and have no experience in that. And I'll still try to bring the positive out of that and focus on the things that they said that are good, that are worthwhile, that do contribute to the project, rather than always focusing on what people don't know or don't understand or can't contribute. But that might be just my personal leadership style. But I think that's also being a nice human being of which I'm an expert.

Marcus Lillington: You're the nicest, Paul.

Paul Boag: I am the nicest.

Marcus Lillington: A hundred percent. You are giving me so much ammunition this week. It's wonderful.

Paul Boag: Do you not think I'd do it on purpose Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. It's interesting, a couple of people have said it and Lewis is the latest one to say that they didn't enjoy when they were managers. Neither did I. I know I kind of am now, but I don't have a team of people that have to report to me. And when I did I didn't like it.

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, because I just want to let people fly. I don't want to have to worry about time sheets and HR stuff. I don't want to do that.

Paul Boag: And I think that's an important thing to stress because you could come out of this podcast with, "Oh, my manager's not like that. He doesn't do any of those leadership skills you just talked about Paul. He's shit." And I have sympathy for them because it is a crappy job. I don't like managing people. I don't know how people do it, but anyway… But that again, that's why I differentiate between management and leadership.

Marcus Lillington: But I think your point about being as positive as you can be, I think that just works for everybody. Whatever you're doing, if you're selling, if you're whatever, all of those things. If your mom says, don't say anything if you can't say anything nice. It's almost that way of thinking. Because there might be a bunch of negative issues, but don't focus on them because all it's going to do, everyone's going to end up feeling bad.

Paul Boag: Which brings me on to another skill that's useful to know as a leader, which is managing conflict. Because there are going to be occasions when that comes out, and knowing how to deal with conflict is …

Marcus Lillington: Shout at people. That's what you do, isn't it?

Paul Boag: Yeah. Who shouts the loudest wins. You could do a whole series just on conflict management couldn't you really? Paul has just said… I'm not repeating that Paul, because that's just going to get me in trouble. Right.

Marcus Lillington: Fantastic.

Paul Boag: And then the final thing that I wanted to say about I think a good leader, is someone who's flexible. I think a lot of people get something stuck in their head, a vision stuck in their head, a direction stuck in their head, and so they become oblivious to any feedback, or what other people suggest, or changes in circumstance. A leader is not someone that that carries on regardless, right? That doesn't know when to quit, that doesn't know when to deviate. A good leader is flexible and I think that's a really important one as well. So there you go. There's a little bit about leadership and the kind of skills that you need to be building.

I just want to talk a little bit about our second sponsor, which is Slick Plan. So if you haven't come across slick plan, it's a professional website planning app application. So it helps you organize the structures of your content, your user flows, the user paths through a site, helps you to gather all of that content together and share the designs that you have with people. The whole bundle around managing the content and design of your website all comes together. So it's a powerful set of tools for streamlining that website planning process. So it's got a site builder where you can quickly build a site map of the site that you're creating.

It can even import and crawl existing websites to help you build the structure. It's got a very simple drag and drop interface. It's got a tool for building user flow diagrams where you can create a user journey through through a particular product. It's got vast library of connectors and shapes and all the things you need for building that stuff. They've got a website content planning tool for gathering content from various formats in one place, and it's got prebuilt or custom templates, which you can easily migrate your content across into your content management system. And you can also upload designs to it and people can comment and provide feedback on those designs. So it's a really good catchall tool for that kind of thing. If you want to give it a go, you can go to And in answer to Chris's question in the chat room, no, they don't have Gantt charts in it as far as I know. The things I need to put up with.

Right. So let's talk about where we learn more about leadership before we wrap up today's show. There's so much written about this, so many blog posts, so many books, of varying quality in my opinion. You see a lot of bad advice about this. And just the chat room is just full of harassment. It's just endless harassment and teasing. Why do I do these shows live?

Marcus Lillington: It's meant to be like that Paul. That's what you want. Just don't look, don't look.

Paul Boag: Okay.

Marcus Lillington: I'll just giggle.

Paul Boag: Yeah, that's what happens. You then start snickering and I don't know why, right, so there's so much written on this. I am by far from the best person to take advice on leadership, but if I could give one tip of where I've learned most of my leadership skills from, it's observing other people and learning from them. Right. Now, I have to say that probably some of the most valuable lessons that I've learned on leadership is from observing the worst leaders. Right. I think about some of our old bosses, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Yes, yes.

Paul Boag: I know. I just, and you go, well, what are they doing wrong? What is it about them? I mean we joked, didn't we about when we first sat up Headscape that our guiding principle for setting up Headscape was to do the opposite of everything that we'd seen done before.

Marcus Lillington: Pretty much, yes.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And to some extent that's true, certainly in our leadership style as well and how we ran the company. So don't bemoan bad leaders that you have to report into because they're a valuable life lesson. So just pay attention to what it is other people are doing around you. Find yourself a mentor is another good approach. Getting someone that you can talk to and bounce these ideas. Somebody who's going to be honest with you about who you are and your abilities.

And so Paul was joking and teasing me in the chat room about me having a masterclass on the subject or me have written a book on the subject. No, I haven't done either of those things, Paul. But I do offer excellent mentorship packages. So there you go see, there's always an opportunity for me to sell something. So learn from the mistakes of others, observe other people, find yourself some good support and don't be afraid to start learning your leadership skills outside of your work environment.

Some of the most valuable lessons that I learned very young about leadership were opportunities that my local church provided me, right? I was part of the church and they encouraged me to take part and to do things and to organize things and get involved in stuff. And so I learned stuff. Now, I'm not saying you need to join a church, but you know, there's all kinds of charities and groups out there and often some of the best ways of building a good set of skills is by doing, isn't it really? It's about having that experience Marcus was talking about earlier. But if I was going to recommend personally one book, then the one book that I've read that I think probably most shaped my experience of how I approached leadership was actually a book called Creativity Inc. and it's a book written by the founder of Pixar and it's not really a leadership book as such.

It's about him talking about the business of running Pixar and all of his ups and downs of doing that. But actually there's a lot of really good leadership lessons in there that are really, really helpful and especially if you have to manage creative people. But to be honest, I think it applies pretty much to anybody in the digital field because pretty much everybody in the digital field is creative, even if they might be a programmer. And everybody in chat room seems to be agreeing with me on that as well. So that means I must be right as always.Well, actually, truthfully, it's very rare for them to all agree with me on the chat room, so I must be especially right this time. Okay, so that about wraps it up for this show. Marcus, do you have a joke for us?

Marcus Lillington: I do, this one from Bob Simon. Alan Titchmarsh, for all those who aren't English, he's a guy on the tele who does, he's a gardening expert. Okay. So Alan Titchmarsh suggested I try horse manure on my rhubarb. I must say I still prefer custard.

Paul Boag: Oh, I quite like that one. Do you know, and this is true, Alan Titchmarsh is currently, just for those people that don't know, Alan Titchmarsh gardening guy, he's probably in his late fifties may be, I would have thought. White middle class. National treasure. You know, he's the kind of person that probably has got lifetime national trust membership.

Marcus Lillington: Oh, totally.

Paul Boag: He currently is advertising shoes for Adidas.

Marcus Lillington: Is he? And as Paul Edwards notes, that he writes smut.

Paul Boag: He writes smut? Alan Titchmarsh writes smut?

Marcus Lillington: He's a romantic writer.

Paul Boag: Really?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. Yes.

Paul Boag: Wow. I learn something new every day.

Marcus Lillington: As Lewis says, he's a legend.

Paul Boag: He is a legend. Absolutely. Okay. So anyway, that wraps up this week's show. Thank you very much for joining us. Everybody in the chat room particularly, it's very active, a boisterous chat room today. Thank you for that. And thank you for listening to inaudible 00:55:42 escape next week for our final show, which is going to be on why we all need a better understanding of inaudible 00:55:51. But until then, thanks for listening. Goodbye.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash