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Top 4 things great leaders should do … and NEVER do

great leadership lessons

The great managers and executives in our business world make leadership seem effortless. But that is by no means true, as the people who forge new paths are generally those who have already come a long way down other roads. 

We recently talked to Canadian TV director, James Dunnison, about the creative ways he leads actors and crew to make such hit shows as Less Than Kind, Hiccups, Robson Arms and Bitten.

          Read: How to deal with divas & be a superstar leader                    

James tells us his road to leadership in the director's seat wasn't the smoothest. In fact, he says it was more like "baptism by fire."

"I fell flat on my face on my very first gig and promised myself it would never happen again. I work on being a better leader every day of my life."

And with years at the top of the TV flagpole, he's learned some invaluable lessons along the way that can be applied to any leader in business.

The top 4 things great leaders should do to motivate people:

1. Trust Your Instincts

"Believe in and trust your guts. If you believe, others will too. They will see it in you, and they will rise to it."

2. Research Your Team

"Before you first meet any of your department heads, do some research. Find out something you can praise them for in their past work. Make them feel like they’re on a team, and you’ve got their back. Good stuff will follow."

3. Show Compassion

"No matter how high the pressure, and in my business it’s through the roof, don’t ever forget the human touch. If somebody has a sudden personal crisis, get right on top of it. Don’t hesitate to send them home if you need to. The loss of temporarily replacing them will not be the end of the world, and everybody else you’re working with will respect you for it."

4. Lay Down the Hammer

"Having said all the sweet stuff above, I would also say, “Don’t be afraid to fire someone.” It’s negative reinforcement, but when somebody’s really messing up, it costs everybody. And when you do fire, everybody else gets more focused. That’s a truism. The CAVEAT here: make sure they have been well cautioned and warned, plus given a second or third chance, before you pull the plug on them."

The top 4 things great leaders should NEVER do, which will lead to disaster:

1. Never Micromanage.

"Micromanaging is a recipe for disaster. Hire people with great track records and word-of-mouth, and give them the benefit of the doubt, at least initially."

2. Never Lose Scope

"Never forget that the person you’re talking to is a human being with aspirations and personal struggles and depth. Treat them as such. You may be their boss but you’re going to get zero out of your team if they think you’re infantilizing them or controlling every tiny thing they do."

3. Never Show Doubt

"Never second guess yourself in public."

4. Never Get Thin-Skinned

"Never remove your Teflon suit. I used to teach directing, and one of the first things I would tell my students is this…If you can’t handle walking past the make-up room and overhearing your favorite actor telling the make-up artist that you’re a terrible director, DO NOT even consider becoming a director. One of the truisms of this industry is that everybody on set thinks they can do a better job of directing than you.""

Thanks to James for his great advice. 

What great leadership advice have you received that has helped you motivate your teams? Tell us in the comments section below.

Robert Hardy

Robert Hardy is a Vancouver-based television producer, writer and development consultant. Through his company Perfect Day Productions, Robert works with leading producers, writers and networks to help create innovative new television series, digital media and documentaries.

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