maureen taylor on stage at Inspirefest
Maureen Taylor on stage at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

How do you become a good leader? ‘Shut up and be courageous!’

4 Jul 2018

Expert communicator Maureen Taylor told the Inspirefest 2018 audience what it takes to be a leader – and it involves a few ‘scoops’.

What type of leader are you?

In the workplace, we can encounter a myriad of leadership styles – some good, some bad and some, well … you know.

Whether you’re a longtime leader or just starting out in your first managerial role, there are many skills to strive for as well as many potential errors to evade.

Maureen Taylor, CEO and co-founder of SNP Communications, knows all about this. A seasoned communicator, she was welcomed back with open arms to this year’s Inspirefest, ready to once again compact her 25-plus years of experience into a few minutes of pragmatic advice.

A natural storyteller, Taylor’s engaging and accessible style of public speaking instantly draws the audience in. Her talk, entitled ‘Shut up and be courageous!’, opened with a focus on philosophy and inspiration from some of the greats.

Citing Aristotle, Taylor stressed the initial importance of listening in the workplace. Despite how profound your next soliloquy may be, sometimes you just have to zip the lip. She said: “If you don’t understand the context of who your audience is, or where they’re coming from, you cannot inspire or motivate; you can’t really do anything effectively, you can just talk.”

Moving on to Socrates, Taylor explored the idea that we were all put on this world for a specific purpose. Whether you’re a schoolteacher connecting with one child in one town, or Mahatma Gandhi influencing millions all over the world, each of us has an individual destiny to fulfil.

She continued: “We concentrate so much on what we need to improve, and we should. [Socrates] said we don’t concentrate enough on what makes us extraordinary.”

So, what is it that makes us special? Taylor has a special word for it: ‘scoops’. According to her, we each are endowed with three scoops that make us stand out from the crowd.

“Your assignment as your own leader is to think of what your scoops are.”

For example, Taylor herself is gifted with a glass-half-full approach to life. “I am a nauseating optimist … I never give up and I actually give a shit, I actually care about another person’s story.”

Though it may seem easier said than done, focusing on the positive attributes that make you a good leader will better equip you to steer your team in the right direction. If nothing else, it will hopefully encourage your staff to discover their own unique qualities and ensure they feel like they offer a valuable contribution.

So, once you’ve identified your strengths, it’s time to hone them. Here, Taylor introduces the balance of insecurity and arrogance.

Zeroing in on the additional segments of habit and character, she explained that we form insecurity as a habit, but we can also break it. “The biggest insecurity most of us have is what other people think. You cannot be a good leader if you worry about what other people think.”

In other words, as a leader, you should do something because it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re motivated by a desire for your staff to like you.

cartoon of maureen taylor dressed in all black

Illustration of Maureen Taylor on stage at Inspirefest 2018. Image: Liza Donnelly

Taylor introduced a second balance: humility and confidence. “To be able to say I’m sorry, I was wrong, let me fix that, let’s do this a different way,” she said, is vital. “The best example you can give your people … is to stay a student.”

While some people may view humility as a weakness, she confirmed: “Humility is something to be proud of and it’s the counter, it’s the balance to your confidence, because then you can work on things that make you good and strong, that help you make the world a better place.”

So, to sum up: a dash of purpose, a few scoops of talent, a sprinkle of self-security and a slice of humble pie, and you’re well on your way to the leadership hall of fame.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

Shelly Madden
By Shelly Madden

Shelly Madden joined Silicon Republic as sub-editor in September 2016 to realise her lifelong dream of being a professional nitpicker. Before this, she worked as a freelance writer for various newspapers and made coffee for people who use the word ‘expresso’. She enjoys red wine on rare occasions, such as weekdays and weekends.

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