With a career that has included protecting members of England’s royal family and organizing security efforts at large-scale events such as the London Olympics and the marriage of William and Kate, Richard Lett knows a thing or two about how a leader should act.
Lett provided leadership insights during a keynote address to close the CUNA Lending Council Conference Wednesday morning in Las Vegas.
While sharing stories from his past, Lett told attendees about qualities and traits every successful leader should possess. Among his advice:
1. Choose your words
When communicating a thought, idea, or command, consider how you’re saying it. Some words or phrases can have different meanings for different people.
Lett gave a clear example. While on a trip with Prince William, Lett said he saw a family of whales jumping in the ocean.
He repeatedly called out “whales,” but the young prince—who was in school at the time where teachers referred to students by their last name—didn’t respond.
When the prince came into the room, he asked Lett why he was calling him. Lett responded he wasn’t, he was merely talking about the animal.
“A prerequisite of leadership is clear communication,” Lett says. “You’ll fail at leadership without clear communication.”
2. Remember to say ‘thank you’
Your employees and others work hard. Reward your team for service, performance, and loyalty with a heartfelt thanks that they’ll remember for a long time.
When Lett retired from the Royal Protection Order after 32 years of service, he said Queen Elizabeth made a point to tell him thank you.
After providing protection for the royal family and organizing security for two Jubilees, countless royal weddings, and other events, Lett said the Queen wanted to show her appreciation for the work he had done during his career.
3. Be prepared for any situation
You may have gone through years of education and training and believe you are ready to handle anything that’s thrown your way. But life is full of unexpected events, Lett says.
On his first day in police uniform in 1982, Lett was parking cars at a garden party at Buckingham Palace. While parking a car, a bomb went off 500 yards away, killing members of the ceremonial guard and their horses.
Although he had gone through the training at the police academy, Lett was not prepared for that kind of attack. But he still responded to the victims and rendered aid.
As a CEO, Lett says, you’re never going to be fully prepared for everything. But if your first reaction shows confidence, your employees will trust that you’re able to lead them through a crisis or unexpected event.
“You can’t always be trained, but you can—and must—function to lead,” Lett says.
4. Give the instructions
If a task needs to be done, tell the person who needs to do the job. Then step back and trust that their instincts and knowledge will allow them to complete the task in the best and most efficient manner.
“Sometimes all you’ve got to do is tell somebody what their job is and what needs to be achieved,” Lett says. “Don’t get involved with the how. Just tell them what to do and let them get on with it.”
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