Aslak de Silva is a top executive manager and speaker from Finland, specialized in leadership, sales and marketing development. Annually, Aslak holds 30-40 conferences about leadership, most of them in Finland, but also in Sweden, Estonia and other countries from Europe and in U.S.A., where the audience size ranges from 50 to 8000 people.
Aslak leads the team that organizes the biggest European leadership event: Nordic Business Forum, to which global leaders as Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randi Zuckerberg and many others are invited.
At the Online Leadership Forum, an event organized by Sfera Business, Aslak de Silva told us about two important features in leadership: trust and content.
“Team members have to trust you as a leader. In some countries, cultures, and organizations, trust comes because you are appointed to be a person that’s leading. In other countries, cultures and organizations trust comes from the fact that people somehow feel that you are trustworthy. Without trust, the team will not follow you and they will not see the big picture with you. With trust, they will. […]
I tend to talk a lot when I lecture myself in different places about empowerment. When you are empowering your team members to make decisions – this is very common in Northern Europe – people feel trust and they want to share their thoughts. […] In some cultures and companies (e.g. Asia, Rusia, and even U.S.A.), if you look at the company’s hierarchy, the CEO’s have full authority and people follow. They trust that he has the full information and sees the big picture, whereas here in Northern Europe I deal with a similar situation by being open with my team and sharing the things that I have in place. I need to be able to take in their comments and their thoughts.
I often talk about empowerment when actually others have a lot of input – but it all comes down to trust. It’s not dependant on the leadership style, whether it’s authoritarian in which the leader has full power of making decisions and people trust them to make the right calls or if you look at the empowerment side where we are not focusing on hierarchy, but on getting the best ideas from anybody. The team needs to feel able to present ideas and not have them shot down or trust their leader in the decisions he/she makes.
It’s not about the style when it comes to the team, and this is really crucial in leadership – when your team has full trust in you to actually lead them, it becomes successful. On the other hand, sometimes leaders don’t know what to do and still lead, yet as long as the team trusts the leader to deliver a successful outcome, this method can be positive.”
“Understanding what is good content and how to use it is important in successful leadership. There are different kinds of content. For example:
- When I talk to you on camera and microphone, I’m providing a kind of content.
- I’ve been on big stages where there were thousands of people hearing me talk – this is another kind of content.
- Sometimes the content is 1-1 when I’m talking to team members.
- Sometimes it’s just for the company.
- Sometimes it’s written content if you follow me or somebody else on LinkedIn or Twitter.”
“Why is content production a crucial element of successful leadership? Many times team members want to feel proud of what their leaders do and to understand where they are going. A lot of times we talk about these leadership positions, and why you need to be successful at communicating in order to lead successfully. […]
In many countries, there are a lot of engineers in high-level positions, because they have full knowledge and understanding of the product that they talk about. They’re entrepreneurs that have founded the company, they are the experts in some field, and that’s why it’s easy for people to come to the company because they trust that these people actually know what they’re doing. The better they are producing content, whether it’s written and spoken, people follow them better and more. […]
If you look for leaders from America, they’re really good at speaking. This also comes to situations where the best leader is the best one on stage. Many companies emphasize a lot on this and train their leaders to become better speakers.
If you haven’t got any training in speaking, please do so! But I also say that equally important is the writing skills – how much you can build the stories when you write. We have these great tools with social media where you as a leader can be present, show what you think and people can relate. That also builds trust in your team.”
“What I do myself a lot – I attend different coaching sessions for speaking, but I also do a lot of writing. I use these tools that I need for customers so when I represent the companies, I also lead internally. […]
You need to be multitalented in different ways of producing content. A good example of when a new person comes to the company – they ask what has been the best moment of my life with NBF – I tell a story about when we had 7.500 people in the audience, and President Barack Obama was just coming to the stage. You could see how people stood up, started cheering and clapping and when we looked at each team member, they were just smiling and you could see their tears coming because they were so proud at that moment. When I explain to people how that feels, they also kind of get the feeling themselves, they almost live the same moment. This is also a part of the content a good leader produces. Depending on how well you can tell stories, people start relating. If you can tell stories of success of the company and what you’ve been doing, people start relating to that and they want to follow you because they want to share the next similar experience with you.”
“My tip for you in regards to leadership is, of course, trust – from what I understand from the previous speakers from Online Leadership Forum, trust is mentioned there as well. But the next step in order for you to become really successful is to become really good in content production. You can train yourself to be a good speaker. I would advise you to go to places where you can talk to other people, explain what you’re doing.
When you get better at this, people start listening to you. They get captivated by you and want to listen to you more. Of course, it really helps you to also captivate the attention of your team members.
The next part is to write well. When I’m posting something, especially now, for example I told my team members that I’ll be part of an online event in Romania, they started feeling proud. That’s also a good thing for me, for a better trust with the team helps me be more successful in leading as well.”
Question: “You mentioned story-telling as a feature a good leader must rely on. Can you share with us how to build such ability?”
Answer: “You need to be able to build a picture that people want to listen to. Learn how to use you voice and express in a certain way that people want to listen. A good story is when you always want to hear the next step of what’s happening. A good story is when people regret that they were not there, but are happy to hear about it.”
From what Aslak de Silva shared with us at the Online Leadership Forum, we learned that the top 3 skills a leader needs now and in 5 years are:
- Being able to build trust – for the vision and between the leader and the team;
- To be able to be agile and adaptable – things change rapidly and the leader needs to live and learn quickly;
- Communication skills, especially around content (storytelling) – speaking and writing are crucial. Writing skills vary from great posts on social media to 1-1 messages for team members.
Aslak certainly knows how to capture the attention of the public. He made us feel the excitement of having a global leader from which we have so much to learn as a guest. It is an honor to have Aslak de Silva as associate trainer in Sfera Business team and we thank him for his participation in the Online Leadership Forum, an event organized by Sfera Business on the occasion of the launch of Online Leadership Academy – a program that brings useful and practical concepts for participants to learn and develop essential leadership skills. For more details, please go to the following link: