Great leadership is the display of a combination of tools, skills and behaviors. It isn’t the result of position power or personality. Consequently, it can be learned and demonstrated.
Think of the great leaders you’ve known. I’ll bet they demonstrated most if not all of these skills.
Here’s my list of the top tools, skills and behaviors.
Great leaders set high standards for themselves and the people around them. They expect people to ‘step up’ in ways they may not even believe they can. They require exemplary behavior and thinking. They inspire others to perform at the highest levels possible.
Honest, authentic communication is the hallmark of a great leader. They are able to express difficult sentiments, communicate expectations and let people know how they are performing vis-a-vis the expectations while leaving those people empowered and ready to forge ahead.
Rewards are great for creating external motivation for achieving goals. Effective leaders understand the unique values and priorities of the people around them and custom tailor rewards to activate the intrinsic desires that make people perform and excel.
When great leaders encounter inappropriate behavior, they don’ t stick their head in the sand and ignore it. They stamp it out – quickly and decisively. They are swift in their response to restate expectations and request those expectations be met. This creates and a sense of fairness on the team and credibility for the leader.
John C. Maxwell is often quoted as saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When leaders go out of their way to demonstrate their humanity, empathy and concern for others, they create an ultra-strong bond with the people around them.
Great leaders have an unwavering belief in the potential of people. They assume people want to excel and just need pathways, resources and the confidence to express their excellence.
Regardless of where you are in an organization’s hierarchy, you can practice using these tools and behaviors thereby enhancing your effectiveness as a leader.
Let’s face it. As human beings, we can be creatures of habit. For that matter, most every living creature I can think of is either a creature of habit or instinct. The advantage we enjoy is having access to judgment and choice. But how often to we access that advantage?
It serves us to leverage our past learnings. Without that continuity, we would be ‘reinventing the wheel’ every moment of every day. We wouldn’t get much done.
The difficulty arises when we allow the past to dictate (even unconsciously) what we can do in the present. Our belief in the past limits our perspective. It constrains our actions. It stymies our ability to conceive of what’s possible.
Here are three concrete, specific things you can do to expand your consciousness and live on the edge of possibility. Use them to soar to new heights, accomplish forsaken dreams, live life more fully, enjoy your time on earth more.
Click here now to read (and comment on) these exciting ideas on my blog
1. Dream of and set big scary goals
When you look toward the future, you disengage from the past – sometimes. You may need to challenge yourself not to be constrained by what you think is possible. Your sense of ‘possible’ is likely all past-based taking into account what your brain ‘knows’ you can do. Don’t succumb to that.
2. Take a course that requires to express your creativity
Several years ago, I purchased a book titled, Drawing with the Right Side of the Brain. Reading it and doing the exercises within, forced me out of my habitual way of seeing the world. It encouraged me to focus on new things, new perspectives of items that were right in front of me.
3. Consult with people who will challenge you
Surround yourself with people who are out to accomplish the impossible themselves. The fleeting life we are given is wasted watching endless characters on TV play out scripted or artificial ‘reality’ lives. Set your own destiny. Make your own mark. Vow to do more than survive.
You can break out of being a creature of habit. It takes making a choice to live outside of your box then taking actions consistent with that choice.
I just delivered a two-hour training to executives and senior managers to help build their competence in coaching their staff to achieve results.
It’s tempting for people who have risen to high levels to leverage the wealth of their experience and tell people what to do. While expedient, it robs others of the opportunity to problem solve, grow and learn.
Here are 7 tips to leverage your expertise while developing the expertise in others.
1. Withstand and encourage differing points of view.
While harmony is easier to deal with in the short term, it robs organizations of the tension needed to spur creativity. Encouraging every voice to be heard will open doors to possibilities that would die on the vine of silence.
2. Share the credit for brilliant work done by your staff.
Celebrate the genius of your staff. Provide them opportunities to ‘strut their stuff’. Let them know precisely how their great ideas and good work contribute to the company’s mission and bottom-line results.
3. Shoulder the blame of subordinates.
When things go awry, let them learn from their mistakes. Help staff analyze how they could prevent or avoid future incidents from occurring. Provide them cover however from retribution from on high. Take the heat and let them grow from lessons learned. They’ll love you for it
4. Learn on the job yourself.
Don’t assume you know everything there is to know. Attend conferences, take classes to keep your industry knowledge and business leadership skills sharp. Try new things. Practice new behaviors that are outside of your comfort zone. There’s always more to go.
5. Be aware of your own weaknesses & hire in your competency gaps.
No human can do everything brilliantly. Know your strengths and leverage them. Identify those areas in which you do not excel and hire people who are masterful in them. No point in having a team that is filled with people who all have the same skills and points of view. Think of most sports teams: championship teams are composed of players with different responsibilities, skills and goals.
6. Channel anger in positive ways.
Work can be quite frustrating. Anger and passion have a lot in common: they’re just expressed differently. Use your energy for creating change in a positive, collaborative way. Take that thing that makes you want to scream and develop a proposal for a new process for your company.
7. Support staff in thinking through how to solve problems themselves.
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to…or even should…have all the answers. Don’t end up with monkeys on your back that don’t belong to you. Next time someone shows up with a problem, take a few minutes to ask them how they would solve it. Have them identify where the breakdowns are occurring and what steps could be taken to rectify the situation. Then empower them to ‘make it so’. They’ll become better thinkers and you’ll end up with less stuff on your plate.
Following these 7 tips will help you surround yourself with more loyal, capable people and make your work life easier to boot.
This week has been filled with serendipity. Yesterday, I spoke with a prospect who found me on the internet and created a new friendship. I invited her to join me last night at an incredibly fun ‘girlfriend’ clothing swap party where we all ‘shopped’ with discarded but wonderful ‘treasurers’ from each others closets.
I ended up having conversations with some of the women about a business opportunity with someone else they knew and that woman called me first thing this morning! We had been scheduled to talk next month, but her business timeline has been escalated and she needed to talk with me sooner. It’s really exciting!
While I’m all about driving for results, sometimes I have to remember to just ‘go with the flow’.
When we go with the flow and ‘allow’ (rather than force) life to unfold, amazing things happen.
There are however, some things we do that stop the upward flow of our careers. Make sure you’re not doing these.
1. Complaining about your boss or colleagues at work
First of all, complaining about anything to anyone who isn’t in a position to fix the issue is a huge waste of time and energy. Key #4 in my book, 6 Keys to Dissolving Disputes: When ‘Off with their Heads!’ Won’t Work is “Convert complaints to requests”. This means if you have an issue about something, rather than whine about what you don’t want, figure out specifically what you do need that would correct the situation. Then identify the person who has enough power to grant your request. Framing it terms of how giving you what you want will help them will dramatically increase the odds that they say ‘yes’.
If the complaints are about your boss or co-workers, talk directly to them! Gossiping behind their back might give you some temporary relief and even help you ‘bond’ with other people who are similarly suffering, but in the long-run, it won’t do a darn bit of good. And in fact can completely backfire on you. You don’t always know who’s friends with whom and how quickly word could get back to the person you’re complaining about. Best to nip it at the bud and talk with them directly before they hear about how you lambasted them with someone who didn’t need to know you even had an issue with them.
Offer the person constructive feedback (there’ll be an article about this in the future) and ask directly for what you want.
2. Blaming other people or circumstances for your short-comings
Nothing makes you look like a loser more than not taking responsibility for your actions. People who are unable to make things happen because someone else or something else got in their way have completely abdicated their power. None of us is perfect. We’re not equally skilled in every behavior, talent, competency. Know what you’re good and and what you’re not. Be honest with people about where you shine and where you don’t.
Flip Wilson’s comment (for those of you old enough to remember) “The devil made me do it” was funny but at work, it just makes you pathetic. Don’t be a victim of anything.
3. Covering up your mistakes
Worse than blaming others is hiding and lying about mistakes when you make them. It takes courage to admit that you messed up, especially if you messed up in a big way. You might be afraid that if you own up to your mistakes, you’ll suffer severe consequences, get reprimanded, maybe even fired. And that is a risk you run.
However recognize that it’s likely that your mistake will be discovered anyway. It will be so much better if you bring it to the table yourself rather than sweeping it under the rug. Fall on your own sword rather than having one thrust in you by the person who discovered the gaffaw. Honesty about your big blunder may actually save your job not lose it.
4. Underestimating your talents
Some people are good at promoting their skills, abilities and results. Some are actually obnoxious about it. So I’m not suggesting you be one of the obnoxious ones but I am encouraging you to make sure you’re getting proper credit when you do something good.
Women are especially humble about this and need to get over it. While you may think that if something comes easily to you (whether man or woman) that it must be unimportant or easy for everyone, you’re dead wrong. Recognize and appreciate your gifts. Make sure you’re in a job, company and culture that appreciates them as well. If they don’t, they don’t deserve you. Find another job.
Keep a list of the things you’ve accomplished along with the positive impact those accomplishments created for your department, boss, company, community and industry. Quantify the impact if you can (increased sales, decreased processing time, increase in pipeline/prospects, etc.) Allow yourself to let in the contribution you make to the world around you. Remind your boss at review time just how valuable you are by providing your list of this year’s big wins.
5. Reminding your boss you’re smarter than they are.
While smart bosses do hire people that are smarter than them, few of us want to be reminded of that on a regular basis. While it’s important to communicate your value to your boss, you must do so in a supportive, not holier-than-thou way.
If your boss asks you for something and you have a better idea, tell him or her you’ll get it for them right away. Say ‘oh by the way, what if we did it this way?’ and then let them decide. They are the boss.
Works the same for clients. Several years ago, when I was working in HR, an internal client asked me for some information. I thought I had a better way to present it and so gave it to her in that ‘better’ form. She didn’t say anything to me but later went to my boss to ask for what she had originally wanted. My boss suggested that in the future when I have a better idea, to give the client what they ask for and also give them my better idea. It gives them a choice and leaves them feeling valued while still showing your value.
In a recent call during my Leaders without Limits group coaching program, almost all of the participants were dealing with bosses that were in some way, paralyzed and not taking the necessary action to move their organizations forward.
My suggestions to each of them were to:
pledge to the boss their complete support and commitment to making the boss look good,
engage the boss by asking what’s most important to them,
ask what the boss’s biggest concerns are about the project and
find out what the boss would most like to see happen.
Then go forth and make it happen.
If you avoid these career limiting moves I’ve identfied here, your career will soar and you will not end up looking like a…donkey.
It’s critical in this economy to find attractive ways to communicate the value you bring to your organization and what your organization brings to its clients (internal and external). We should always be in marketing mode and this is especially true when times are tough.
Prosperity arises when people find what we have to offer attractive enough to either part with their money or give us resources we need.
This beautiful peacock sculpture from the lobby of the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas symbolizes the importance of packaging. During mating season, the male peacock struts in front of his target female, fanning shaking his beautifully colored tail plume. If you’ve ever seen this courtship dance, you’ll know how dramatic it can be.
Some of you might be loathe to be so shameless in your self-promotion, but it’s a big mistake to assume that if you just do good work, that you’ll get the promotion, contract or deal you’re hungering for.
You must communicate your value and make it attractive to your audience. Here are some ways you can (not so obnoxiously) do that.
1. At the end of a successful project, write a synopsis of what was accomplished, what was learned and how the project benefitted your department, company or client. Quantify it if possible articulating cost/time savings or revenue dollars earned.
2. Ask your clients (internal or external) what they most value about your service or product and use what they say the next time you need to ask for more budget or headcount.
3. Similarly, ask your clients for testimonials that you can use. If nothing else, you can have them ‘recommend’ you on LinkedIn or other social networking sites.
4. Buddy up with someone and make a pact to promote each other whenever you’re not together. Getting good press from someone else will add more credibility than you patting yourself on the back.
5. Make sure you know what other people value, are concerned about and are motivated by. When you talk about what you do, couch it in terms that they are already thinking about. Your message will be more easily heard and received.
By taking on a peacock mentality and implementing these tips, you’ll build confidence, get out of your head and into the worlds of the people you’re attempting to influence. They’ll respond more favorably and you’ll enjoy more power and prosperity.