10 simple ways to find out if you’re an amazing standout leader
How do you see yourself as a leader?
Do you think that you’re well on your way to becoming one who stands apart from the rest?
Here are 10 roles which, based on my 4+ decades of leadership experience, point to the ones who are actually serious about becoming a standout leader.
If you ‘AGREE’ that you regularly perform 6 or more of the Standout leader roles described, then you are a serious Standout contender; anything less and you still have a way to go to reach your goal, so focus your efforts and build an action plan to change your ways.
1. The customer moment
The Standout leader takes personal ownership of architecting the customer moment; the ‘picture’ of what it looks like to serve customers in a way that takes their breath away.
This work is done by the Standout leader alone and is never delegated to anyone else in the organization.
The detailed strokes of service — the behaviours expected of every employee when they are engaging with a customer — can only be described by the one who owns the vision for service. And this extends to the look, feel and functionality of the online experience as well and personal contact moments.
The Standout leader is the artist who paints a vivid picture of what a ‘dazzling’ customer moment looks like for all to see.
As a leader, are you actively engaged with designing the customer moment in your organization? If your role doesn’t include direct customer contact, you can still be involved by looking at how your staff treats your internal customers.
2. Serving around
The Standout leader is a master at Leadership by Serving Around— LBSA—the next generation of leadership. LBSA is a leadership imperative to help people have meaningful and rewarding careers and to build an organization to stand apart from their competitors and achieve remarkable levels of performance.
The Standout leader purposefully goes through the workplace with a strategic purpose, looking for serving moments or opportunities to help someone perform their job more effectively.
Managers ask: “What’s going on?”; Serving Leaders ask: “What can I do to help you?”
The Serving leader’s agenda is to offer personal help to employees, recognizing that if someone’s individual problems are solved, performance enhancement follows. If you take care of the person, performance takes care of itself.
How much time do you spend out of your office among your teams? Do you have regular LBSA time on your calendar?
3. The one and ONLY
The Standout leader is possessed to answer the question posed by discerning customers: “Why should I do business with your organization and not your competition?” It is the killer question that decides whether or not you have a ‘special sauce’ that makes you different and a winner.
Most competitive claims rely on overused clap-trap to position themselves against their competitors. They use words like ‘better’, ‘best’, ‘number one’ and ‘market leader’ which have little value in declaring their competitive advantage. Claims that employ these types of words are merely vague aspirations that most don’t believe.
The Standout leader, on the other hand, uses ’The ONLY statement’ to define their organization’s uniqueness and shout out their competitive advantage.
‘We are the only ones that….’
This is the claim they use to cut through the usual claptrap and make it clear why they should be chosen among their competitors.
How does your organization state its competitive advantage? Is it clap-trap, or does it harbour the ONLY notion? How can you help add ONLY-thinking in your business planning process?
Are you a binary thinker when it comes to expressing how you or your business is different from others?
4. 360 feedback
The Standout leader is always looking for feedback on their performance and on ways to improve it.
360 feedback is not new, but it is one of the most effective methods of assessing how someone performs their current responsibilities and what they need to do to improve for future opportunities.
360 feedback provides performance assessment from not only someone’s boss, but also from their peers and others in the organization they interact with on a regular basis (including frontline managers who rely on support to serve customers.)
The Standout leader uses 360 feedback to ensure they are actively practising their serving leadership role.
Do you use 360 feedback as a way to hone your skills or do you just care about what your boss says?
5. Line of sight
One of the biggest issues in any organization is the lack of congruence between what its strategy says and what people do on a day-to-day basis. The strategy says one thing and not only do people do another, they all do different things out of sync with the strategy, with inconsistency and dysfunction resulting.
This is a failure of leadership who place more focus on perfecting the business plan rather than on how it will be executed.
The Standout leader knows that superlative performance depends on strategy execution, and their priority is to translate the strategy into what it means to each function and person involved in delivering it.
They focus on ensuring that each employee has a direct line of sight to the strategy from their position, and that they understand what they specifically need to do to contribute to its implementation.
Do you translate the organization’s priorities to each one of your team members in specific terms so they clearly understand what actions they need to take to execute its business plan?
6. The Strategy Hawk
The Standout leader personally owns the execution of the strategic game plan of the organization. Generally, since many functions share in the responsibility to execute the plan, it rests with the collective executive team.
But that’s not good enough; it needs a specific owner. It needs single finger accountability to ensure that the job gets done.
Shared responsibility, however noble, is simply not up to the task.
The Standout leader puts their hand up and wants to be the voice for execution—the Strategy Hawk—in the organization to ride herd on execution. To monitor progress. To kick ass when things are not proceeding as planned.
The Strategy Hawk has an abundance of currency in the organization, who is tenacious and has a high tolerance for ‘pain’.
The Standout leader is the voice of execution.
Do you jump into the implementation process or are you content to stay at the intellectual planning stage?
7. Frontline management
The Standout leader makes room in their busy schedule to interview potential frontline managers because effective strategy execution depends on the performance of the frontline and their managers are key to making it happen.
How else can the leader be sure that customer moments in particular are being handled the right way by frontline staff? If frontline managers don’t get it, their frontline employees won’t get it either.
My personal approach was to have heavy involvement in interviewing when I started the process and gradually reduce the amount of time I dedicated to this work over time after I was satisfied that my managers learned
how I wanted the interviews handled.
The Standout leader takes personal ownership in ensuring the right people are put into frontline positions.
Do you get involved in ‘skip level’ interviews for junior level positions in your organization?
The Standout leader is on a mission to recruit people who are born to serve others and one way to tell if a prospect candidate fulfils this criteria is to find out if they leave you with goosebumps when they tell their story in answer to the challenge:
“Tell me a story that will prove to me that you ‘love’ other people.”
If they are the real deal, their story is rich with detail and the threads that bind the story together emphasize the importance of connecting with people on an emotional level; their authenticity pours out with every word. The unauthentic ones’ stories lack any passionate element; they were ushered out the door.
The amazing storytellers found their way into higher level positions in the customer service organization to provide the leadership necessary to sustain this strategy that was extremely effective in gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage for our organization.
The Standout leader, driven to achieve a service strategy based on remarkable and memorable customer experiences, hires the ‘People Lover’ who leaves them with goosebumps.
Do you probe the emotional side of people when you interview them, or do you just focus on their academic pedigree and the projects they’ve completed?
A standout leader believes that ‘heading slightly west’ is a valid strategy despite the fact that the experts try to get them to believe that if they follow the precise process ascribed by the planning pundits they will create the “perfect” plan.
They determine an imprecise view of the direction that should be taken, and make modifications ’on the run’ based on what is learned through execution.
In addition, they believe that the more tries made, the greater the likelihood of success. Their mindset is that if they get lucky and hit a home run on the first try, GREAT! but never count on it.
The odds of getting it right the first time are too low given the uncertainty and unpredictability of the markets we serve.
The Standout leader believes that iterating oneself to a successful end state by making more tries than the rest of the crowd is the only viable planning model in a turbulent world.
Do you push for the perfect solution when you are given a challenge?
The Standout leader knows that benchmarking best in class won’t make an organization special and differentiate it from its competition.
They understand that copying has no strategic value in moving an organization to a position in the marketplace that ONLY they occupy.
“What are our competitors doing?” is often asked when organizations are thinking about reinventing their business plan but this benchmarking process adds zero space between them and their competitors.
Furthermore the Standout leader knows that benchmarking is the enemy of innovation; you’re a copycat, you’re not an innovator.
Benchmarking does little or nothing to stimulate innovation and creativity which are critical values that organizations want in today’s world of uncertainty and constant change.
The Standout leader’s end game is for their organization to be remarkable, an objective which isn’t a strategy on the radar of most, and that this is achieved by being different than everyone else not by copying them.
When given a project to do, is your first instinct to research how others have done it and to follow their lead?
There you have it.
How well did you do? Whatever your result, the good news is you’re focused on the right attributes that will make you a great leader who stands apart from everyone else.