If you were to ask your colleagues, customers or bosses to describe how you lead, would they be able to paint an accurate picture? Do the people you interact with have a clear understanding of how you might behave in a difficult situation or how you go about reaching decisions? Do they know what is important to you?
To be an influential leader, knowing what you stand for is essential. When I think about the leaders in my life who had the greatest impact on my leadership, they each led their teams and themselves in an identifiable manner. One boss who I learned many of my training and facilitation skills from, was so generous in allowing me to try out new strategies and directions. She encouraged me to be curious and fearless in partnering with senior leaders. She never hovered over me and instead made stepping out of my comfort zone an important part of my growth. After a big presentation we would sit down and talk about what went well and what I would do differently next time. The way she shared her feedback was respectful and honest. I think of her often when I am leaping into a new project.
Five stretches to build your leadership brand:
1. Know Your Values
What are values? Our values are the beliefs that guide our actions and decisions. They are “why” we choose to pursue intentional leadership behaviors. While some leaders hold the values of truth, accountability and integrity high other leaders may focus on kindness, empathy and harmony. Still other leaders value belonging or friendship in the workplace as paramount. A helpful exercise is creating a list of what values you highly regard as well as those that are non-negotiable in your work life.
2. Own Your Gifts
Another intentional stretch that impacts our leadership brand is identifying our strengths and talents. When leaders can leverage the areas they excel, they will be confident. But how do we know what are gifts are?
- Think about what team members are asking you to help them with.
- What comes naturally to you when approaching challenges?
- Look inwards and be honest about your real strengths. Be willing to share them generously.
3. Identify Your Blind Spots
Equally as important as playing to our gifts is coming to terms with areas we need to grow. For some leaders spending hours on contemplative research can be super energizing while other leaders dread that type of solitary focus. Those reflective researchers may not be as strong in spending time building relationships. In fact, “chit chat” with team members or customers may be incredibly draining. Whatever our blind spot, the key to managing it is acknowledging the skills we need to develop. Then find ways to strengthen that muscle whether that means coaching, signing up for training or practicing with trusted advisers.
4. Be Clear and Consistent
Leading with clarity goes a long way to galvanizing others to achieve great goals. We often don’t pay enough attention to how to be clear so that colleagues, bosses as well as our customers understand where we are headed and why. In addition, our messages and communication must be consistent or we will not be believed. To be clear leaders:
- Choose words carefully, keeping your audience in mind.
- Aim for simplicity whether that means shorter meetings and agendas or manageable goals.
- Share the same information and vision in every action or decision made.
5. Prioritize Developing Future Leaders
The ultimate stretch in building our leadership brand is cultivating future leaders. Empowering others to lead will probably be our greatest legacy. Make a commitment to mentor new team members to grow their technical and people skills. Put on your calendar times for one-on-ones to catch-up and grow together. That is how leaders will fill their cups too.
What additional stretches do you use to build your leadership brand?