By Brian Braudis
A major concern for leaders can be “bench strength”—that is, the quantity and quality of up-and-coming, potential individuals who are in the management and leadership pipeline. The problem is that too often these would-be leaders “hold back, shrink, and play small.” One chief executive officer I recently spoke with had this to say: “The potential leaders in our pipeline need to show up, step up, and increase their leadership impact.”
True. An organization is only as strong as its leadership. In today’s climate of unprecedented change, intense competition and more demanding customers, leaders can’t hold back or shrink. Team members need leadership to model the way because all they see in this modern-day complexity is uncertainty and that leads to anxiety. They are looking to leadership for certainty, definitive guidance, vision, and a solid commitment. This is an opportunity for leadership impact.
Here are the seven key actions that I believe can help increase leadership impact:
1. Shift the Energy of Your Team.
With composure, increase and elevate your communications. Share your higher perspective and calm the anxiety with your increased presence and obvious commitment. Neutralize the teardown effect of uncertainty and anxiety. Shift the energy of your team toward purpose. You can’t just remove the deconstructive nature of negativity without replacing it with something. Use purpose to drive the conversation.
Strategically use each day to keep the organizational purpose in front of team members. Talk about your group mission. Get staff members excited about growing and serving local government residents, customers, and supporters. Share the growth you see and the future you envision. When your team has a growth mindset, it’s only natural that your organization will grow.
There will always be uncertainty but when you demonstrate resolute certainty in your commitment to the organization, anxiety drops, morale increases, and team members take note and follow your lead.
Bigger results come from bigger efforts. Instill collaboration within departments and across programs. Use your leadership presence to convert dissonance to connectedness, silos into solidarity, problems into innovations, risk into reward, and daily efforts into a dramatically improved future. Set the behavioral norm by becoming known as the leader interested in organizational success over individual success. When you execute on a higher and larger perspective, you instantly increase leadership impact.
3. Cultivate Creativity.
Open the floodgates of creativity by asking more questions. The days of one leader with all the answers are past. In all likelihood, your team is bursting with new ideas. You don’t have to be Michelangelo, just ask powerful questions and be patient. The innovation will come pouring out in the discussions. Team members are intimately familiar with problems. They simply need you to provide them the space to contemplate how today’s problems can become tomorrow’s innovations.
4. Use Influence, Not Power.
No one likes a pompous leader. Rather than relying on the shortsighted and limiting power of position, reap the long-term benefits that come from building trust and influence. If you use power, good people will leave you and other people will get you. When you rely on the external power of your leadership position you not only expose weakness in yourself, you build weakness in others by forcing them to acquiesce, stifling their growth and the potential for their unique contribution.
Ultimately, the entire relationship is weakened. Defensiveness ensues, low trust follows, and potential for cooperation is lost—smothered by negative emotion. Fight the imprudent impulse to command, and direct and invest in the higher, more refined skills of finesse, influence, and persuasion.
Patience, finesse, influence, and persuasion are the building blocks of increased impact.
5. Promote Daily Progress.
Leaders are only deemed successful if they get results, and they get those results through working with people. The only way people do great things is by focusing on their strengths and possibilities. Leaders set the stage for this focus. On any given day, your team’s efforts will be influenced by a mix of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that can either pull them to higher performance or drag them down. Setbacks can send team spirit spiraling downward to the point where frustration and disgust take over.
Leaders have tremendous influence in promoting daily progress by ensuring team members have the environment they need to make steady progress and maintain momentum. Avoid the toxicity of high pressure, punitive, and judgmental measures that constrain momentum. Rather, set clear goals for meaningful work. Provide autonomy and promote ownership of the outcomes. Nourish your team’s efforts through affiliation, showing respect, words of encouragement, and minimizing daily hassles.
6. Build a Body of Behavior.
Be more of a model than a critic. Eschew the all-too-common “Killer Cs” that will keep you in the weakness of victim mode. Negativity will rob you of energy, initiative, and impact. Avoid these killer Cs:
Don’t criticize. Talk about what went well. Show your team what is possible. Add energy to the context. Be consistent. Your team is faced with being productive in spite of problems and hassles. When they know that they can consistently count on you for support and direction, momentum skyrockets.
7. Focus on What Is Right, Not Who Is Right.
Team members rely on leaders to create an environment that is impartial, where everyone has the same opportunities that are based on merit. Don’t take sides. Use conflict to demonstrate your commitment to organizational success. Model a higher perspective that lifts others from their petty preoccupations and carries them above the fray. Be a stronghold trailblazer that guides the upward purpose of your team.
The unique and distinct actions of a leader can create ripples, delivering an ever-increasing impact felt within and among teams. The greatest impact, however, might be a unique and distinct competitive advantage that can be difficult, if not impossible, for others to duplicate. When you employ these seven secrets and increase your leadership impact, you set up your entire organization for success.
Brian Braudis is a certified coach, speaker, and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent, Galloway, New Jersey (www.TheBraudisGroup.com).