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August 2017

A Steadfast Leader

asteadfastleader.jpg‭A major concern for senior executives is “bench strength”—the quantity and quality of up-and-coming, potential leaders in the pipeline. The problem is, these would-be leaders often “hold back, shrink and play small.” One CEO says, “The potential leaders in our pipeline need to show up, step up, and increase their leadership impact.”

In today’s climate of change, competition and 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. Employees look to leadership for certainty, definitive guidance, vision and commitment. This is an opportunity for leadership impact. Here are seven secrets to increasing your 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 commitment. Neutralize the teardown effect of uncertainty and anxiety. Shift team energy toward purpose. Strategically use each day to keep your organizational purpose in front of your team members. Get them excited about growing and serving your clients, customers and stakeholders. 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 your team, anxiety drops, morale increases, and employees take note and follow your lead.

2. Collaborate. Bigger results come from bigger efforts. Instill collaboration within divisions and across programs. Use your 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 norm by becoming known as the leader interested in organizational success over individual success.

3. Cultivate creativity. Open the floodgates of creativity by asking more questions. The days of one leader with all the answers are gone. In all likelihood, your team is bursting with 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. When you rely on the external power of your position, you not only expose your own weakness, but also build it in others by forcing them to acquiesce, stifling growth and the potential for 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 impulse to command, and direct and invest in the 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 through results, and they get those through working with people. The only way people do great things is by focusing on strengths and possibilities. Leaders set the stage for this focus. Your team’s efforts will be influenced by perceptions, emotions and motivations that pull them to higher performance or drag them down. Setbacks send spirit spiraling downward to where frustration and disgust take over.

Leaders have tremendous influence in promoting daily progress by ensuring teams have the environment needed 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 outcomes. Nourish 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: criticizing, complaining, competing, comparing, colluding and contending. Negativity will rob you of energy, initiative and impact.

Don’t criticize. Talk about what went well. Show your team what’s 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’s right. Teams want leaders to create impartial environments where everyone has the same opportunities based on merit. Don’t take sides. Use conflict to demonstrate commitment to organizational success. Model a higher perspective that lifts others from petty preoccupations. The actions of a leader create ripples that increase and spread among teams. But the greatest impact is felt industry-wide as a distinct advantage that’s difficult, if not impossible for others to duplicate. When you increase your leadership impact, you set up your entire team for success.

Brian Braudis is the author of “High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent.”

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