Most leaders have a long mental, if not written, “to do” list. In this pre-festive season, that list can seem never-ending. But sometimes we are so focused on what we have to do as leaders, we forget about who we have to be as leaders. As the world spins faster and faster, and pressures continue to mount, the ability to focus is outpacing most other leadership skills as being the key to moving forward.
But focus on what? When I think about it, the people who really influenced or inspired me through the years did so because of who they were, what they stood for, not just the accomplishments they achieved. I want to be like them, rather than just do what they did. I was and am inspired by people who are “real”, who are visionary, engaged and honest. I am drawn to people who care about me and my success as well as the organization’s. Genuineness and Caring are palpable.
I believe that one of the things that really differentiates a Manager and Leader is that one focuses more on doing (better, faster, in newer ways etc.) and the other focuses more on being (inspiring, motivating, stable, consistent). Not that one comes at the cost of the other. Clearly Leading also involves delivering results. But being seen as an inspiring, authentic leader is equally, and usually more, important.
So what can you do to keep your authentic self in the forefront?
- Practice the Pause. Before speaking, reacting, judging, advising…pause just a few seconds to think about the intent of what you want to say. Who do you want to be in this interaction? Crystallize what you want to sound like, come across as and express. These few seconds of pause/visualization goes a long way in making your words and manner more meaningful and to ensure that they are aligned with your intentions.
- Listen to understand. Of all leadership skills, I find listening the one that is least leveraged by leaders. Authentic listening aims to understand what the other person is really trying to say, to understand from their perspective. Often we listen at the surface – just the words they happen to use as heard from our perspective. Feeling listened to boosters a sense of engagement and belonging. According to the Kotter International, 71% of the workforce is actively disengaged but companies with engaged workforces have 5 times higher return to shareholders.
- Remember the Magic Ratio – Substantial research has been done showing that growth and performance increase when balanced with praise or recognition. If you want to really change behavior, research shows the magic ratio is a 5:1 ratio (Positive: Negative). Focus on building strengths, if you want to boost connection. I read in a recent Gallup survey that two-thirds of employees worldwide feel that their efforts were not really recognized. Just imagine what a difference focusing on the positives can be for them.
In this hectic period leading up to big holiday, I send you my very best wishes for a peaceful and joyful holiday season!