Leadership is more about who you are being than what you are doing. It starts with the recognition that everyone is a leader regardless of their role, title, age or experience. Leadership is about influencing and inspiring others. It begins with you and your attitudes. Then it flows to those coming along behind you, those less experienced and in need of direction and development. And true leadership also influences and inspires your peers and even flows “upwards” to inspire those more experienced than you.
While leadership starts with your attitudes and beliefs, it becomes “visible” by what you say and do; in your words and actions and the way you “walk the talk.”
As we begin our Transformational Leadership Program (TLP) for the fourth year, one of the expressed needs and desires of all the participants, in one way or another, is to become more “visible” leaders. Every TLP participant has demonstrated leadership to get to this stage of their careers and lives. Yet every participant is aware (or is becoming aware) of their critical need to somehow become more visible leaders in their firms and organizations.
Too many of us hide our leadership light rather than making it visible to the people around us. How can others follow you and be influenced and inspired by your leadership if they can’t “see” it?
Here are six key ways to increase your visibility and effectiveness as a leader:
- Visible Leaders have Vision – Allow yourself to think and dream about the future, and to share your vision and “enroll” others in it. Invest time in “Quadrant II,” thinking strategically about the future rather than focusing only the “urgency” of today, this month and this year. Acknowledge that the future will always be here sooner than expected and seek to build firms and organizations for the next generation and not only for yourself. As a visible leader, you must sometimes be willing to lead courageously and honestly, and to take an unpopular stand when it’s the right stand. You should honestly share your own fears and concerns about the future, but follow that by positively saying “There’s got to be a way!” and “Let’s go solve this together!”
- Visible Leaders Seek to Build Unity – To increase your visibility, speak up at meetings, and don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions and self-interest, as thoughtfully and positively as you can. Ask questions – even the ones you fear are “stupid questions.” Listen – really listen to others. This is very difficult, but what a gift to those around you! Submit to and support the majority decisions – don’t “pretend” to submit and then “triangulate” with others after the decision is made. And don’t tolerate those who do. Talk straight – tell the truth with humility and kindness. Address and clear up all conflicts, positively and collaboratively. Show compassion by seeking to understand how others think, how they’re motivated, what their goals are – and how you can help them achieve their goals.
- Visible Leaders are Role Models – You need to “lead by example” – by doing what you want and expect others to do. Acknowledge to others your belief you can get better, and don’t just say it, actually work at getting better. Keep your commitments. When you know you can’t, “reset expectations.” When you fall short, be honest and ask for help, admit your fears, and don’t feel you have to pretend you have all the answers when you don’t. It’s OK – visible leaders are also vulnerable leaders.
- Visible Leaders Demonstrate Ownership – As a visible leader, you need clear understanding about what aspects of the business you “own” and to provide input and seek clarity on the role you are expected to play. Your role description should be customized, written and shared openly with your team members. And you should help others establish clear understanding of their roles and what they own. Know what true ownership means and teach others how be good owners, how to seek input on the things they own and provide status updates both proactively and when asked. Learn how to delegate effectively and to provide opportunities to others. A visible leader learns how and when to lead, when to follow, and when to get out of the way.
- Visible Leaders Set and Achieve Goals – You need to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (“BHAG”) goals! Stretch yourself and go toward (don’t avoid) the things you fear most. Show others you expect to achieve your goals by sharing them openly. Telling others is what makes your goals “real.” Visible leaders are willing to be held accountable – so seek out a coach and establish and submit to a “return and report” process. Break your goals into smaller, prioritized steps and then work on accomplishing that first step today! When (not if) you fall short or lose traction on achieving your goals – admit it, start over and try again. And do not give in to the little voice saying, “You can’t do this.”
- Visible Leaders Develop People and Build Teams – Delegate and assign ownership and responsibility to others because you understand how important “hands on” learning is to developing people. Ownership of clients, engagements, and projects lifts others up and inspires them to become better leaders. Coach others, get to know them, and invest time in them. Bring your colleagues “along for the ride” and make them feel part of the team. As a visible leader, provide feedback all the time, informally and formally. Also be sure to ask for feedback on how you’re doing. And build trust by extending trust to others, and believing in others before they are able to believe in themselves.
At ConvergenceCoaching our mission is developing transformational leaders… one person at a time. If you have ideas or experiences to share on leadership and the process of developing as a more visible leader, please post them so we can all benefit.