How to Become an Everyday Leader

September 13, 2010

COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY-In our era of information overload, the best way to cut through all the noise is by communicating with clarity, sound logic and a unique but authentic stance.  It is critical that you are contributing your point of view as well as evidence or rationale to back up your position whether you are sitting in on a strategic planning committee of your company or on the planning committee at your child’s school.  This is where your value is derived and how people can learn more about your vision, values and substance.  Some ways that people can develop their communication skills are to take the time to get crystal clear on their fundamental value system, what their strengths and weaknesses are as they apply to their profession or leadership role and what sort of impression they give when they address others.  The best way to find out for oneself how effectively you communicate is to video tape yourself addressing an audience. When people watch themselves on tape they can find out for themselves items such as what non-verbal gestures they may be doing unconsciously or how many times they use fillers such as ‘uhmm’ . Self awareness is the best motivation for change!

WALK YOUR TALK-It is imperative that your actions are in alignment with the words that you speak and that in a nutshell, you work and live with integrity.  People are thirsting for truthful and authentic leadership—and you have an opportunity every day to answer that call by the way that you conduct yourself in your work and your personal life.  The best way to convey this to others is by being transparent.   For example you want to avoid being associated with any organizations or activities that are not in alignment with the values that you espouse when you are at your workplace.  I will give you an example of what I mean by this by telling you about a client named Michelle.  Michelle holds an executive position at a prestigious Business School and over time she had accumulated many colleagues and associates on her private Face book account.  One weekend, she had a reunion with her college friends and had one too many drinks.   Unbeknownst to her, she was photographed drinking alcohol at an undergraduate fraternity house on the campus where she worked and those pictures were uploaded to Face book by the following morning, where she was ‘tagged’, meaning identified by name and face to all of her ‘friends’.  As a result, she came very close to losing her job and had to spend a long period of time earning back the reputation she had taken years to establish.  The rise of social media has both helped and hindered the issue of transparency and it is imperative you manage what is being projected out to the public and more importantly how you are walking your talk.

CONNECT THOUGHTFULLY- There is a theory that the more expansive your network is, the more successful you will become.  The logic behind this idea is that the more people you know and relationships that you form and then the reputation that you build with those people will ultimately lead to greater recognition of who you are and the work that you are doing.  It is imperative that people establish and then cultivate strategic relationships with fore-thought and professionalism because you never have a second chance to make a first impression.  Dr. Albert Mehrabian, in his famous body language studies at UCLA, found that only 7% of the emotional meaning in a message is composed of actual words we use. About 38% is communicated through the tone of our voice and voice inflection. About 55% comes through our non-verbal communication, which includes clothing, facial expression, gesture, and posture.  In general, people surround themselves and do business with people they like—so be sure to think about who you are surrounding yourself with and how you are mutually contributing to one another’s well being and flourishment.

TAKE COURAGEOUS RISKS- Fear of change as well as “analysis paralysis” is a common bind that prevents people from taking more courageous risks.   If you want to become an even stronger and more effective leader for your business or your community, you are going to have to operate outside of your comfort zones and take some bold but brave actions.  The #1 most common examples of this that clients ask me to work with them on are how to conduct difficult conversations with people they either manage or who manage them.  Often times this dialogue occurs during performance reviews when their work is being evaluated and one’s strengths and weaknesses are up for discussion.  The easiest thing to do if you are trying to provide critical feedback to someone is to gloss over their areas for improvement and focus more on what the person is doing well so as to avoid entering sensitive areas.  The truth is is that most adults are craving further development and mentoring and would much prefer a constructive discussion about how they can begin to improve their work rather than avoiding the ‘elephant in the room’.  Look for ‘teachable moments’ throughout your day and be sure to take the time to devote the necessary time to helping those around you understand and course correct—they’ll appreciate it one day!

INSPIRE GOODNESS/MOTIVATE FOR CHANGE-Focus on contributing to the positive development and restoration of our world and our children’s future, rather than joining the status quo of merely criticizing and complaining about all that is wrong with your workplace or communities.  Help those around you better appreciate all that we have been blessed with as well as the intrinsic power that we all are capable of using for a more positive impact in our communities and businesses.  Sometimes it can be tempting to join the masses and simply complain about how organizations, laws and policies are ineffective and dysfunctional.  If you want to be an effective and authentic leader, you must be part of the ‘voice’ that advocates for sustainable and positive change whether it be a work policy or a state law.  On a day-to-day level, look for ways to make improvements in your work environment that will positively impact you and your co-workers—even if it seems small.  Simple ways to begin to inspire others are to merely give some thought to setting a great example for those around you, practice improved coping skills such as meditation or positive self-talk exercises that you can use when you are having a difficult day and give back to your community in whatever way that you can whether through sharing your professional skills with those in need or volunteer your time or monetary donations to philanthropic organizations.