Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
January 1, 2011
What makes a leader more effective?
How can you leverage your leadership abilities to increase and improve your impact?
My goal as I speak, write and advise is to help leaders improve their impact. In this and future articles, I’ll share ideas that can make you a more effective leader in 2011 and beyond.
Define your desired impact
Are you leading by design or by default?
Is there a gap between the impact you’re making and the impact you desire?
While leaders often talk about their “impact,” not all have defined what they’d like that impact to be.
It isn’t enough to want to be a difference maker if you don’t know what kind of difference you are trying to make. Don’t settle for ambiguous achievement; strive for a precise performance.
Impact is the effect you have on people or results. By definition, impact is forceful. Typically we assume a leader’s impact is positive but the reality is that some impact is negative or even destructive.
Consider these questions to define your desired impact:
- What significant results do you want to achieve?
- What specific, positive differences would you like you create in your workplace, community and profession?
- What are the most important problems you hope to solve?
- What are the greatest opportunities you plan to seize?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
Present with power
Your leadership ability will improve directly and immediately, as you become a better speaker. Right or wrong, followers judge a leader’s effectiveness by how well he or she communicates in front of a group.
When I advise leaders on their communication skills, I find a few simple strategies that create instant improvement. Here are two:
First, the best way to get better is the least popular: prepare more. Speaker and friend Joel Weldon says it well: you prepare for what you love.
It is hard work but well worth it. Nothing will do more to assure your success than thorough preparation and practice.
Not only will it make you a better speaker, but it will also demonstrate the importance you place on the message and the regard you have for your listeners.
Second, remember that boring is the kiss of death. Just as nobody buys boring products, nobody pays attention to nor remembers boring presentations. The goal is to be interesting and engaging. Use stories, statistics and illustrations that add punch to your presentation. Get the audience involved by asking questions and asking for feedback. Make the time you spend speaking entertaining as well as educational.
Leaders must think to succeed. The problem is that the majority of a leader’s thinking is reactive: thinking in response to a request, crisis, opportunity or situation.
An effective leader initiates proactive thinking. Go back to the questions I suggested for identifying your intended impact. The main reason they don’t get the reflection they deserve is that most leaders are too busy reacting to demands.
Here are some helpful questions for your proactive thinking:
- What have I learned lately?
- How can I increase accomplishment by decreasing activity?
- What opportunities are we missing?
- What activities and processes are wasting my time and resources or of those I lead?
- What potential problems can be avoided?
- What are the implications of the changes happening in the world for how we do business?
Build and deepen relationships
Ultimate leadership leverage comes from your ability to build strong relationships and get results with and through others. If leaders focus too much on results and not enough on relationships, both suffer.
Transactional leaders rarely make time for the important but hard work of relationship building. It seems so much easier and convenient to focus on what needs to be done rather than those who are doing it.
The quality or your relationships largely defines the quality of your leadership. Additionally, the relationships you develop enrich your experience as a leader.
Invest time in those people you value. Attend to relationships that have diminished due to neglect. Identify those people whose lives you most want to build into and then schedule sufficient time to do so.
- Are you the kind of leader that colleagues, customers and vendors respect and appreciate?
- Are you developing future leaders for your organization?
- Do you encourage and support as much as you command and control?
- Are you sacrificing personal relationships at the altar of professional success?
- Are you the kind of leader you’d like to know and be led by?
In the end, leadership leverage comes not by knowing but by doing. Serious reflection coupled with intentional action will keep you on a steady course of improvement.
P.S. An effective leader initiates proactive thinking! That’s why I have created a Mega Training Bundle that challenges not only you but your entire team to leverage their leadership qualities for maximum results. Interested? Click here and immediately save over $500!