By: Roxi Bahar Hewertson
Whether you’re a manager, executive or CEO, your leadership style matters. Whether you’re running a large global firm, a small project team or an entrepreneurial venture, it’s the way you communicate with and connect to other people that can, and will, make or break your success. The key lies with making each and every connection count—to develop and leverage your skills and play on your strengths—in order to lead like it matters…because it does.
There are problems, pressures and pain points that plague managers at every level—and most of them are solvable. Understanding that each and every leadership choice you make has some kind of a “ripple effect” throughout your team and organization at large is critical to your success. As leaders, we need to know howto ensure that the ripples we make have the intended impact, whether it’s running meetings, handling conflicts, making confident decisions or instituting needed changes in the workplace. When leaders approach and execute effective leadership correctly, they often gain greater control of their organization’s future, build highly productive teams and can institute changes that “stick.”
In my book, “Lead Like it Matters…Because it Does,” I focus on these four core tenets of leadership that, when mastered, best ensure the desired “ripple effect” that can revolutionize the way one leads and succeeds:
- Personal Mastery: It’s imperative to discover exactly who you are as a leader and draw on your strengths to influence others—to know and grow the leader within. Personal mastery is discovering who YOU are as a leader, your purpose, values and vision, how you affect others, your style, preferences, strengths and challenges—it all starts with you.
Begin by: getting direct feedback from your boss and anonymous feedback from your peers, direct reports and even clients about your leadership style and impact. Then you can be certain of how you are perceived in your role and discern what’s working for you and what’s not. Play to your strengths and work with trusted colleagues and/or a business or executive coach to mitigate your blind spots and challenges.
- Interpersonal Mastery: A powerful leader has excellent communication and people management skills that engage, motivate and inspire employees. These leaders know how to listen deeply and communicate effectively with others, how to constructively provide feedback (including to one’s boss) and how to manage conflict successfully.
Begin by: practicing deep listening as if your life depends on it. Most of us know how in theory, so be mindful and tactically apply it. At the end of every conversation, ask the person talking to you if they felt fully heard and understood by you, and then ask them why they felt that way. It’s also a good idea to practice demonstrating empathy in every conversation, no matter what the subject.
- Team Mastery: The most successful leaders harness the power of group dynamics to build stronger, more productive teams. No matter why a team is formed or who is on the team, the “Not To’s” of building and maintaining effective teams do not vary. Leaders who want to succeed need their teams to succeed. And of course, teams are made up of individuals. The reality is, people are messy and groups are messy. It takes awareness, attention, time and skill to get the best out of your teams. And it’s worth every ounce of investment, when done well.
Begin by: making the time to establish “ground rules” or “rules of engagement” for new or existing teams. These are the things that each team member NEEDS to feel safe, be fully heard, believe that they belong and feel that what they have to offer matters to the leader and the other team members. With an established team, you might put this topic on the agenda as a simple “checking in on our team process,” “housekeeping” or “revisiting our team norms” line item. Employ whatever positioning works for you and your group. Then, make sure the group maintains accountability to the ground rules for themselves and each other to ensure the effort is not in vain.
- Culture and Systems Mastery: Take the lead in assessing your organization and make the changes you need to succeed on every level. To understand leadership, we must understand the cultures operating around us; culture affects us much like the air we breathe, and it is almost as important to our well-being. An organization’s espoused values may or may not reflect the real operating culture of the organization. You need to know, not guess or project, what the culture really is and how it actually affects your people and overarching business results.
Begin by: walking around the organization and really observing the lay of the land, as if you were in a foreign country. What language are they speaking? How are they dressed? What do their work “homes” look and feel like? How do different groups interact? How high or low is the smile meter around the workplace? This will get you started, but it certainly isn’t the whole story. For that, you have to delve deeper and ask more questions. Just remember, never ask questions about the workplace if you are not prepared to hear the answers in a non-defensive manner or actually address issues brought to your attention.
When leaders excel at these four core facets of effective leadership, they will reap quantifiable rewards including, but limited to, increased employee engagement, reduced turnover and enhanced productivity. No matter the decision at hand, whether cutting wasteful meetings, addressing conflict or better aligning decisions with tactical business needs, each and every choice a leader makes will have a ripple effect. It’s the leader’s approach, attitude and skills that will determine if the resulting effects of seemingly singular choices will be a help or a hindrance as each one cascades through the system.
Roxi Bahar Hewertson, leadership authority and CEO of Highland Consulting Group, Inc. and AskRoxi.com, brings over three decades of practical experience in the worlds of business, higher education and nonprofits. She is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and author of the acclaimed book, “Lead Like it Matters…Because it Does” (McGraw-Hill October 2014) (www.tinyurl.com/leadlikeitmatters), which provides leaders with a step-by-step roadmap and practical tools to achieve great results.