Oftentimes, I will begin a speaking engagement or leadership development training with this series of questions:
- When you are operating at your highest and best as a leader, what are you doing?
- Who are you being?
- What is the impact?
It is the second question, ‘Who are you being?’, that causes the audience to pause and look a bit puzzled. Leaders tend to press through their day with a focus on achieving goals and crossing things off the proverbial list of things to do. Rarely do leaders take a moment to pause and consider who they are being and what they projecting to the world around them. The intention of these questions is to evoke more empowering thought patterns about what it means to lead with excellence.
A differentiating factor between leaders who lead and leaders who lead with excellence is often found in the leader’s ability to relate well and bring out the best in people, teams, and organizations. A Zenger Folkman study of 50,000 managers found that the overall effectiveness of a leader is predicted more by warmth than competence. In fact, if a leader is seen as low-warmth, they only have a 1 in 2000 chance to make it into the top quartile of the most effective leaders.
John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” This is particularly true and necessary the higher one climbs the leadership ladder. Leading from the top of an organizational chart is about having the capacity to accomplish goals by inspiring others to be their best and creating an environment where team members thrive. Soft skills like forming warm and caring relationships, fostering team play, and developing the talents of others become more critical than hard skills. The technical skills that enable a leader to be successful as an individual contributor or a member of a functional team are less important the further one rises in an organization.
Going back to the questions I initially posed, the “doing” part of leadership is easy to see and name, yet is only part of what makes an effective leader. If a leader is getting results by pushing through, around, or over others, the results will most likely be unsustainable and the emotional toll on others can create an environment of disengagement at best and contempt at worst. The “being” part of leadership is about the emotional and energetic field a leader brings to their interactions with others. “Being” a leader is less about what the leader accomplishes and more about how the leader makes others feel. If the leader is coming from a place of respect, collaboration, trust, and commitment – while ensuring the things that matter are getting done – the impact can be profoundly positive.
Awareness of how one is “being” as a leader can be a blind spot for some. To build awareness, I invite my clients to pause at the end of each day and reflect on these three questions:
- Was my impact as a leader positive, neutral, or negative?
- What perceptions did I create?
- What emotional and energetic field did I bring to my interactions with others?
By pausing to assess how things are going, taking time to reflect on how our words and actions affect others, and being observant of team dynamics, a leader can assess the energy he or she is bringing to the organization and the influence and motivation being left behind. Being mindful of this energetic wake – what the team is feeling and experiencing when the leader is not around – is as crucial to leadership as the act of leading.
According to the Leadership Circle Group, nurturing the capacity to relate well is essential to leadership success and is highly correlated with organizational performance. It can be lonely and isolating at the top and often leaders do not get an accurate sense of how others perceive them. It is crucial that a leader assembles a team of allies such as mentors, peers, coaches and trusted advisors whom they can count on to provide honest feedback. Unfiltered feedback will help mitigate any blind spots a leader may have about how well they are relating. The most courageous leaders will take this feedback and step away from old ways of being that are no longer serving the team and cultivate habits that inspire and motivate.
As a leader, my challenge to you is this: In the midst of getting things done, consider the quality of the experience you are creating for your team, your customers, your organization, and your community. Twenty years from now others might remember the results you achieved and all the great things you accomplished but they will most definitely remember how you made them feel.
Grow with purpose.
Emily Rogers is an executive coach, business consultant and retreat facilitator. She strategically advises and supports organizations and individuals in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at www.emilyrogers.com.