How to be an Inspiring Leader
Leadership is one issue on which the only consensus is that there can be no consensus. However, in my belief, there’s a bunch of 7 behaviors that MOST inspiring leader display. And ALL inspiring leaders display MOST of these behaviors.
- PAINT A PICTURE OF THE FUTURE. This has to be a picture that the team will understand and relate to. Usually, it is better that this picture is subjective and a little abstract rather than quantitative and specific. Stuff like, “The best experiential marketing company in India where clients call us to give us business” and “Top class thinking marries world class execution” is better than “One billion rupees revenues” or “100 million rupees profit.” And yes, the leader must consistently talk about this vision in every piece of communication. And how each member of the team can contribute.
- CONSTANT COMMUNICATION. The Leader constantly communicates with the team, in a warm and personal manner. Emails and brochures and newsletters and other one-to-many messages don’t count. Corridor chats, a few words at the start of every formal meeting, a personalized Whatsapp or SMS message, a handwritten note, a phone call and stuff like that will go a much longer way.
- SEEK TO EARN RESPECT, NOT LOVE. The outstanding leaders are always respected. They may or may not be loved. The big mistake that aspiring leaders make is that they want their team to love or like them. This is always welcome as a side effect. But it cannot be a primary goal. Primary goal is – earn respect. Show the team a place they never thought they could go, and then help them get there. Tell them about things they never thought they could do, and help them do it. Help them go further than they can see. And of course, exhibit role model behavior in your personality and behavior. Be the fittest and smartest you can be, dress well, speak with dignity and class and conduct yourself with class.
- OUTSTANDING FEEDBACK PROCESS. PRAISE IN PUBLIC, CORRECT IN PRIVATE. Its easy to be a bully. Our position and power facilitates that. And when we scold or correct people, gently or strongly, at some level we are showing off our knowledge or superiority. Resist the temptation. People value their self-respect more than anything else. No one likes public humiliation, or even a dressing down. Far better to give corrective feedback one on one. And when giving feedback, focus on the future behavior desired rather than the past behavior displayed. “Gauri, when you present to the client again, please do think of speaking a little slowly” is a better way of making your point versus “Gauri, you really messed up the presentation by speaking so fast”.
- SUPER LISTENING. Most leaders love the sound of their own voice. Frequently, their audience doesn’t. And good thumb rule is that we should talk 25%, listen 75%. Whether it is a large meeting or one on one discussions. Spend as much time with the customer facing folks as you can. Ask strong questions, listen attentively to the answers, and give feedback on the spot. Follow through on commitments made by others to you. And deliver on commitments made by you to others. Similarly, try to understand what is going in in the minds of people. Most team members do not always share their feelings and thoughts candidly with “The Boss”. Coaxing these out is the hallmark of an outstanding leader. And makes the team members feel wanted and heard.
- STRONG GOVERNANCE. Its easy to focus on the WHAT. Not so easy to focus on the HOW. Still more difficult to help, support and guide the team on the HOW. Have in place strong processes to ensure that the team feels adequately supported. Weekly ops reviews and Monthly performance reviews are meant for this. However, they frequently degenerate into firing sessions and a tirade of words from the Convenor. Inspiring leaders use these governance sessions to motivate, correct and challenge. And through gentle questioning, help the team arrive at what they need to do from now on, not what they have not done in the past.
- LEARNING ATTITUDE. Outstanding leaders have a learning attitude. In many cases, they are downright humble. They ask questions continuously, in a non-threatening and guile-less way. They are curious. And they share what they have learnt, liberally. When their team interacts with them, they get the sense that they know something more, and that their leader taught them this.
Sp, there you have it. Seven thoughts. Are these the last word ? Of course not. But are these a great beginning ? Yes, yes. Most leaders would struggle to get pass marks on any of these. Some of them would get good marks on some of these. Our goal is that you aspire to get good marks in all of these.
Also published on Medium.