Your Virtual Coach is all about leadership and many of you are wondering if that includes you. In this session, I answer the question, “Is Everyone a Leader?”
Leadership Training Session Video
In our last session, I asked you, “Are you a leader?” It seems counter-intuitive, but in order to answer that question, we must ask ourselves another one: What is leadership not?
Leadership isn’t about titles or positions. It doesn’t depend on age, experience, personality, strengths, or weaknesses. It’s not something that is given to you and it’s not something others can take away. People cannot be born with a “leadership gene”.
Green Bay Packers coach and motivator Vince Lombardi states, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” Similarly, Samuel Brengle (The Salvation Army) remarks, “The final estimate of men [and women] shows that history cares not an iota for the rank or title a man has borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart.” To sum it all up, leadership guru John Maxwell simply states, “Leadership is influence”.
What separates leaders from non-leaders is influence. Notice I didn’t say the ability to influence. We all have that ability but only leaders move from potential to action.
Let’s take another look at the word “influence”.
For you, influence might have a negative connotation. Someone is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. An authority figure may influence others for selfish gain.
The definition of influence is “to exert a compelling force”. It’s basically the power to move something or someone. Influence itself is amoral; it’s neither positive or negative. It’s all about the motivation of the wielder. We can try to influence others for the betterment of ourselves (which is manipulation). Or we can see the potential in others and take the time to serve them and help them along their journey. To influence them to become the best versions of themselves.
As we continue our conversation, know that I’m going to use the word influence in a positive light and use manipulation for the negative side of influence.
Who Do We Influence and How Do We Influence?
Many people don’t think they have the opportunity to influence others. They wait for someone to give them a position or authority. But the truth is that all of us have a sphere of influence. We all have a group of people we interact with on a regular basis. You have friends, family, coworkers, neighbors. Right now, you have the ability to provide a shaping influence on their life that encourages them to reach their dreams and potential.
But how do you move from merely being a friend or acquaintance to an influencer? That is the purpose of Your Virtual Coach. Every session I am going to equip you with a leadership skill that will help you be a better influencer.
This transition doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Ask yourself three simple questions: Who is in your sphere of influence? Who would you like to influence and why? How would you like to serve them?
Write down 2 or 3 names. And make time for them. That’s it. Influence begins by being present and making people a priority.
One of the most important processes in life is goal-making. But more often than not, we fail to reach the goals we set for ourselves. Today, I’ll share the ingredient most people miss when making goals.
Look over your goals or some areas that you lack discipline in.
Focus on just one that you want to improve and get back on track. Then, find a person to hold you accountable.
After about a month, choose another goal and do the same thing.
I’d also encourage you to share your goal with the Your Leadership Coach community by writing a comment on this page. That way, we can encourage each other in our goal-making.
The value of currency changes. At any given moment, the American dollar can increase or decrease in value. This change in value doesn’t mean you stop using the dollar (even though some do), but it may mean that in certain seasons you can get more “bang for your buck.”
Leadership is like currency. Leaders use different types of “currency” in different moments to cast vision, build trust, and ultimately get a team to move in a unified direction toward a common goal.
And just like physical currency, there are certain types of “leadership currency” that have more value in certain seasons than in others.
In this new-normal or next-normal season, one currency that has significantly increased in value is transparency. It’s always been important but now its significance has grown exponentially. And just as in certain countries they expect you to use a specific type of currency, in this new-normal landscape, employees, team members, and even friends are expecting their leaders and key relationships to use the currency of transparency.
Transparent communication is a buzzword right now. So what does it actually mean?
Maybe the best way I can define it is by giving a real-life example of what transparent communication looks like.
That’s where Beyoncé comes in.
The setting is January 2013. President Barack Obama has just been reelected back in November and now at his inauguration Beyoncé sings the National Anthem. As always, she does an exceptional job. However, after this particular performance, the internet is not as concerned with how she sounded, as much as they are wondering if she sang live or was lip syncing.
Fast forward to about two weeks after the inauguration and the scandal is growing. Beyoncé is scheduled to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show and has a press conference for the event. Leading up to the press conference her camp had not responded to the lip sync speculation.
Then, at the Super Bowl press conference, Beyoncé used the platform to address the rumors. And in typical Queen Bey fashion she squashed any controversy, which is why you probably don’t remember this “scandal.” You see, Beyoncé came out on stage and before taking any questions she sang the National Anthem (in case there was any doubt about her talent) and then explained why she decided to lip sync at the inauguration. (If you would like to see the press conference and hear her response, you can watch it here.)
You may not agree with her reasons, but there was no cover up or controversy after that. She owned it, didn’t make excuses, and spoke with authenticity.
That’s transparent communication in a nutshell. You have the courage and boldness to share from the heart and trust people with that information.Now, transparent communication doesn’t mean that you share everything with everybody. You definitely need to think through your audience and what they need to know. But it does mean that you lean toward giving them more information than not enough. As Laszlo Bock says in his book, Work Rules!, “If you believe that people are good, you must be unafraid to share information with them.”
Basically, transparent communication is treating your team like adults and not children with the information that they need to know.
As a caveat, I actually think Beyoncé and her team could’ve done one thing better. They could’ve announced that she would be lip syncing before the ceremony. Frustration and/or disappointment come from unmet expectations.
Transparent communication seeks to clarify expectations up front so that frustration and disappointment are minimized.
How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 when it comes to transparent communication?The best way to find out is to ask the people around you (your spouse, inner circle, co-workers, and direct reports.)
Leadership is diverse. There is no “one size fits all” leader. I have observed individuals with various backgrounds, personality traits, and strengths who all have led phenomenally.
These highly talented achievers may share some similarity in their skills, but what really connects them are their struggles.
From my own leadership journey and also from the hundreds of leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with, I have recognized that there is a common burden or pressure that most leaders experience.
Unfortunately, most of these individuals struggle to open up with others about these challenges. So today, I’m sharing three confessions that I wish the people around me knew.
Confession #1: I don’t always know the answer
It is a myth that leaders have all the answers. Even though this makes sense cognitively, for some reason people still have an expectation that once someone puts on the “leadership hat” they magically have it all figured out.
Questions get more complex sitting in the leadership seat. The stakes are higher. A leader’s decisions affect not only the organization but also their people’s livelihoods.
As a small business owner and leadership coach, I can tell you that there are many days when I’m not sure of the direction I need to take or how to help one of my clients solve their problem.
If you feel this way, take comfort that you are not alone. It’s okay not to know all of the answers. But one of the responsibilities of a leader is to find the answer. Here’s my prescription for this confession:
Become consciously competent.
Fill in your knowledge gaps through reading, online courses, and surrounding yourself with people smarter than you.
Even though leaders are high-achieving individuals, sometimes they have a hard time knowing what success looks like in their role. Is it their company or team’s financial benchmarks, overall organizational growth, employee satisfaction scores, brand awareness, or even some combination of all the above?
Not to mention that leaders have a target on their back. They reap the benefits and rewards of their role, but also have to navigate through the constant criticism and pressure that comes with being in leadership.
If you feel like an imposter, again, it’s okay. You are in good company. Many exceptional leaders have had to work through this struggle. Here’s my prescription for this confession:
Make self-awareness a priority.
Self-awareness is not a destination. It’s a journey. Refine your strengths, compensate for your weaknesses, and minimize your blindspots. Also, recognize that self-awareness + skill development + receiving feedback = confidence.
Confession #3: I am lonely
In one of my first leadership roles, I had a mentor and friend who told me, “It is lonely at the top.” That might seem odd since leaders are always around others. But loneliness is not the absence of people; it’s the disconnect from them.
Part of this is an occupational hazard. It’s hard to connect with others when there are some things you can’t share with them or you have to make hard decisions that at times are not popular.
However, many leaders, including myself at times, aid to this disconnect by putting up walls. A lot of this has to do with Confessions #1 & #2. It’s hard to entrust yourself to others, if you are not content with who you are. Insecurity breeds anonymity.
By now, I think you know what I am going to say. It’s okay if you have experienced (or are experiencing) loneliness. But we don’t have to live in it. Here’s my prescription:
Build relationships with people you trust. Bring others into your inner circle who care more about your personhood, not your performance.
First off, this blog is not a “woe is me” for being a leader. I love being a leader! I wouldn’t trade the experiences or the opportunities that leadership has provided me. There are a lot of privileges that come with being in leadership roles and the struggles are part of the price you pay.
Second, as Peter Parker’s grandfather said, “with great privilege comes great responsibility.” I’ve said repeatedly throughout this post that it’s okay if you feel incompetent, insecure, or lonely. Those are very real feelings, especially for leaders. But it’s not okay to rest in those feelings and become complacent. It is our responsibility as leaders to wrestle with these struggles and use these challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.
Be gracious with yourself, but not satisfied.
Which confession resonates with you the most?
If it is Confession #1, what knowledge area are you lacking in? Who do you know that is an expert in that area? Seek them out and make time to learn from them.
If it is Confession #2, what are your strengths? Ask people you trust to share what they see as your strength areas. Take time to reflect upon those areas and then create a game plan to leverage them.
If it is Confession #3, do you have an inner circle? If so, do you spend regular time with them? If not, who do you trust with the most intimate details of your life? Make it a priority to meet with these people regularly.
Anytime you put something out on social media, you have to expect that you might get criticism. I am no exception to this.
Now, I don’t think criticism is necessarily bad. When given in a healthy manner, I think a critique can be very beneficial, especially when it comes to our professional and personal development.
The problem in one particular situation was that this person made two key mistakes that caused their feedback to be ineffective. And these are the same two mistakes that I see leaders make all the time when giving critique.
In this Your Leadership Coach video, I outline what those two mistakes are and share how we can make our feedback more effective.
The next time you want to give someone feedback ask yourself these 3 questions:
“Why do I want to share this with them?”
“What would be some reasons they won’t receive it well?”
“What is the best communication avenue to give this feedback?”