If you own your own business or have successfully climbed the company ladder to become a leader, you may feel you've “made it” and your days of being challenged are behind you.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you work in a closely held family business or in a corporate environment, once you are promoted into a leadership role your challenges just begin.
One of the strengths that may propel you to ascend to a leadership role is proficiency in the technical skills involved in your area of expertise. However, too often individuals are placed into management roles who may be capable and have content knowledge, but unfortunately do not possess the requisite skills for guiding and motivating their organization effectively.
Create your leadership vision
It is one thing to have the title of leader, and something else entirely to be a successful leader — someone who has mastered the non-technical skills necessary to be a valued and compelling influencer. Therefore the first step in becoming a good leader is acknowledging the significance of the role.
While it is important to understand how your organization evaluates your achievements as a leader, it is just as critical to establish your own vision for success. Being placed in a leadership role undoubtedly creates a great opportunity for you to impact both the bottom line and the culture of your company. It is essential that you not only understand, but embrace your potential power to influence those around you.
You must decide what your own goals and criteria are to be evaluated as successful. For example, in addition to increasing sales, are you interested in mentoring or developing other talent on your team? Do you find personal satisfaction in retaining good people or guiding them to achieve their own professional goals? Do you hope to have an impact on the decisions of your peers in management and/or company policies?
Necessary behavioral qualities
Once you have established your leadership vision and objectives you need to self-assess your personal strengths and weaknesses in your ability to achieve your desired outcome. To motivate people to align themselves with your vision, they must be willing to listen to you as well as respect you as a person.
Regardless of your goals, to be a great leader, it's necessary to develop the following behavioral qualities:
Developing a connection means leveraging your impact through your interactions using an effective communication style. Communicating successfully has a lot to do with how you're perceived by your peers, your team and your customers.
To be a strong, influential leader, you must be a good communicator. That includes understanding other people's communication styles and tailoring your messages accordingly and often adopting a “learning mode” by asking relevant questions while knowing which topics to avoid.
Credibility is essential to enhance your ability to be a positive influencer as a leader. Developing credibility is often based on others' perception of you, and it requires four constructs according to Dr. G. Richard Shell, professor and director of the Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania. Do people perceive you as:
A relevant authority (informal or formal)?
An expert with relevant knowledge?
Someone who's competent?
Someone who can be trusted?
Developing trust is one of the most critical capabilities required to be a successful and influential leader. If people don't see you as believable, it's unlikely they're going to work hard for you or with you. There are a number of ways to strengthen people's trust in you:
Tell both sides of the story
Deliver on your promises
Be consistent in your values
Encourage the exploration of ideas (listen)
Put others' interests first
Being influential means having strong self-awareness, understanding how others see you and realizing you are judged the moment you enter a room.
It also includes successfully assessing and navigating the unique needs and expectations of your peers, team and customers as well as establishing mutual respect, aligning goals and being authentic.
What's the takeaway from this? There's work to be done once you attain a leadership position to ensure you'll be successful. While the behavioral qualities noted above can be learned, it does take passion to be motivated to do the hard work it takes to be a leader who wields great influence.