Leading the Coaching to Develop a Leadership Mindset webinar series for the IABC Academy, I’ve heard first-hand about the challenges faced in the workplace and on the path to career advancement and sustainable leadership.
Here are some of the most common concerns and requests:
- to develop confidence, emotional intelligence and a leader-centric mindset
- to become “less reactive” and able to communicate my position / solutions without “shutting down”
- tips and tools to handle difficult conversations and manage conflict
- coaching / mentoring tips for team growth and development
- more responsibility, rewarding projects and joy
What follows are five of my best “tried and true” tips to develop a leadership mindset to get noticed and move up.
1. Leading is also about following
A leader is someone who others follow willingly. People want to be in a relationship with you. It is not dependent on power or position.
A great question for aspiring and intentional leaders to ask is “Why do others willingly follow me?” Look within yourself for the answer. You may want to ask others as well to see what they say.
Herein lies clues to your strength of character and the values you should pay attention to and uphold to naturally shine as a leader.
Often the responsibility of a leader is to get their people from where they are to where they haven’t been. This is a lot easier if people follow willingly.
ASK: Why do others willingly follow me?
2. Leaders are relational
Effective leaders are adept at managing three relationships: relationship with self, relationship with others and relationship with the system(s) within which they live and operate.
Leadership scholar Warren Bennis famously said “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”
The first step to develop a leadership mindset is self-awareness. It’s important to understand yourself before you can lead others. The best way to do this is to get a clear sense of your values.
Values are our most fulfilling form of expressing and relating and point us to what it means to be true to oneself. When we are living a life that is aligned with our values, there is a sense of fulfillment and a grounding rightness during tough times.
Personal values discovery and clarity is a starting point in all my coaching relationships. Clients often ask if it is ok to have different values at work than at home. The answer is no! Your values are the same for all areas of your life and serve as a compass for communication and decision making.
ASK: How well do I know myself?
3. Leading is different than managing
To develop as a leader, it is important to understand the difference between managing and leading. It is surprising how many people don’t know the difference. One of my clients wisely laminated this chart and posted it in his office.
Get a sense of your natural orientation on the Leading Versus Managing chart. Is it managing or leading? Of course, leading and managing responsibilities are not mutually exclusive but you get the idea.
To evolve and get noticed as a leader, make a conscious choice to embody and demonstrate a leader-like orientation every chance you get. You will be building your leadership muscle and others will notice too.
ASK: Am I managing or leading?
4. Learn to really listen
Effective leaders are skilled at not only asking powerful, open-ended questions that start with “what” and “how”, but also active listening to retain what has been shared and doing so in a way that others feel heard.
A fun way to practice active listening is to ask an open-ended question and listen intently to what the person says. Then make a conscious choice to ask an open ended follow up question based on their reply and then one more based on that reply. Only at this point, turn the conversation back to you. Often at this stage the conversation naturally turns anyways.
Do you notice a natural inclination to turn the conversation back to you? This is very common and requires self-awareness and discipline to change. Think of it as listening instead of reloading.
While being respected for your knowledge and expertise is important, as a leader it is just as important to be able to engage others through active listening. The easiest way to do this is by asking powerful questions. It has been helpful for some of my clients to post the words WAIT, which secretly stands for Why am I talking?
ASK: Am I listening or reloading?
5. Courageous authenticity builds confidence
Courageous authenticity is exemplified through a willingness to take a tough stand, to address the “undiscussables” or elephant in the room, and to openly deal with relationship problems.
Developing the capability to relate to others in an authentic, courageous and high-integrity manner can be uncomfortable at first. It is easier if it comes from a values-based, curious place.
Often clients are fearful to step out of their comfort zone and speak up, but once they try it and experience the impact (personally and from others), it becomes much easier and they even seek out opportunities to practice this behaviour.
You know those situations when no-one is talking, and everyone is wishing that someone would address the real issue. Using good judgement of course, don’t be afraid to address what isn’t being said. When done in a tactful and thoughtful way, others will appreciate and notice you for leading the way.
ASK: How can I practice courageous authenticity?
Leadership is a muscle that can be developed. While self-awareness is a powerful first step in leadership development, I encourage you to be open and receptive to feedback from others.
Is the way you see yourself consistent with the way others see you? I’m a fan of The Leadership Circle Profile™, a highly insightful all in one self / 360 assessment tool to benchmark and assess creative competencies versus reactive tendencies.
In closing, here are two powerful questions for aspiring leaders. How do I get in my own way – would I follow me? AND How will I model the courage I want from those around me?
Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments or questions about developing a leadership mindset. Wishing you continued success on your leadership journey.
A version of this article was previously published June 2018 in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Communication World Magazine.