Are You Having the Impact You Want to Have?
Wow. It’s amazing the impact that one person can have. It’s easy to forget how powerful we all are. Single-handedly, we can inspire everyone around us, or take an entire team down in flames, I’ve witnessed both ends of the spectrum.
When I first met the “down-in-flames” leader, she didn’t make eye contact with me, her self-consciousness peeking out from behind her I’m-suppose-to-be-tough-exterior. With her team, she was critical and condescending. When people brought her their ideas she shut them down right away without consideration. She didn’t listen. She didn’t ask questions. Recognition and appreciation were unheard of. Every person on her team believed to their very soul that she didn’t care, that she was somehow born without a heart, and that her primary goal in life was to make them miserable. I knew this to be untrue, but then again it’s much easier to be understanding and compassionate toward someone when you lived in a different state and didn’t have a reporting relationship! Senior leaders, for years, had made attempts to coach down-in-flames, to no avail. Team members threatened to leave regularly, but didn’t. They’d stay, she’d stay, and nothing changed. It was an openly hostile environment. Productivity? You’ve got to be kidding. Engagement? Ha! Imagine the cost! The impact one person can make is amazing.
What really makes the difference between someone who is a “down-in-flames” leader, and who chooses another path? It’s not opportunity – I’ve met leaders of both kinds whose economic and educational backgrounds are similar. It’s not biology – “Down-in-flames”, despite what her team thought, wasn’t born with some evil gene, while other leaders got all the nice ones. I believe that there are three things that differentiate the great leaders from the not-so-great leaders:
1. Great leaders “check themselves first”. They are always examining their own thoughts and behaviors and looking for what they can do better. They are disciplined in their thinking and understand that how they think influences how they act. They keep the messages they send themselves positive, and the messages they let in from others (about who they are and what they’re capable of doing) filtered. They challenge themselves to be their personal best and model growth for those they lead.
2. They focus on the impact that they want to have. They understand what drives them internally and are clear about the impact that they want to have outside themselves. They are purposeful. Because they can name the impact that they want to have, they can consciously work toward creating it, or course correct as necessary. Their actions and the impact that they make are congruent with who they are on the inside. People know who they are, what they are about, and trust them.
3. They are focused on constructive action toward making an impact. It doesn’t take a great leader to threaten or bully someone into getting results. Often during stress we look for the fastest route to getting what we want, regardless of the cost. Great leaders recognize that short-term results attained at a human cost, create big-picture-problems. It takes a great leader to inspire and build relationships when times are tough and numbers are down. Is it harder to do? Absolutely. But that’s what separates the great from the not-so-great.
You can choose what impact you want to have. No one has to go “down-in-flames”. There is another way.
Yes, we are that powerful.
©OnStage Leadership, 2015
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying! If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, Presentation Skills, or being BRAVE at work, we’d love to hear from you!
If you haven’t had a chance, check out my recent Tedx talk or my interview on Voice of America’s Working on Purpose Channel: Bringing Our True and Best Selves to Work: Cultivating Authentic Leadership with Kimberly Davis.