When people take on leadership roles, they rarely suffer from a lack of examples. Some good, some bad but all of them pictures of what it could mean to be a leader. It is easy for new leaders to pick their favorite role models and try to emulate their leadership style. But doing so is nearly always a mistake.
The best leaders lead from place of authenticity. Far too many leaders fail to have the impact and influence they desire because they are mimicking another leader’s voice and modeling another leader’s style.
Fred Rogers—better known as “Mr. Rogers”—helped shape the national conversation about early childhood education as, with his gentle voice and spirit, he welcomed generations of children to his “neighborhood.” In contrast, Winston Churchill was a stern and decisive leader who led the British people to stand against the tyranny of Hitler and the Nazis. As Rogers and Churchill each led in their respective professions, they did so from a place of absolute authenticity. And, as a result, others followed.
As I have partnered with leaders across all industries and within all types of organizations, I’ve found that many organizations operate with one unofficial acceptable style of leadership. Leaders learn quickly that to succeed is to “go with the flow” and not make any waves. The resulting impact of the politics and structures of organizations is that the creative talents—or voices—of leaders are stifled into a normative, or expected, pattern of behavior. As a result, the creativity, intelligence and passion of nonconforming leaders are stifled. And the organizations they serve suffer.
So what is the solution? Where do you start? I believe it all starts with finding your voice as a leader.
Finding your voice as a leader is the difference between becoming a bland bureaucrat and becoming a dynamic, influential role model. As a leader, what is your purpose, what is your legacy, what is your VOICE?
To find your voice as a leader is to create a compelling and unique leadership brand by:
- Identifying Your Values – We are all governed by a set of values that act as our “inner GPS.” Our values govern our decisions, our judgments, our communication and our overall worldview. They shape who we are. Leaders who identify their core set of values and lead out front with their values are more confident, more courageous and more influential versus leaders who do not. Values are more than just a “set of words on a laminated card;” they are the core DNA of every leader and are the ingredients of the legacy each leader leaves behind.
- Establishing Your Outcomes – Establishing concrete outcomes that are critical for your success is necessary for making your vision a reality. Creating outcomes means translating your vision into strategies and then into clear, actionable tactics. Well-defined outcomes align activity to purpose. And building a road map to success ensures the journey there is one worth taking.
- Discovering Your Communities Of Influence – Effective leadership is inexorably linked to influence. The ability to establish trusting and credible influential relationships with management, colleagues and peers who do not need to follow your direction is critical to your success as a leader. Building a brand of leadership based on your capability to influence your community sets any leader apart from their peer group.
- Demonstrating Your Courage – To grow and develop as humans, we need to be able to take some small (or large) steps out of our comfort zone. Not stepping out of our comfort zone breeds mediocrity and allows us to “stay safe,” which in turn can keep us in a rut. Being courageous is to first recognize your comfort zone and then, with a clear vision in mind, take the necessary steps out of that comfort zone to try out a new behavior, a new skill or a new worldview.
- Creating A Lasting Expression – Expression translates your vision beyond yourself. Expression creates followers, persuading others to contribute their talents and capabilities. Your expression is the culmination of finding, creating and using your VOICE to make a difference in your career and your life.
Start building your legacy as a leader by voicing your confidence, courage, and commitment. Life is too short to not use your VOICE.