Anyone can learn to be an effective, even inspirational Leader – by taking intentional steps to train and improve various aspects of our lives. I came across an inspirational article in the Harvard Business Review by Rebecca Shambaugh which featured great insights on developing a Leadership Voice & a Leadership Presence.
“To Sound Like a Leader, Think About What You Say, and How and When You Say It”
What does that really mean?
Often times, as aspiring Leaders, we strive to develop and showcase subject matter expertise in our field of endeavor. We want to show up as being buttoned down, detail oriented, organized and having a strong command of the situation, the numbers and especially the challenges our organizations face. When we’re in executive meetings or business reviews we really focus on “Performing Well”
However, as Rebecca points out, “Your executive voice is less about your performance; it relates more to your strategic instincts, understanding of context, and awareness of the signals you send in your daily interactions and communications “. We all have a preferred way to communicate with others, and doing this with strategic intent and a solid grasp of context can mean the difference between success and failure in your communication and leadership style“.
So, here’s a question for you aspiring leaders to contemplate. Are you a truly Strategic Leader? Do you aspire to be one? When someone says to you – “I don’t think you’re thinking Strategiecally enough about this issue”, what runs through your mind?
All of us have the ability to develop inherent strategic leadership potential, we simply need to be intentional about learning how. Here are some useful insights from the article.
Understand the context. How often do you find yourself throwing out an unformed idea in a meeting, not speaking up when people are looking for your ideas, or saying something that doesn’t quite fit the agenda and suddenly getting that “deer in the headlights” feeling? If these situations sound familiar, what is it that went wrong? In short, these types of tactical errors come down to failing to understand the context of the call, meeting, or discussion that you are in.
When faced with a business challenge or opportunity, it’s useful to “go to the balcony”. By that I mean, think about the key determining factors, end goals, key levers, blockers at a high level, before diving into the minutiae. Begin in learning mode and try to make sure you understand the true context of each business discussion. Connect the dots with others whilst sharing your views – observe others and listen carefully for “contextual queues” from others.
” Knowing or finding out in advance what your expected role is in a group forum or event can guide you in determining the kind of voice you need for that particular venue and can help ensure that you understand the context before you speak up”
Be a visionary. What does this really mean ? Sometimes we fail to tap into an executive voice because we focus too much on our own function or role. Strategic leaders are more visionary than that, taking an enterprise view that focuses less on themselves and more on the wider organization. Another part of being visionary is developing the ability to articulate aspirations for the future and a rationale for transformation.
Bring solutions, not just problems. How many times have you sat in meetings with colleagues who are very good at identifying and dissecting problems and challenges without offering much by way of solutions? How often do we deal with individuals or organizations who are very good at saying NO and explaining in detail why our ideas, plans or initiatives will Never Work.
We all get frustrated when people point out challenges but don’t offer any resolutions. Leading strategically with a strong executive voice involves problem solving, not just finger-pointing at difficult issues. You can show up more strategically by doing your homework and taking the lead in analyzing situations. Brainstorm fresh ideas that go beyond the obvious. Even if you don’t have the perfect answer, you can demonstrate your ability to come up with clever solutions.
Stay calm in the pressure cooker. People with an effective executive voice aren’t easily rattled. Can you provide level-headed leadership even when — in fact, particularly when everyone around you is losing their composure? When you can stick with facts instead of getting swept into an emotional tailspin no matter how stressed you feel, you’ll be able to lead with a more powerful executive voice.
Think intentionally about these three focus areas in your day-to-day lives. These principles can be used effectively to develop strategic leadership practices in every aspect of our lives.