Does Your Picture of Leadership Match Your Team's View?

Success is a journey.  Whether the journey is to implement a new product or service, build a high-performing team, or find greater balance between work and life.  Becoming a leader with influence is the same.  You never arrive.  Instead, you continually get better through intentional growth.  But, like any journey, it begins with a starting point.  So where do you start yours?

Your leadership success begins with creating a vision for how you want people to experience you as a leader. Then you work on living it out each and every day.  Occasionally, you need to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Because, as motivational speaker Les Brown eloquently says,

“You can't see the picture when you are in the frame.” 

Allow me to demonstrate this through an example that represents one struggle that many of my coaching clients experience: 

Susan is a successful executive, who prides herself on hiring and training young professionals.  A key part of her vision for her leadership is to help them gain the experiences and skills they need to advance their careers.  However, she experienced frustration when she discovered that team members were complaining about her leadership style.  How could this be when she had their best interest at heart?  This is exactly what you want from your leader.  Someone who is willing to guide, coach and mentor you to success.

Yes, Susan’s vision for her leadership was noble - to provide a learning environment that advances the careers of  young professionals.  However, the leader WHO she was showing up as was not the type of leader who encouraged, guided, coached, and supported others.   In fact, if you took a closer look, her behaviour towards these professionals occasionally came across as berating and condescending.

On one occasion, she pointed out a team member's mistake by saying "Now Terry, you know better."  With this approach, she wasn't helping team members understand what they were doing well and exploring where they might be struggling.  Instead, Susan's approach was more consistent with creating an environment where her team was fearful of making a mistake.  It caused them to focus their time and effort on not making mistakes and checking in with Susan on decisions they could make for themselves, thus feeling micro-managed.  Despite Susan's best intentions, WHAT she was doing was in-congruent with WHO she wanted to be.    

When it comes to leadership, your actions matter more than your intentions do.

Susan needed help seeing things from a new perspective.  She needed an objective view of someone who is emotionally detached from the circumstances.  As her coach, I helped Susan develop the practice of viewing her behaviour from the team’s perspective.  This created new awareness for Susan as she began to recognize how her actions were contrary to accomplishing her goal.  Once she realized this, she established new actions and behaviours to turn things around.

Susan applied effective coaching and feedback skills where once non-constructive feedback and embarrassment were the norm.  Within six short weeks, the team's behaviour towards her began to change for the positive.  Susan began living out leadership in a way that was in alignment with her vision.

What can you learn from Susan’s experience?  Do you have a vision for your own leadership?  If not, create one.  Once you have a vision, put yourself in the picture frame.  Look at the person in the frame, not from your own perspective looking out, but from the team’s perspective looking in.

Do the actions of the person behind the picture frame match up with the leadership vision you want your team to experience?  

If not, what is one small adjustment you can make today to improve your results for yourself, your team, and your business?

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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