Hard to Lead Unless You Have "IT"
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Hard to Lead Unless You Have "IT"

Hard to Lead Unless You Have

What happens when you walk into a meeting?  Does the room grow quiet?  Do you suddenly sense that all eyes and ears are on you?  Do you get the feeling that you command the room?  

Well if that happens to you, then you more than likely have IT – the leadership Impact Trait.  Maybe you were born with it; maybe you’ve developed it.  In either case, you are going to be a far more effective leader than someone who leaves home without IT.  To make things simple, just think of “IT” as Presence.

Since most of us want to lead more effectively than we can at the moment, I am going to share some good news with you. IT, or Presence, or whatever word you may have heard in the past is really a habit.  A habit is a collection of behaviors, and behavior can be learned.  To learn this habit, you must – Yoda would say – identify and unlearn the habits that hold you back and weaken your influence as a leader.  Here are some of the more common influence deadeners:  

  • Pretending or, even worse, believing that your way is the way to achieve results.  Emotional intelligence is more compelling than cognitive intelligence as a source of influence.  So get over yourself by recognizing that the vast majority of people alive today have no clue as to your existence, nor do they really even care whether or not you exist.  
  • Being negative and consistently pointing out what is wrong.  For all of the things they did not know, even our ancient predecessors knew better than to belittle.  That usually causes others to lose heart.
  • Consistently using mean-spirited and hurtful words.  Words are tools.  They can be used as weapons, or they can be used to build people up.  When used as weapons, they can be crushing.
  • Interrupting and not letting the other person finish.  This usually occurs for one or more of several reasons - we think we know what the other person is going to say; we are more interested in our story than in theirs, or we are just unaware that we do this.  

Most research talks about 20 characteristics that give leaders presence – the “IT” factor.  Now 20 characteristics are an overwhelming number of traits or behaviors to master at the proverbial “A-game “ level.  More good news!  Four of those characteristics seem to account for close to 90% of Presence.  To be recognized as having the “IT” factor, people want to see that:

  • You have their back.  You support them publicly and give them corrective feedback privately. You have to believe that there are no mistakes, only feedback.  Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 different filaments before he found one that would stay lit.  When asked about his failures, Edison replied “What failures?  I discovered 1,000 things that did not work.”  
  • You appreciate other perspectives. You develop the habit of using 4 of the most powerful 15 words in the English language.  You simply ask, “What do you think?”  Having asked the question, you listen without interrupting.  When appropriate, you can make magic happen by using a couple of sentences like ‘That is interesting.  Tell me more.”
  • You focus on compelling outcomes or results. Except under unusual circumstances, there are almost always multiple ways to accomplish a result.  Some of them may be more efficient than others.  The fact that another person’s way is less efficient than yours does not make their way any less effective.  
  • You solve problems quickly and effectively. That means you focus on the causes rather than the symptoms.  And you focus on the desired outcome.  As an example, in the early days of the Space Race, the USA invested unknown amounts of money on an ink pen that would work in zero gravity.  The Russians were quite happy using a pencil.

So, if you want to develop presence, those are the low-hanging fruits of the leadership “IT” factor.  Up until now you may not have focused on these four characteristics.  You may have focused on other “flavor of the month” factors that sound nice and are the buzz around your multi-unit franchising organization.  The others may well be contributing factors to having “IT” and having them as part of your leadership habit pattern can help you fine-tune your effectiveness.  From this point forward, why not pay more attention to the four causative factors we’ve talked about?  You might discover you have more influence than you once did.

Dan Schneider is a Partner/Director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm.    For additional information, visit www.seekingsuccession.com or call 407-578-4455.

Published: January 21st, 2021

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