Leadership Influential Pillars For Today
While companies demand results from employees, now more than ever, new generations demand leaders with a purpose—a purpose that’s about more than profit margins.
It goes back to another decade, as Millenials were coming of age. Their confidence in the working world ahead of them was shattered by the Enron scandal, the Lehman Brothers failure and a global banking crisis. At the same time, social media exploded onto the scene, suddenly giving them a voice.
As they approached their forties, the pandemic changed everything. The Great Resignation happened as workers gained the upper hand. In response, employers are desperately trying to meet employees’ demands for better opportunities, a permanent hybrid working structure and attention to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, including diversity, sustainability and climate crisis targets.
However, most companies overlook two facts: People quit bosses, not work, and good talent is scarce and volatile.
The lack of inspiring leadership in managerial positions is taking an unprecedented toll as employees consider their options in a market full of opportunities.
Simply put, the businesses that will thrive (or survive) have exemplary leaders who care enough to do the right thing and are much more than a CEO with a strategy; they are influential and, under the most challenging circumstances, are capable of bringing people and allies together through a clear vision, exceptional communication skills and unbreakable optimism.
Today’s talent is more independent, more informed, less likely to follow without question and not driven by a long-term relationship with a company. They need to be influenced, or they will go elsewhere.
Some CEOs are walking their talk. Mónica Flores, President of ManpowerGroup Latin America, said at the recent World of Business Ideas conference in Madrid that in order to attract and retain talent, her top priority is to put people first. She then offered five strategies: investing in health and wellness, focusing on data, fostering leadership development among managers and directors, increasing training budgets and focusing on diversity and inclusion.
At that same conference, Daniel Lamarre, CEO of Cirque du Soleil, explained that his company was able to re-attract the over 4,000 employees/artists they lost during the pandemic and relaunch their business by developing and communicating a clear vision and creating a winning culture, among other approaches.
And Adolfo Ramirez-Escudero, CEO at CBRE Spain (full disclosure: CBRE is a client of mine), said his roadmap for leading in the twenty-first century starts with putting people first and training their executives to be inspiring, aspirational and influential. Companies need to embrace soft-skills training as a crucial strategy to retain employees in a world with a talent shortage.
The Path From CEO To Influential CEO
Influence is both an art and a science, and that’s counterintuitive for a traditional CEO. Most MBA programs, even at the best universities, lack specific influence skills training. At my company, we’ve developed a multi-step process for influential leadership: emotional intelligence, vision, identity and outstanding communication skills.
1. Emotional intelligence is the foundation.
Influence requires going beyond pockets to touch people’s hearts. Leadership is an “inside-out behavior,” and leaders must emotionally lead themselves before they try to lead others.
If you have ever watched the CBS reality TV series Undercover Boss, you’ve probably seen employees break into tears of joy when they feel valued and appreciated and their talents and dreams are nurtured. It’s not the money, it’s the heart that matters!
Need a shortcut? Give employees a reason to be their best selves, focus on what works and you’ll build a healthy mental environment. A Harvard Business Review article (registration required) explored how positive relational energy makes for inspiring leaders. A survey across businesses large and small asked people about their energy levels when they interacted with various coworkers. The result clearly showed, “When leaders display positive relational energy, it catapults performance to a new level.” Positive energizers proved to be higher performers and exist in abundance at high-performing organizations. Co-workers flourished in their presence—uplifted, enthused, renewed.
2. Have a meaningful vision that will align the right people.
People follow visions, not objectives. Vision inspires; objectives stress. Leaders must give people the motive to act.
What I like about crafting a vision that is uniquely yours is that it aligns with the talent you need to fulfill your agenda.
To craft your vision, consider how the changing world affects your industry, your industry’s future and your company’s role in that picture. Convert your vision into a road map that’s easy to remember and adhere to. Philip Kotler’s marketing mix represented his vision about marketing, which he converted into the 4Ps that every marketer recognizes and follows: product, price, place and promotion.
3. Understand your leadership identity.
Personal identity is as important as brand identity. For the latter, companies hire expensive agencies that help craft the most distinct and consistent brand possible. However, a leader’s identity has been shaped over years of experiences without a strategy.
There are three risks to personal identity: It is often invisible to the person and visible to the rest of the world; it is the one thing we are 100-percent coherent about; and, just like brand identity, it is formed from many pieces, some of which can help you be the leader you want to be and some that might prevent you from being that leader.
If you want to discover the pieces that shape your identity, make a list every time you say “I am” or “I am not” and think of what those mean to you. For example, if you say, “I am down to earth,” ask yourself what that means and how it empowers or disempowers the leader inside of you.
4. Be an outstanding communicator.
Communication is the one skill you must be excellent at. Again, it is an inside-out soft skill that should be developed and updated if you want to be an influential leader. Think of it as the software of the brain.
We train our clients to use our successful communications three-part formula: Be simple, be smart and be sexy. Simplicity opens the door to establishing an authentic conversation with no B.S. Being smart is about strategy and accomplishing more with less when communicating. Being sexy is about touching people’s emotions by being subtle and inspiring.
As businesses embrace remote work, emotional intelligence and communication skills become a must for every manager and everyone who wants to lead in the 21st century.
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