Sunday, January 16, 2022

5 Ways to Unleash Your Leadership Potential

Leading is not easy.  I am a believer that leaders are not born but instead develop over time based on both the environment and learned experiences.  No matter where you are on your journey, there is the opportunity to grow and evolve.  Your potential is not set in stone.  It can be unleashed by being cognizant about where you currently are and taking the necessary steps to get to where you want, and others need you, to be.  Here are five ways to unleash your potential now and beyond. 

Be present

People by nature are very distracted creatures, and it has only gotten worse over the years.  Keeping one’s attention in the digital age can be an arduous task.  Just watch people in public places for a few minutes, and you will see countless individuals glued to their devices.  Social media and constant connectivity have evolved into both a blessing and a curse.  While you might not be able to control the actions of others fully, you can work to ensure that you are fully present during conversations, meetings, and professional learning events.  Listen intently when warranted, ask questions, avoid interrupting, use non-verbal language, and most importantly, stay off your devices.  An engaged leader is one who empowers. 

Don’t overreact

Emotions are often hard to control.  I know that I, like many others, grapple with how to hold them in check.  Losing your cool can alienate the people who are closest to you while also raising questions about your ability to lead.  The fact is that things will go wrong no matter how much you prepare.  A well-thought-out action plan will never prevent emergencies or rogue personalities from chaos every now and again.  Even though it is easier said than done, try to remain composed and not overact when something does not go your way.  The job of a leader is to help others remain calm in the face of adversity. 

Model authenticity 

People can sniff out those who are fake in both intentions and actions.  The same can be said when weaknesses are continuously masked with excuses.  Authentic leaders not only talk the talk but strive to walk the walk.  I shared the following a few years back:

Be true to yourself and others.  When you fail (and you will), showcasing your learning side will only help to strengthen the bonds with those you work with.  Being human is more important than being right all the time.  You will never have all the answers or solutions needed to move large change efforts forward.  Look to others to find answers to questions and help you achieve your change goals.  Continue to improve in ways that push you outside your comfort zone.  With authenticity on your side, finding success will be much easier.

In a world where exponential advances in technology are the norm, there is nothing more authentic than being a digital leader. 

Embrace curiosity

There are certain truths when it comes to leadership.  Not a single person has all the solutions or even the best answer to many situations.  There is immense power when a leader acknowledges that they don’t know.  It’s not always about being right or wrong but instead seeking out ways to make the best decisions for the people you serve.  Curious leaders inspire while also breaking down traditional barriers when it comes to transforming culture.  Francesca Gino shared the following after exploring research on the topic:

When curiosity is triggered, we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting we are wrong) and stereotyping people (making broad judgments, such as that women or minorities don’t make good leaders).  Curiosity has these positive effects because it leads us to generate alternatives.

Curiosity fuels a more collaborative and vulnerable approach that works to empower others to join the cause.  

Take action

Passiveness rarely leads to change and can negatively impact when it comes to motivating the masses.  While there are certainly times for consensus, sitting on one’s laurels when crucial decisions need to be made is something that many people often complain about when it comes to their leaders.  Navigating the change process and ushering in innovative practices requires decisiveness.  As I stated in Digital Leadership, the desire and drive to act is all that matters.  When it is all said and done, leadership is about action, not position, title, or power. 

Your potential is not set in stone.  In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” 

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