As leaders, the most important thing we must understand is the nature of our impact on others and the factors that compose our career legacies. This legacy is composed of three parts: the first two are through our decisions and our successes. These two factors have been extensively reviewed during the past weeks.
The good thing about these two factors is that, finally, both of them are measurable. The result could be modest share gain, profits, sales, territory capture, etc. Time will tell whether your decisions were solid and whether your execution was a success.
The third factor is your reputation. This is what your followers and others think and will say about you after you exit your position. Reputation is the basis of leadership, no matter the job. It is built over many years, one word at a time, one action at a time, one deed at time. In leadership, a few things matter more. Reputation is among the most treasured and powerful assets. Your reputation is yours, very personal but also very easy to lose.
When one day your followers will look back at their time spent with you, they will reflect on four things that created the taste left in their mouths. (1) Reward – Were they acknowledged for their commitment and the accomplishments? Were they recognised both publicly and personally? (2) Respect – Were they appreciated for their service and sacrifice, both publicly and privately? (3) Award – Were they credited appropriately for their contributions to success? It may be money, citations, promotions, career opportunities and new challenges. (4) Education (Did they learn valuable lessons being the part of the team? Have they progressively improved their knowledge on products/services they sell, management skills, social skills, etc.?
These are tough issues, because they require some generosity on your part. It becomes still more difficult because all these factors will put great pressure on you to lead your team well.
The great British banker and financier Nathan Rothschild noted that the more unpredictable the environment, the greater the opportunity—if you have the leadership skills to capitalize on it. During the past eight months, we have identified nine skills that, when mastered and used in concert, allow leaders to think strategically and navigate the unknown effectively: the abilities to anticipate, challenge, interpret, decide, align and learn. Each has received attention in the leadership literature but usually in isolation and seldom in the special context of high stakes and deep uncertainty that can make or break both companies and careers.
Different people have different preferences or built-in reactions, to change. This preference drives a large part of the change response, regardless of the situation or the specific change itself. Leaders who pay attention to change preference can better understand why people react the way they do when faced with change. These leaders are more prepared to address concerns, leverage different contributions, avoid pitfalls — and adapt their own change approach as needed.
During his career, this writer has identified three different types of people: Conservers, Originators and Pragmatics. Conservers are people who accept the current structure, systems and processes. They prefer slow incremental change over sweeping, expansive change or dramatic new directions. They appear deliberate, disciplined and focused and are good at defining and clarifying current reality. To the outside world, they may appear cautious and inflexible.
Originators like to challenge current structures, systems and processes. They enjoy taking risks and tend to focus on new possibilities, vision and direction. Originators are action-minded and likely to challenge assumptions. They appear visionary but also may seem impractical or miss important details.
Pragmatists tend to focus on getting the job done. They prefer change that is functional and are willing to explore changing structures, systems and processes. They often see merit in the perspectives of both conservers and originators and are motivated to find solutions. To others, they may appear practical, agreeable and flexible — or indecisive and trying to please too many people at one time.
If you are a team leader, knowing the change preference of others allows you to tailor your change communication and influence approach. For example, direct reports, who are conservers, need more information and more time to accept a change than the originators. Originators need help moving from the idea toward action. And the pragmatists may feel stuck in the middle and overly relied upon to mediate.
Learning of these three types of people, we come across two questions. How can we really understand people and the human nature? Why do some people act in a weird way and what is the nature of their behaviour? The main reason people fail to understand others is not that some people act weirdly or in a strange way but it’s because most people aren’t aware of their own human nature.
By learning how to look at the underlying reason behind certain behaviour and by learning how to not judge others without seeing the full picture, you will certainly understand people better. By understanding your own human nature and the thinking patterns that result from it, you will certainly understand people with very little effort.
Most people exhibit one of the four emotions during their important occasions. (1) Happy: Getting what they want. (2) Mad: Not getting what they want in the present (3) Sad: Have not received what they wanted in the past (4) Scared: Believing they won’t get what they want in the future.
Commit to knowledge this little matrix and you will immediately find yourself looking underneath the anger, disappointment or the fear it find the event that caused the emotion of the person in front of you.
This is how the best leaders control their leadership reputation. They break themselves apart and put themselves back together again with greater clarity of purpose and responsibility to those they serve.
Your leadership reputation is totally in your hands. If you are well-intentioned about genuinely serving the needs of others, then you will not only have a leg-up on managing your reputation, you will also begin to advance your own career.
This is the formulae for leaving a great legend. This is the formulae followed by other great leaders. There are no shortcuts. You have to recognise the right things to do while you are leading. Just the right things!
If you have read carefully the 32-part of this series carefully and understood the essential skills the progressive leader needs to develop, you are in the right path. If you live on these skills, they will eventually produce the best results, most productive team and the greatest chance for success. As an added attribute, they will also contribute to your reputation and the legacy you wish to leave behind.
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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