Leadership isn’t about being good technically. It’s about being able to deal with the most difficult, unpredictable and unique raw material in business – that being people and their emotions.
I have spent a lot of time this month explaining why. Early in our career we focus on building technical skills, and that’s exactly as it should be. We become proficient (hopefully) in our role and get promoted as a result. The challenge comes when our responsibilities grow to the extent that we need to rely on others to deliver performance for us. Doing this well means developing a set of skills that we didn’t need before because we only had to rely on ourselves. So if it’s not about technical skills, then what is it?
Leadership means becoming an outstanding communicator, an inspiring motivator and a thought-provoking coach. It means tapping into the potential in others, exploding it beyond theirs (and your) expectations. It means being the guardian of a culture that says my people work for me because they want to (rather than ‘have to’). Leaders who have ‘Executive Presence’ make this look easy, but trust me, it’s not. We live in a fast-paced, constantly-evolving, attention-deficit economy and no-one has got that kind of time. Being crisp, compelling, concise, relevant, persuasive, inspiring, supportive and challenging – all at once – is not easy. Add to the mix that we might need to influence across a time zone, a matrix, a culture, a country and via the use of technology all adds up to mean that it simply couldn’t be more challenging.
So, where to start? This month I’ve been working with clients on the 3 ’S’s as a leader. What do they stand for? Soundbites, short stories and sermons. This is about crafting and rehearsing messages that say just the right thing, in just the right way, to just the right audience at just the right time. They address the: Why? Why not? Who/when/ how/what? questions. The soundbite is the short, repeatable message that you want to become part of the currency of everyday language. It gets repeated soon after you’ve started saying it. The short story is the message to handle challenge, advocate your position, overcome resistance, enthuse and ignite others. The sermon is (as the name suggests) a longer narrative when we are outlining our vision, leading change and setting a new direction for our people.
Do you have your 3 ’S’s lined up? Do they work? Are you achieving what you need from them? Helping my clients to articulate, then structure, then rehearse and then nail these key messages so that they connect with the heart, not just the head is where I work to help leaders enhance their ‘Executive Presence’.