Defining Your Role as a Leader
Defining your role as a leader is an important step towards developing your leadership philosophy that can help frame and prioritize your daily decisions and actions. Steps for Defining Your Role as a Leader In this video our goal is to get you to ask yourself the question, "What kind of leader do I want to be?" Jason shows you two examples of successful leaders, Larry Page and Sir Richard Branson, who have really thought through their leadership role and apply that role to leading others. After considering these examples, there is an exercise for you to do that challenges you to define your role as a leader based on your current leadership responsibilities and also focuses you on the kind of leadership you'd like to practice in the future.

Defining Your Role as a Leader

 

There are a lot of aspects of leadership I end up discussing with people as I work with them on becoming stronger and more effective leaders. Some new leaders need some help developing their soft skills like communication and public speaking, some need help developing tools and systems for managing all the information inputs and outputs they need to deal with and some are looking to further define the mission and vision for their team. As I dig deeper into their individual needs, I very often find that many of these leaders have not thought deeply about how they see their role as a leader in their organization and communities. Defining your role as a leader is an important step towards developing your leadership philosophy that can help frame and prioritize your daily decisions and actions.

Steps for Defining Your Role as a Leader

In this video our goal is to get you to ask yourself the question, “What kind of leader do I want to be?” Jason shows you two examples of successful leaders, Larry Page and Sir Richard Branson, who have really thought through their leadership role and apply that role to leading others. After considering these examples, there is an exercise for you to do that challenges you to define your role as a leader based on your current leadership responsibilities and also focuses you on the kind of leadership you’d like to practice in the future.

As leaders, we have a lot of hopes and dreams for making our lives better and building a better world. It’s difficult to fit everything in that we want to achieve and sometimes it’s overwhelming to figure out what it is specifically that we want. Creating a development plan can help you think through what goals are really important to you and to articulate them clearly. It will also give you a framework to put together a plan of action and highlight the people you’ll need to help you implement your plan for achieving goals.

Achieving Goals Using a Development Plan

As leaders, we have a lot of hopes and dreams for making our lives better and building a better world. It’s difficult to fit everything in that we want to achieve and sometimes it’s overwhelming to figure out what it is specifically that we want. Creating a development plan can help you think through what goals are really important to you and to articulate them clearly. It will also give you a framework to put together a plan of action and highlight the people you’ll need to help you implement your plan. A development plan isn’t absolutely necessary to achieve your goals, but it does provide you with a great foundation to start getting organized.

Section 1 – Setting Your Goals

When writing your development plan it’s important to put your goals into the context of the timeframe in which you want to achieve them. Start listing all of the goals you have into three categories: near, mid and far term. Near-term goals should be ones that you want to accomplish in the next 1-2 years, mid-term goals are on a timeframe of about 2-5 years and long-term goals are the ones you want to achieve in the 5-10 year timeframe or even further out. Long-term goals might be getting a certain job at a certain point in your career or starting a family. Mid-term goals might be completing a degree program or internal training program at your company. Short-term goals might be taking a class, acquiring a certain skill or getting selected to be part of a certain project team at work.

As you come up with your goals, remember that effective goals are clear, measurable and achievable. Try to be as specific and descriptive as you can when write them down. Also, it’s just as important to include the goals that you have for your personal life as it is to articulate the goals for your professional life.

Section 2 – Action Plan for Achieving Goals

After you’ve got your goals written clearly and specifically and arranged into near, mid and long-term, the next step is to see if completing any of your goals are helpful towards meeting other goals. If meeting some of your near or mid-term goals will help meet a longer term goal, use this as the beginning of your action plan. Show clearly how the interim goals will help meet the longer term ones. Then start filling in the other actions you think you need to complete to meet each goal. Look for common actions or themes between them and use these to refine your plan to make it more efficient. Don’t forget to include any skills, education or training you might need to acquire in order to fully achieve your goals.

Section 3 – Using your Network to Achieve Goals

Just as critical as the steps you will take in your action plan is thinking about who the people are that can help you with your goals. You might find that these people associate directly with some of the tasks in your action plan, but you may also find that this is a good place to list the leaders and mentors who will help you on a long-term basis with general support. If you’re having a hard time figuring out who would be great assets to help you achieve your goals, pull out your network map and start aligning the people on it with your goals and action steps. If you find that you have an action step where you need help but don’t have anyone in your network to help you, figure out what kind of person you’ll need to help you and who currently in your network map can help you find those people.

One of most critical aspects of using a development plan is to revisit it periodically to check your progress on your goals and recognize yourself for how much you have already accomplished. I recommend reviewing your plan every 6 months, but at the very least you should review it again at the end of your short-term timeframe (1-2 years from writing the plan). Every time you review your plan you should clear out any goals that you have already achieved and re-evaluate your mid and long-term goals. During this review you should evaluate your progress on your mid and long-term goals and determine if you need to write new short-term goals to meet them. Also, as you move through the years, you’ll want to add new long-term goals as your previous long-term goals get closer. Don’t forget to update your action plan and people sections to make plans to achieve new goals or update your current plans and recognize that you have probably added people to your network who might be able to help you.

 

What long-term goals are you setting out to achieve? Tell us in the comments!

 

Photo Credit: By Allen Institute for Brain Science (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Human beings have been telling stories as long as they have had the ability to speak. For generations, storytelling has been proven to be an effective method to share information, communicate themes and messages and persuade people. On October 2, 2015, Evil Genius Leadership Consultants will host a Blab live stream discussion of Stephen Denning's The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. We'll talk about why storytelling is so effective in conveying messages, if you should include storytelling in your own communication style and how we can all become better storytellers.

Storytelling – Evil Genius Leadership Book Club for October

As we frequently talk about with our clients and in our posts, personal and professional development are key to growing into strong leaders ready for the challenges of tomorrow. Approaching development from the perspective of a student of leadership as an art and science is an effective way to absorb new ideas and incorporate them into your leadership philosophy and style.  This kind of development can be difficult to do on your own if you don’t have a group of other leaders to discuss and debate with. We want to help build a strong community of leaders who have a forum to discuss the ideas that are on their minds. This month we will be discussing storytelling as a method of communication to those we lead and others around us.

Storytelling – October’s Leadership Book Club Theme

Human beings have been telling stories as long as they have had the ability to speak. For generations, storytelling has been proven to be an effective method to share information, communicate themes and messages and persuade people. On October 2, 2015, Evil Genius Leadership Consultants will host a Blab live stream discussion of Stephen Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative. We’ll talk about why storytelling is so effective in conveying messages, if you should include storytelling in your own communication style and how we can all become better storytellers.

You can get your copy of the book here:

 

 

We've all got dreams and ambitions, but one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of achieving what we want is setting effective goals before we start out on our journey to reach them. By taking time to clearly define our goals, we make it easier to build a plan of action to follow to get to our destination. Setting clear, measurable and achievable goals is a critical skill for leaders in order to show their teams the direction they want them to head in and empower them to take action on their own initiative.

Setting Effective Goals

We’ve all got dreams and ambitions, but one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of achieving what we want is setting effective goals before we start out on our journey to reach them. By taking time to clearly define our goals, we make it easier to build a plan of action to follow to get to our destination. Setting clear, measurable and achievable goals is a critical skill for leaders to guide their teams the desired direction and empower individual team members to take action on their own initiative.

Keys to Setting Effective Goals

In this video, Jason talks about the three components that make a well-defined goal and offers some additional advice about breaking up big goals into smaller, more manageable goals, re-framing goals to compensate for variables that affect your goals that you may not be able to control, and whether you should set timelines and deadlines for your goals.

Making a commitment to continuous self-improvement is one of the biggest keys to becoming a great leader. Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline to be studied and reflected upon throughout their careers and lives. In the past we’ve discussed some of the more personal aspects of your leadership philosophy and style such as vision, core values and key leadership traits, but skills are little more straightforward and we can focus on some practical ways to grow your skills to become a stronger leader. The approach you take to developing skills is as unique as you are and should be based on your goals as well as the resources you have available.

Developing Skills – 5 Ways You can Level Up!

Making a commitment to continuous self-improvement is one of the biggest keys to becoming a great leader. Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline to be studied and reflected upon throughout their careers and lives. In the past we’ve discussed some of the more personal aspects of your leadership philosophy and style such as vision, core values and key leadership traits, but skills are little more straightforward and we can focus on some practical ways to grow your skills to become a stronger leader.

The approach you take to developing skills is as unique as you are and should be based on your goals as well as the resources you have available. Also, factor in your level of dedication and how important acquiring or improving this skill is to you. If you are just looking for an introduction to the skill or to just get the big basic concepts, enrolling in an executive MBA program or hiring a coach for a year may not be the right choice for you, but finding a free online course or even buying a video program or e-book might get you exactly what you need. If your financial outlay outweighs your level of commitment to improving your skills, you’re just going to end up with less cash and extremely frustrated.

Higher Education

Going back to school for more formal education can be a great way to improve your knowledge and skills, provided you’re doing it for the right reasons. School can be an expensive option for developing skills but many schools have scholarship and grant opportunities as well as those from the government, so there’s almost always a way to get a least a portion of your tuition paid for. I chose to go back to school to get an MBA because I felt I had a lot of practical leadership experience that was applicable to military and government environments, but wanted to get a stronger foundation about leadership and management in the corporate world as well as getting a better handle on the financial aspects of running a business.

Developing Skills though Online Sources

No matter what skill you’re looking to develop, chances are someone, somewhere has put together some online content that can get you started on the path to building that skill. As a tech-savvy reader you probably already know that there are all kinds of YouTube videos that give step by step instructions on how to do any given project. These can be a great place to start developing skills, especially if you have a task you need to get done now and need to learn a new skill as you go. Podcasts are also a great way to learn a new skill, especially for “soft skills” that require changing a mindset as well as learning new techniques. A big advantage of podcasts is that you can listen and still absorb the content while doing something else. I’m not great at multitasking most things, but listening to podcasts while I work out or while I’m driving has been a very effective way for me to build my own skills while making effective use of my time. Another great advantage of all of this online content is that it is 100% free in most cases. Many volunteer groups, professional associations, schools and universities are even offering some of their courses for free if you are looking for a little more structure in your training.

Workshops and Coaching

Just like with online courses, regardless of what you want to learn, there is someone who offers some kind of workshop or individual coaching to help you get there. These can get pricey, getting into the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, so I would recommend that you try some of the online approaches to developing skills described above first. Once you reach the point where you feel like you’ve learned all you can learn on your own from those methods, then look into some paid workshops or coaching. The advantage will be that you will have a pretty solid foundation in the skill to begin with and you can work with your coach or workshop facilitator to spend time on the really advanced topics that will help you level up in that skill.

Workplace Training

Many employers set aside money from their budget to provide training to their employees. If you’re looking to grow some of your skills and have this option available to you, take advantage of it. There may be conditions that your employer places on this training, so be sure to be clear on what those conditions are before you sign on the dotted line for it, but letting your employer pay for your training is a great option, especially because your employer will directly reap the benefits of your newly upgraded skills.

If you’re a small business owner and don’t have money in the budget for developing skills, fear not, you can get some amazing training from other sources such as the Small Business Administration and the local Small Business Development Center in your community. Much of this training is free or low-cost to small business owners and is just as good, if not better, than training that you might pay someone else for.

Volunteering and Community Involvement

Finally, if you’re working on a skill where you feel like you need to get some guidance and feedback from others around you, getting involved in a group in your community can accelerate your leadership skills development. There are groups that are dedicated to helping people improve a certain skill, like Toastmasters, which is a great way to improve your public speaking in a welcoming environment with people who will give you honest and effective feedback. If you want to build some of your organizational, management or people skills, joining a volunteer group in your community can give you some opportunities to work with people on projects that you might not get on your own, plus you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for giving something back to your community.

As you can see there are a lot of options to developing skills you feel like you need to grow as a leader. The method you choose can be based on a lot of factors such as the resources you have available, the time commitment you’re willing to put in and how quickly you feel like you need to develop the skill.

Developing strong skills that support your leadership philosophy and style is a little more straightforward than some of the deep personal reflection we've been doing, but just as important. Your leadership skills are a key piece to exemplifying the leadership traits and core values that you identified to be important to your success. Leadership skills are different from your leadership traits because skills are more of an intellectual pursuit while traits are a little more internal and personal.

Leadership Skills – How to Assess and Build Them

Developing strong skills that support your leadership philosophy and style is a little more straightforward than some of the deep personal reflection we’ve been doing, but just as important. Your leadership skills are a key piece to exemplifying the leadership traits and core values that you identified to be important to your success. Leadership skills are different from your leadership traits because skills are more of an intellectual pursuit while traits are a little more internal and personal.

Leadership Skills Self-Assessment

In this video, Jason walks you through an exercise you can do to determine the kinds of skills you’ll need to take more of a leadership role in your career and personal life. The key to this exercise is to think about where you want to be in the future, not where you are now, and picturing the skills set that the perfect candidate for the job would have. Another important to this exercise is to be honest in your self-assessment of how good you are at these particular skills. You might even want to ask for some candid feedback from a trusted friend or colleague to get a second opinion about how strong your leadership skills are.

Leadership as a Discipline

Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline that needs continual study and reflection. Honestly assessing your leadership skills is a great first step to developing a mindset of life-long learning about leadership that will improve your ability to meet your goals and have stronger connections and relationships with the people around you, both professionally and personally.

A more solid approach to developing your leadership style is to take a much more conscious and deliberate method towards choosing the leadership traits you want to exhibit as part of your leadership philosophy and style as well as those traits you don’t want to exhibit. Much like determining and articulating your core values, this takes careful consideration and self-reflection.

Leadership Style – Tips for Developing Your Key Leadership Traits

When it comes to developing your own personal leadership style there are two common approaches. The first is to default to your natural personality in all situations and let your current mood have a big influence over your decisions and actions. The disadvantage of this approach to developing a leadership style is that it often results in inconsistent decisions and knee-jerk reactions that are frequently out of alignment with the qualities the leader openly states that he or she values. While it may sound counter-intuitive, falling back on your natural personality often results in a perception of inauthenticity and a lack of trust from the team because of these disconnects between words and actions. A very few leaders are the exception to this rule because their true personalities and core values revolve around authenticity and trust.

A more solid approach to developing your leadership style is to take a much more conscious and deliberate method towards choosing the leadership traits you want to exhibit as part of your leadership philosophy and style as well as those traits you don’t want to exhibit. Much like determining and articulating your core values, this takes careful consideration and self-reflection. Additionally, because your leadership traits are reflected in your behavior, it can take conscious, sometimes significant effort to really authentically adopt some leadership traits if they are not part of our inherent personality.

Identifying Your Key Leadership Traits

One of the most effective ways to determine which traits you’d like include in your leadership style is to observe other leaders and make a list of the positive and negative traits that they exhibit. There’s no standard list of traits that all leaders should have, although you will probably find similar traits among most leaders such as integrity, drive and commitment, but there are always exceptions. And since none of us are perfect, you’ll probably observe a few negative traits in leaders as well. It’s not critical that you try to emulate the traits of one particular leader exactly as much as the idea is to observe many leaders, see what traits make them effective or ineffective, and consciously choose for yourself the combination of leadership traits that you want to exhibit to make yourself a successful leader.

It’s important that your leadership traits are consistent with your core values. Many leaders have strong leadership traits that work really well for them, but will be of limited effectiveness in your leadership style if they are not aligned with your core values. For example you may have a hard time authentically exhibiting a trait of transparency if integrity is not one of your core values.  A good exercise that you can do after you’ve built your list of traits is to take each one of those traits and link it back to one or more of your core values. If you have a trait that doesn’t map back to a core value it’s probably worth exploring if you have missed a core value that is critical to you. If you have a core value that doesn’t have any traits mapped back to it, it’s probably worth some self-reflection on traits you can adopt to exemplify that core value in your daily words and actions.

Additionally, if you’ve identified some traits you have that you believe may be negative and that you want to remove from your leadership style, look back at your core values and recognize how these traits conflict with them. Trying to hold to your core values can provide strong motivation to improve in the areas you feel are important.

Incorporating Your Leadership Traits into Your Leadership Style

After doing some honest self-assessment about the traits you have on your list, you may find that you may not be as strong in some of those traits you admire and respect as you would like to be. There’s nothing wrong with this because being a great leader is all about determining the areas you feel like you need to grow in and taking action to make that growth happen.

Building a plan to develop those leadership traits you desire can be intimidating, but an easy first step you can take is to go back to your notes about effective leaders and the traits that they have. Ask yourself what behaviors they exhibited that exemplified those traits and try to work those behaviors into your daily routine. If compassion is a trait you want to grow in yourself, try asking people about their day and what they have going on and actively listen and be genuinely interested in the answer. It may be hard at first, but with practice and commitment (another great leadership trait) you can see some real growth in this area.

Figuring out those key leadership traits you most want to demonstrate is an important step towards developing your own personal leadership philosophy and leadership style. Making a conscious effort will help you make more considered and reasoned decisions and prevent falling back to knee-jerk reactions or overreactions.

Tell us in the comments which leadership traits you believe are most important to effective leadership.

Photo Credit: “Solar Eclipse in Iceland – Staring at the sun”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_Eclipse_in_Iceland_-_Staring_at_the_sun.jpeg#/media/File:Solar_Eclipse_in_Iceland_-_Staring_at_the_sun.jpeg

Every leader has their own unique leadership philosophy and style that is partially defined by the leadership traits the exhibit. We all have a combination of positive traits that make us successful as leaders and negative traits that might be a barrier to successfully leading others. Great leaders are conscious of their leadership traits and continue to develop themselves to make their strong, positive traits stronger and improve upon or eliminate negative traits from their leadership style. Another key understanding that great leaders have is that in order to be effective leaders, their leadership traits, leadership philosophy, and leadership style need to be in alignment with their personal core values.

Leadership Traits

Every leader has their own unique leadership philosophy and style that is partially defined by the leadership traits the exhibit. We all have a combination of positive traits that make us successful as leaders and negative traits that might be a barrier to successfully leading others. Great leaders are conscious of their leadership traits and continue to develop themselves to make their strong, positive traits stronger and improve upon or eliminate negative traits from their leadership style. Another key understanding that great leaders have is that in order to be effective leaders, their leadership traits, leadership philosophy, and leadership style need to be in alignment with their personal core values.

Leadership Traits Exercise – Observe and Report

In the video,  Jason describes an exercise that you can do to start gathering information on the leadership traits that you might want to include in your leadership philosophy and style (and which ones you might want to leave out). The essence of the exercise is to spend a week observing leaders in your community and record their positive and negative leadership traits. Once you have a good sample of traits, decide which traits you would like to include in your own leadership style and which you would like to leave out. Don’t forget to observe the informal leaders in your community as well as the formal leaders that have official authority over others.

Honest Self-Assessment

Once you have your list, the next step is to honestly self-assess how well you exhibit these leadership traits in your daily words and actions. This can be difficult even for the most experienced of us, so it may make sense to ask a friend to assess you in the same areas after you’ve done your own self-assessment. Most importantly, don’t worry about having a certain set of traits on your list. Use this as a fun opportunity to get to know yourself a little better and to help you think about the kind of leader you aspire to be!

Share in the comments your experience doing this exercise!

 

 

 

True authenticity comes from knowing who we are and what we really believe in at our core and acting in alignment with those beliefs. Defining our core values and bringing them to the front of our conscious minds helps us connect more deeply with the others around us and inspire authentic behavior in ourselves and our teams.

Core Values – 4 Steps to Unlock Your Authenticity

For decades people have talked about authenticity as a key trait for successful leaders, but it can be difficult to know if we are acting authentically. There are a lot of surveys and resources out on the internet that you can use to assess your authenticity, but before you go spend money on something like that, let’s consider what makes someone authentic.

A simple definition I like to use for authenticity is “acting in accordance with what you truly believe.” So the first step towards authenticity is figuring out what your core values are. Consciously identifying your core values is the beginning of consciously developing your leadership philosophy and style. Think of core values as a signpost that point you back to the ideals that you truly believe in when you are making decisions and taking actions to lead others. Trying to adopt a leadership philosophy or style that doesn’t align with your core values will lead to a lot of inner conflict and strife as well as making you appear inauthentic by those around you.

Defining your Personal Core Values

Core values come from a lot of different places in our background, the values our family taught us, the values and expectations our profession has, the values that come from our community. Many of these values are in our subconscious and to be effective leaders we need to bring them to the front of our conscious mind to help us make decisions and take actions in alignment with these values.  There is often a lot of discussion about what should be a core value and what shouldn’t but when it comes to your personal core values, what’s really important is that you choose 3 or 4 ideals that really mean the most to you and drive your actions and decision making process. Some examples of common core values are:

  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Service
  • Excellence

Here is an exercise you can do to start to bring your core values to the front of your mind:

  • Set aside half an hour in a quiet place where you won’t be affected by outside influences. Get something you can use to record your thoughts (pen and paper, laptop, phone, etc.). This is a great exercise to record in your Leader’s Journal if you have started one.
  • Think about the behaviors that you or others exhibit that you believe lead to successful outcomes and interactions with others. These can be leadership situations or just personal situations. Examples could be speaking honestly, helping others, supporting others in their endeavors, etc. Write these behaviors down as they come to mind.
  • Once you have your list of successful behaviors, prioritize them with the most important at the top of your list in descending order. You may find some are similar enough to group them together.
  • Now try to associate a single word representing a value for each behavior on your list (If you need 2 or 3 words that’s okay). If speaking honestly and being transparent are at the top of your list, integrity is a single word that you can use to represent the value behind these behaviors. These words become your core values.

If you have more than about 5 core values on your list, you may consider regrouping some of them under other core values that are higher up on your list if that makes sense. If you have more than 5, that’s okay. The goal here is to bring the ideals you truly believe in to your conscious mind. The next challenge is how to communicate your core values to others

Articulating Your Core Values

Now that you have identified your core values and are acting in alignment with them, there will be times that you will want to communicate your core values to your team and others you interact with. If you’re taking over as the team lead, it’s always a good idea to outline your leadership philosophy (including your core values) to the rest of your team. You may be promoted to take over your current team and your colleagues may have a really good understanding of your values and how you employ them. This is still a good chance to start getting the rest of the team focused on what you believe is important.

The same is true if you’re forming a brand new team. An advantage is that if you get to select who is on your team you can pulse them for their own personal core values and see if they are a good fit for the direction you want to take the team in.

Even if you’re not formally in charge of a team or don’t supervise other people there are a couple of advantages to communicating your core values to those around you. First, it lets people know where you’re coming from and what you base your actions and decisions on and will give them a framework of how to work with you better. Second, being open about what your core values are provides some accountability for you to act according to those values and when your words and actions match each other and what you believe in you’ll be acting with authenticity.

Reconciling Differences between Personal and Organizational Core Values

There will almost certainly be times when your personal core values don’t match 100% with those of the people around you or with the core values of your organization. It’s very rare for this kind of disconnect to result in a complete breakdown. This is just one of the many conflicts that can occur between people in an organization and it’s important to take time to work through the differences and discuss solutions to the problem that can let everyone act consistently with their core values, even if it may not be the preferred solution for each individual. In extreme cases, if the organizational core values have changed or are significantly incompatible with your personal core values and there is no opportunity to reconcile that despite best efforts, it may be time to move on from that organization.

True authenticity comes from knowing who we are and what we really believe in at our core and acting in alignment with those beliefs. Defining our core values and bringing them to the front of our conscious minds helps us connect more deeply with the others around us and inspire authentic behavior in ourselves and our teams.

Tell us in the comments how well this core values exercise worked for you!

Photo Credit: Chris Downer [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons