By Benjamin Laker
Some leaders have ‘it’. They can walk into any room and command the attention of those present – somewhat akin to a president on inauguration day.
They’re so inspirational that in difficult times “they inspire their team to feel stronger, ready and willing to march into any battle,” says Drew Povey – a leading authority on leadership.
But why is that the case?
Aspiring leaders the world over want to know – they’re curious about the leadership qualities executives look for, who commonly promote candidates who have ‘it’.
But what is ‘it’?
Millions of observations made by Povey over 15 years reveal a secret sauce: a Leadership Factor, comprising seven difference-making characteristics, agnostic of domain specificity “for they’re discernible in 22 different industries and sectors,” says Povey.
These characteristics are as follows:
The ability to ask why is integral to leadership – coupled with a drive to dig in during good times, bad times, and the best of times. “Leaders don’t learn very well when they fail,” says Povey. And that’s because they fear criticism – no one likes getting criticized, and some leaders handle it better than others, but deep down, it’s a challenging experience for most. Interestingly, this is a coin-flip observed in times of success. Leaders often fail to gain an understanding of why they achieved success – they merely accept reasons lacking depth such as ‘doing well’ – and don’t desire to forensically analyze their coup de grâce. Genuine curiosity therefore, relates to being brave enough to find an ultimate why in times of famine and feast.
So, when was the last time you scrutinized your successes and failures?
Leaders must accept that throughout life, everybody and everything is subject to change – for change is the only constant. Most leaders are frequently subject to phraseology including ‘if you stand still you get left behind’ or ‘if you stand still, you’ll get run over’. While empirics suggest this to be accurate, “leaders are needing to change, and often change frequently if they’re going to move forward,” says Povey – which inevitably challenges their status quo. But a word of caution – all growth requires change, but not all change results in growth. And so, leaders need to be selective regarding their growth opportunities.
Where will yours come from?
This element, leaders often believe, is something they’re either born with or lack. However, observations made by Povey suggest that charisma can be learned, and enhanced. Being more positive and energetic in approach can have considerable impact on the way people lead themselves, and others. And importantly, this notion lies within the grasp of everyone – the first step on the charismatic journey isn’t public speaking or understanding laws of magnetism – be interested in the needs of others, rather than being interesting to others. While this sounds nominal, it is quantifiably impactful to those led by leaders.
So, how much do you genuinely care about the needs of your team?
This is a critical human element of effective leaders – an ability to create a bond with those they’re working with. And so, many consider this aspect of leadership to be Emotional Intelligence. While that quotient certainly plays a part, it’s more so a fusion of connections between people and people, people and projects, and people and processes. “Like doing a dot-to-dot, it’s about creating the human connection to help people deliver high-performance,” says Povey.
Completing a mapping exercise helps to identify the essential relationships occurring between people, projects, and processes – so, what does yours look like?
Many leaders believe they must be confident to fulfil their roles effectively, but this is not the case. Confidence is the ability to build belief in those you lead – empowering them to deliver excellence. Whether the development of a growth mindset or implementation of strategies from positive psychology, confidence is fundamentally about boosting the belief banks of followers – helping to migrate them from current performance levels towards a new, higher plain, thus maximizing their potential.
So, what are you doing currently that empowers your team?
It’s very difficult to talk about leadership in any sector and any setting, without discussing the element of teams. The concern here is that it’s almost so evident that the notion is often forgotten. Leaders have heard phraseology such as ‘teamwork makes the dreams work’ and ‘team means Together Everyone Achieves More’. Empirics suggest these pearls of wisdom are true. Thus, greater synergy and alignment leads to higher performance. Povey uses a sailing analogy to emphasize this important point, saying, “rowing together at the same time at the same pace will always move the boat faster”.
So, what could you be doing to row your organization faster?
It’s one of the most critical factors in our current leadership world. And if we are going to do anything meaningful,” says Povey, “leaders must make a difference”. Put neatly by Steve Jobs, “make a dent in the universe”. To do so, leaders need bucket loads of courage. However, it’s not what it might seem on the surface – for courage comprises two facets. Firstly, a leap of faith and secondly, staying on course in times of difficulty. The latter is so important, and necessitates an understanding of a number of elements including direction, resilience, and a bias towards action.
So, what difference will you make? Answering this most fundamental of questions is the first step in acquiring the Leadership ‘It’ Factor.