Leadership is a core factor in many interpersonal relationships; whether it’s at work, at home or as a volunteer. What we enable when we are focused on bringing leadership to our interactions with others takes effort and the ability to see what is needed, and then practice it consistently. It is only when we are able to apply leadership skills consistently that we can help everyone to be their best (including ourselves). So why wouldn’t this happen? There will be circumstances where leadership may not fully be present for you and you are less able to exercise it for yourself or others. As an example, I’ve joked before that I can be very emotionally intelligent, until you rear-end my car. When we cultivate relationships with others (even under stressful circumstances, like car accidents) it’s important to ensure you are able to be yourself (first and foremost) as well as a leader and it’s also important to manage this type of circumstance with an approach that helps to ensure the best outcome possible for everyone involved. However, when it’s not convenient to be one, we may forget to be a leader. It is a choice we make.
In many individuals’ work life leadership consistency is tested every day. Consistency is important for many reasons, primarily because it builds trust, the foundation in any relationship. It also demonstrates positive behaviours that increase the number of times these types of behaviours are present in our workplaces (we all share in making this happen for ourselves and others). It also speaks to ethics and values, and when those are apparent it allows other people to respect you and connect with you on a level that opens opportunities. It transcends “style” differences and leaves you more room to maneuver when you work with others who may have different approaches or even opposing views. If they are confident you are working from a common place (values, common goals, etc.) you’ll get the leeway you need to fully articulate your ideas before a judgment challenges them.
Being yourself is key to allowing your leadership skills to stay present for you in whatever you undertake or face (even a car accident). If leadership is something you are exercising strongly at work, but not elsewhere in life, ask yourself “why?”. An unfortunate practice for some people is a “persona” they take on, which explains the individuals you may have encountered who act one way in their “work persona” and another way under a different set of circumstances (i.e. the professional manager someone from the leadership team may see versus the same manager who is condescending and caustic to direct reports). Personas are not authentic, they are facades; personas make it hard for others to know who to expect when they meet with you (professional or bully?). If your leadership skills (listening to learn, being objective, etc.) are only being used when it is easy or convenient for you to do so, you can be assured that they aren’t consistently present in all aspects of your work and life because you have chosen (maybe unknowingly chosen) to exercise them circumstantially. As an example, I have a past colleague who had phenomenal leadership skills, but if you put a higher up in the room, she became passive and there was no evidence of the great leader in her.
Watch yourself for signs of inconsistency in the way you exercise leadership. Do you strive to practice leadership all the time or only when “you need to” (as in the case of my past colleague)? Would you exercise leadership when you feel you’ve been wronged (like in a traffic accident)? Do you only engage your leadership skills when it is convenient (do you respond one way to one set of people and different way to another)? Are you aware of the wider implications of not practicing leadership consistently? As an example, I witnessed a hockey coach verbally denigrate a referee in the player’s dressing area after a game. The coach’s team was made up of eight and nine year olds who hung on his every cutting word, the referee was fourteen; how do you think they felt about this leader from their community (someone they look up to) speaking that way? Consistency is key in whatever leadership commitments you undertake.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.