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Your job as a leader is to enable those you are leading to arrive at the intended destination.
It takes a lot to lead a group of people from a given point A, to another point B.
And organization relies on great leaders to create the right conditions needed for people to embrace transformation.
But it’s not enough to create these conditions.
It’s also about yourself, as a leader.
What do people think of when they’re about to approach you?
What do they remember about your interactions with them? How will the answer the question, “what kind of leader are you?”
As a leader, the way you conduct yourself and how others experience you will influence everyone you work with and shape how team members respond to tasks and challenges.
I’m about to show you the three qualities people will most likely remember about you.
And guess what. Your success in leading transformational change will depend on how you develop and exhibit these qualities.
1. A true leader is Approachable
That’s to say your behaviors and expressive tendencies must be those that help you build rapport with the people you’re leading.
People need to feel that you’re open to speak, and hear from them. They also need to feel that you care about them.
I don’t mean caring about how they do the work you give them, but really caring about their career, their health, even their family. And they must feel that this is genuine.
People need to feel psychologically safe to open up to you.
And you’re the one to create such an environment with the way you manage your emotions at work.
Your behaviors need to convey openness, empathy, and emotional competency.
So, ask yourself these two questions to identify where you need to improve.
- Are you authentic by being true to yourself and genuine in interactions with others?
- Are you warmth by being likeable and caring about team members?
2. A true leader demonstrates Credibility
This is about how you convey your know-how and authority.
People will know if you really know what you’re doing.
Why should people trust you to follow the direction you’ve set for them? The fact that you occupy a position of authority in the organization is not sufficient for people to follow you genuinely.
People must believe that you’re capable of leading them to that point B.
First, people need to feel that you have the capacity to do the work of leadership and take them to that future.
So you must demonstrate mastery of digital technologies, their trends, and how they enable new capabilities in the organization.
You must also demonstrate your capabilities to lead and manage digital transformation. All these will prove your competence.
Second, the people you lead need to feel that you’re making space for and acknowledging their contributions, and recognizing your own areas of limitation.
People appreciate humble leaders.
Third, the people you lead also need to feel that you have a steadfast commitment to see things through to completion.
Some leaders are very good at building momentum and starting projects, but don’t follow through to fulfill their promises.
People will not take you serious if you’ve not demonstrated that they can count on your word.
So ask yourself these questions to identify where you need to focus to develop your credibility.
- Do you have the digital, management, and leadership skills that prove you’re competent to lead digital transformation? Which skill gaps must you fill?
- Are you making space for others to express their own opinions in every interaction? Do you often acknowledge your limitations?
- Do you keep to your word in seeing things through to completion?
3. A true leader creates Aspiration
In other words, you must create in others a sense of high expectations and a belief that together with you, they can meet or even surpass those expectations.
People become more motivated when they feel they’re part of something bigger than them.
And most people are motivated by challenges.
I’m not saying you should be a motivational guru. No! That’s not what the situation expects from you.
It’s about being mindful of your words, deeds, and interactions in order to convey both
(a) the heights that those being led can achieve, individually and collectively, and
(b) faith in their capacity to get there.
And you need to balance these two aspects.
That’s to say the expectations you set should be at the same time challenging, and perceived as achievable.
So, ask yourself these two questions to know where you stand, and where you need improvement.
- Are you setting high expectations that others feel energized to pursue?
- Are you creating a sense of possibility and confidence in what can be achieved?
Now, how do you balance these three qualities?
As you lead the organization through digital transformation, there’s a risk of insisting one of these qualities over the others.
Even great leaders struggle with this.
They spend their time looking for that right balance that suits each leadership situation they come across.
For instance, rating high on credibility, and low on being approachable, you risk being feared by the people you’re leading.
And if you’re approachable but not able to demonstrate credibility, you’ll fail to earn the respect of the team and be treated as a pushover.
Lacking in any of these traits will have a significant impact on whether and how people rally behind you during digital transformation.
Be ready for surprises
Take what I’m about to tell you now very serious.
There will be times when the qualities you manifest will be judged differently from how you intended. Or where your behavior will not leave the imprint your desired.
In these circumstances, you will need to be alert to the impact you are having, and work diligently to draw on your distinctive qualities to create the imprint that meets the needs of the situation.
At the same time, research shows that certain attributes of a leader can cause people to interpret their behavior in a distorted or biased way – or have expectations of the leader that reflect unwitting and unfair biases.
For instance, a leader’s gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, and accent are attributes that influence others’ judgments of and expectations of the leader.
In these circumstances, it is important to pay careful attention to the context in order to know how to navigate the way you present yourself.
What about you? In which of the three qualities do you think you can personally draw on as a leader? And where do you think you need to improve?
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