That is a question that good leaders often ponder. And if it has not been top of mind for you, reflecting on it now is an opportunity to reset yourself as you start the new year.
The answer is simple. (Please note I am saying it's simple, not easy): Influence is the answer. A good leader can influence others.
Think about how often leaders persuade and influence everyone in the organization to focus on pulling in the same direction. How do they refocus their staff around a strategy to survive an economic recession? How do leaders ensure their people understand the priorities of the moment? How do they develop the leaders of tomorrow in their companies? Leaders that are effective in influencing others have the ability to do these two things effectively.
They do all that by communicating and effectively teaching day in, and day out; that's how they influence.
Communication and Teaching go hand-in-hand when it comes to leadership. Let’s start with the understanding that communication is not the same as information. Effective communication requires a connection with the receivers of that information. Information alone does not create any impact, nor does it mean that you are communicating effectively. Case in point: you can send an email communicating new initiatives or policies in your organization, and more than half the time, people will miss it or need help understanding the way it was intended.
A good leader is also a good teacher. Just like a good teacher, a good leader will study their students. They will treat each of them differently meeting them where they are—understanding their strengths and weaknesses and focusing on them as individuals. As John Maxwell says in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the law of connection,
“Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand”
I love this phrase, as it encapsulates everything you need to do before you lead anyone. You must make the time to know your people, and what I mean by that, It's not basic information about where they are from, what they like or dislike to eat, or what was shared in their resumes, but also who they are as people, their values, what they want and aspire to in life. To do that, the leader must be intentional and humble enough to come to meet their people where they are. The leader's responsibility is to connect with their people, not the people to connect with their leader.
Like a good teacher, the leader should be knowledgeable about their material, and even more than having a strong handle on the business and strategies, the leader should have passion. Do what you love and love what you do! Passion is the leader's fuel to energize their people and their organization. If I ask you to remember one teacher from your early years in school or a professor in your university that you admire or enjoy the most, who comes to mind? Why? Let me ask - were they good communicators? Did they make you feel special and knew who you were? Were they passionate? Did they inspire you to learn more and be more as a result of your time with them?
You see, teachers are continuous learners – they acknowledge their success is largely from their time as students. They continue to learn so they can continue to effectively teach the most relevant and inspiring things to their people. At Butler Street, we believe in this principle to the extent that none of our training is delivered without the leaders being invested – FIRST. As a behavior change company, we believe that leaders must be the torch carriers for their people; they need to believe in it first before they can transfer to their people. It must change them first before it can change its people. It's about walking the walk and talking the talk - leading by example. Likewise, Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world." You could change that saying to
“Be the change you want to see in your organization by influencing passionately and communicating and teaching effectively”