Developing Next-Level Leadership Power

Inner strength generates charisma (from the Greek word for “gift”). Give yourself the gift of less stress and greater internal “go.”

Leadership:Making positive change happen.Working with and through others. Seeing and heading off snags to improvement at the earliest levels.Maintaining focus in times of distraction and turmoil.

How can you further develop these attributes? While I could write a book on this (and already have), there are some standout keys to developing make-it-happen leadership power.

Start by understanding leadership begins first with yourself, secondarily with others. There’s an old martial arts expression: “Strong inside, weak outside; Strong outside, weak inside.” It’s difficult to effectively split your attention. If main focus is on projecting an image of omnipotence and omniscience, there’s less energy available to nurture internal strength. The implication is to concern yourself more with your relationship with your own clearsightedness, motivation, stress control, and decision- making, less on the image you want others to see. If you can’t truly motivate yourself, how can you inspire others? Inner strength generates charisma (from the Greek word for “gift”). Give yourself the gift of less stress and greater internal “go.”

Best leaders develop concentric skillsets. First, they grow their internal relationship.Next, they boost their abilities to influence others—motivating positively leading to self-motivation; drawing out and matching strengths to new project requirements; turning conflict into excitement and creativity; uprooting resistance. Third, they elevate change mastery—reacting calmly and successfully to surprising events; planning needed change; then implementing new systems and methods with minimal pushback.

Other keys to next-level leadership power:

Reverse Spider-Man. Have you seen Spider-Man® movies where the hero’s reminded, “With great power comes great responsibility”? Strong leaders understand this in reverse. They know when they take great responsibility for their actions, they’ve entered the realm of great power, even when unexpected events or “crazy” people block the way.

When you’re able to see your contributing part to every outcome, you now have the potential to adjust and redirect events in previously unthought-of directions.When others don’t understand, look at your own communications first (not their orneriness or lack of smarts). If plans peter out, focus first on what you might do differently and how you can breathe new life into them, rather than blaming others’ disinterest or lack of vision.

Connect yourself. Extend your antennae. Perceive others’mood and morale. Is the “quiet” on the floor the tense, held-breath kind or a comfortable silence where others don’t feel the need to talk just to get attention? What are workers’, managers’, and Executives’ personal interests and fears? Do people trust you enough to offer lessthan- flattering feedback? This may not feel great at the time but is often what others are thinking or saying behind your back—and information you can use to improve next time.And do you actively elicit negative concerns, rather than either avoiding or just passively waiting for them to get through obstacles to come your way?

Employ the Proximity Principle. Physics’Gravitational Law states the closer two objects are, the greater the force they exert on each other.Whether applied to presenting, influencing or safer lifting, distance reduces power (and risks acting overextended). Make proximity work for you in all communications. Employ closest interactions when you really want to get something done. For example, face-to-face discussions—individual or group— have most power-potential, followed by phone, personal e-mail, and then broadcast messages or posted notices. Prefer video conference to telephone discussion. Strongest leaders know that, while meetings are more upfront expensive than remote call-ins, the former are irreplaceable for strategically aligning staff toward common objectives.

Be it, don’t just wear it.What you truly believe and are committed to leaks out loudly, no matter what messages you wish to transmit. People sense authentic consistency (at very least in the background). Before asking others to accept new strategies, be sure to first work them out in your own mind—perceived negatives, options, strengths. Identify (privately at first, if you wish) your own passions and underlying commitments. Remind yourself of these regularly—most essential in today’s world of mixed agendas.

Develop a culture of alertness. Rather than expecting hypervigilance in a way that can’t be realistically sustained, emphasize curiosity, awareness, and skills for directing attention.Attention is a critical component in leadership, communications, sports, and safety. Always begin with yourself. Practice shifting between background and foreground attention.Monitor externally (morale, workflow, use of equipment, customers’ satisfaction) and internally (personal direction, health, weak areas). Strengthen your ability to command all the “S’s”—Scanning, Selecting, Switching, Sustaining, Seeing ahead, Surrounding, Sensing in, Self-monitoring.

A SmartMoney magazine article defined Power as “the ability to change the future.” By developing your leadership skills to the next level, you can simultaneously realize the power to catalyze great improvements on a scope that might surprise even you.

This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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