How To Be An Engaging Leader

While the search for the ‘secrets’ to effective leadership has been going on for decades, accomplished leaders will tell you that there are no secrets. There are however numerous examples of leaders who exhibit tremendous flexibility in their behavioral styles, and by doing so increase their capacity to influence others. It’s that ability to influence others that separates successful leaders from those who struggle.

Imagine for a moment that you are a leader who places a heavy emphasis on an analytical approach. Basically you’re more left brained in your approach. You have a team of people reporting to you who are highly creative and sometimes come across as emotional. Basically they are more right brained.

In your interactions with them you notice that they talk a lot about their feelings. You have some difficulty with talking about your feelings as you feel that business is more ‘scientific’. You have been schooled in the scientific approach and it has served you well. You wish that some of your staff would take a more objective scientific approach to their work.

The irony however is that in order to influence them in that direction, you need to become more like them. Becoming more like them helps to establish rapport. And there can be no influence without rapport. Imploring them to become more like you would fall on deaf ears. You have it within your control to change your own behaviors, you do not have it within your control to change their behaviors.

Changing your own behaviors is a lot easier than trying to change someone else’s behavior. But changing your own behaviors is not without its challenges. Changing your behavior means dropping some behaviors and adopting new behaviors. For example to become more right brained you need to adopt a style of risk-taking that ignores detailed analysis. Basically you need to learn to trust your gut more. You need to rely more heavily on your feelings and you need to do less analytical work.

Start by making a list of the types of behaviors that you observe in those people whom you are trying to influence. Study this over time, give yourself roughly 3 weeks of observing others’ behaviors. After the three-week observation is completed, make a list of those behaviors that you must drop in order to make room for the new behaviors.

You should end up with two lists of behaviors:

  • Behaviors that you must practice less
  • Behaviors that you must practice more

This will create tension for you, and this is good. Tension causes change because tension demands attention. Here are some typical ‘less/more’ lists of behaviors:

  • Less questioning of people
  • Less analysis
  • Less solitary work
  • Less attention to detail
  • More accepting of people
  • More attention to feelings
  • More networking
  • More attention to high level concepts

Adopting this approach will challenge you. That’s the way it should be. If you do not feel challenged by your attempts at behavioral change then you will not change. Take it one day at a time.

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