Contemporary Leaders Know How They Impact Others

Businesswoman Looking in the MirrorAwareness of what you’re good at and what’s holding you back can help you grow as a leader and play to strengths you already have. Focus on your best characteristics to unlock your true potential.

Today’s post is by Diana Jones, author of Leadership Material: how personal experience shapes executive presence (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

360-degree feedback was introduced as a corrective to traditional one-way communication, which took the form of directives from leaders to staff. 360-degree feedback was a chance for bosses, peers, and staff to anonymously share how they saw the leader along a number of parameters. The idea that staff could give feedback to their manager without fear of retribution was a revelation. Leaders ceased to be islands unto themselves and were given fresh recognition that the views of those around them mattered.

While 360-degree feedback was a great concept; in practice it turned out to rarely be helpful. The eight killers where feedback loses its power are:

  • It’s rarely personalized
  • It’s rarely context related
  • It overlooks what the leader has developed
  • There are too many items
  • Bosses use it to avoid talking directly to their staff
  • Fearful staff rely on it to alert leaders to development areas
  • Result are filed and therefore not truly confidential
  • The results translator frequently has little or no relationship with the recipient

Managers’ reliance on formal systems to implement feedback missed the point. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to developing leaders. Contexts vary, and leaders’ development goals are highly personalized. The choice of person delivering feedback dramatically affects the leader’s willingness to accept feedback and act on it.

Discover how you impact others

People’s experience of working with you has the biggest impact on your reputation, your relationships, and the result you produce with others. The key influencer of your impact on others is your behavior. How do you discover how you impact others, particularly when you are under pressure? Ask your trusted advisors – other senior leaders or peers who see you in action.

Most leaders I know are acutely conscious of behaviors they want to change to increase their effectiveness. Many want to shift how they are perceived, e.g., from being understated or invisible to being sought after by senior leaders for advice, or from being abrasive to being perceived as approachable and helpful.

I work with leaders’ self-insight and their own interpersonal perceptions as they set outcomes for professional development. This way, their development occurs both within and subsequent to the program. They have either achieved the outcomes or are on their way to doing so when they conclude the program. They measure their success, knowing where they began.

Outcomes are results oriented rather than action oriented

Powerful development outcomes are desired future results stated as if they are already in place.

By identifying 2- 3 behaviors which you default to under pressure and which are not fit for purpose, you know what is holding you back. As you set outcomes for your leadership development, you already have a vision for yourself behaving in new ways. Daring to think of your desired future state in the here and now creates excitement and possibility. The practice of setting outcomes serves multiple purposes for leaders; they can immediately:

  • Accept they are visionary
  • Communicate outcomes simply
  • Project themselves into the future
  • See links between strategy and outcomes
  • Inspire others with their personal commitment

Setting outcomes requires specificity. To ensure you have well defined outcomes, ask yourself, “What would I be doing if I had greater confidence? Who would notice? What would other see me do?”

Astonishingly, minor shifts in behavior have major positive impacts. Imagine incorporating 2 – 3 of these behavioral changes into your everyday interactions:

  • Looking at people when you speak to them
  • Pausing between sentences
  • Saying hello and introducing yourself to new people
  • Being deliberate with when to contribute and when not to
  • Using “I want” when you want something, e.g., “I want this by the end of today.”
  • Saying no without an explanation
  • Saying “That’s not possible” to impossible requests
  • Saying what you want to say simply and succinctly
  • Inviting involvement: “What are your thoughts?”
  • Letting people know you appreciate them
  • Letting people know how what is important to you
  • Being clear on the outcomes you want in meetings

Behavior changes are associated with complex psychological and emotional shifts. The three key actions help make you shifts default (habitual) behaviors:

  • Realizing you are not alone and that others share your experience
  • Understanding and accepting the origin of your default behaviors
  • Assessing the relevance of the behavior from when it first developed to your current situation

By imagining going beyond what you already know, you have immediately begun to embed the expansions of your capabilities. By imagining fresh possibilities, you are in new territory. Things that once held you back or tripped you up are no longer in the front of your mind.

Lead with What You Know

I work with many highly skilled and experienced leaders. Their self-perception shows they excel in many areas and are strong in a myriad of competencies. Most traditional feedback focuses almost exclusively on the areas to develop. They make this the main thing.

What is more important for leaders is to accept the capacities they do have, and relax and enjoy the results. Imagine the culture of our organizations if leaders accepted their strengths and truly enjoyed their work, rather than focusing and working hard on their weaknesses.

Leadership MaterialDiana Jones is a leadership coach, advisor, and author of Leadership Material: How personal experiences shape executive presence (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Contact her at

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