As a former Navy SEAL, I have always tried to apply the leadership lessons we learned in training and tested in battle to growing high-performance teams in the business world. At the end of the day, leaders in any environment are either effective or ineffective. They are either driving the team forward to accomplish the mission or they are falling short.
Most of the articles in my column touch on many different aspects of how to succeed as a leader. The purpose of this article is to provide insight into some very simple methods for leading with greater confidence and projecting power. I refer to these four competencies as the BASE method: Body language, Authority, Sincerity, and Empathy.
To project an aura of confidence and power you first have to believe in yourself and use your personal attributes to your advantage. There are significant factors that play into each of these traits that require attention and practice in order to maintain consistency. When you practice these methods, others will take notice and follow suit.
Great communication as a leader is about 7 percent the words you say. The rest comes down to tone and body language. This is something that can be easily practiced in any setting. Whether you are networking at an event or giving a companywide address, do so with a manner of confidence and strength. Keep your hands out of your pockets. Stand up straight. Make eye contact with as many people as you can, regardless of how large the audience is. Don't slouch or fold your arms across your body. Staying fit is also a great way to maintain higher levels of energy and enthusiasm. When you actively practice leveraging positive body language, it actually increases your own confidence in front of an audience.
Building and maintaining authority as a leader is easier said than done. Everything you do is being scrutinized. You must exhibit knowledge and thought leadership while leading by example and living a values-driven life, on and off the battlefield. Authority, like trust, takes a long time to build and only moments to destroy. Failing to listen to the team, making poor decisions, and lacking accountability can all lead to quickly being stripped of any real authority. Maintaining focus on accomplishing the mission and leveraging the strength and wisdom of the team will help ensure you avoid the authority-killing pitfalls.
Always be sincere when communicating with team members. Sincerity and consistency are the fastest ways to build trust within a team. Showing a lack of sincerity can appear like dishonesty, even if it's unintentional. Think about what you are going to say or write before doing so. Give every communication the "sincerity test." Certain levels of transparency make the team feel more connected, which leads to greater self-discipline, collaboration, insight, and collective action towards common goals.
This is often the most difficult aspect of leadership. We get so caught up in all of the many tasks that need to be accomplished to ensure mission success that we forget about the team that is driving these initiatives forward. As much as we like to pretend that our work lives and personal lives are separate, they are in fact intimately connected. Take time to get to know all of your team members. Understand what motivates them, as well as what detracts from their ability to stay focused and excited about doing their work. Showing empathy is not a soft-side leadership approach. It is crucial for building real relationships with team members. Like sincerity, empathy builds trust, which is the single most important factor for any team to truly succeed and win. Without trust, all of the other elements that lead to success eventually erode away completely.
Practice the BASE method inside and outside of the office. Being a better leader will make those you lead better leaders. We have opportunities to lead in all aspects of our lives. Being honest and knowledgeable while showing empathy towards others will make your life and the lives of those around you better. It's a no-brainer.