As progressive organizations meet the demands of a global marketplace, the meaning of "leadership" is still widely misconstrued.
Sure, we often think of inspiring pep talks or motivational speeches, which are certainly aspects of leadership, but what too often comes to mind is management. That is, we think of leaders as people who simply tell others what to do, rather than those who show us what to do.
Management is not the way to something new and dynamic, but the means by which things stay as they are. It's a self-perpetuating function. Leadership, on the other hand, brings people to new places to achieve new things.
7 Actions to Raise your Leadership to a New Level
The best leaders today win others over with the tangible results of their actions. Here's what seven top leaders of progressive organizations are saying about their leadership:
1. Have a clear strategy.
"For me, leadership is about having a clearly defined strategy (shaped -- at least in part -- by the people who will execute it) that combines a relentless focus on accountability with a purpose-driven culture that celebrates talent, teams, and individuals in real-time. On a day to day basis, I try to be both highly visible and visionary (whilst ensuring I remain relevant to my audience) and to always lead from the front."
-- Kenneth Svendsen, CEO of Entertainment Cruises
2. "Ask more, tell less."
"My definition of a leader is any human who can positively affect another human through their actions. That means anyone can be a great leader, both at home or at work. One action I lead with, is to "ask more, tell less". Be inquisitive and always look to allow others to think for themselves versus stealing their autonomy."
-- Alex Draper, CEO of DX-Learning
3. Be curious about your people.
"As we continue to scale, it's not about you anymore; it's about being able to recognize and encourage the extraordinary talents of others--that's leadership. Today, a lot of my action-oriented energy comes from finding the right questions to ask, and it starts with just being aware and then curious about your people. As a leader in today's business environment, we have to be proactive, thoughtful, and intelligent enough in a topic to have a beneficial conversation that impacts people in a positive way, consistently."
-- Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly
4. Embrace the unknown.
"As a leader, people need to see you making bold moves, looking at new ways to do things, and taking action. Ask the uncomfortable questions; take the first steps into new ideas and approaches; volunteer to lead strategy sessions. I want to demonstrate the passionate, aggressive, strategic steps I want us all to take. I believe that this helps our team members to break out of their day-to-day routines, stretch their thinking, and eliminate fears of trying something new or different--that's when people feel empowered to really elevate themselves, their teams, and the company. Embrace the unknown, explore it, ponder it, collaborate on strategy, and then passionately go for it. If it doesn't work out, we learn from it and do it better the next time."
-- Michael Carragher, CEO of VHB
5. Set your people up for success.
"'What do you need from me?' That is the most important question a leader can ask and an essential one to my leadership style. As a leader, I set the strategy, select the best talent and then empower them to do their jobs -- and to do them well. Along the way, I focus on three critical things: (1) their development (2) their accountability to achieve success, (3) and reducing or eliminating roadblocks that interfere with the company's success."
-- Calvin G. Butler, Jr, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, an Exelon Company
6. Keep your people focused on their 'why.'
"I've modeled my career and life around a simple philosophy... Anyone in a position of authority can light a fire under you, but only a leader can light a fire within you. At SH Hotels and Resorts, we are out to change the world, one guest and one employee at a time. As we scale global, mission-driven hotel brands, it's about keeping our teams engaged, inspired and providing 'fuel' for the fire within. It's about having a clear vision of 'why' and getting our teams to want to do more...not because they have to but because they believe in our mission and cause."
-- Dan Waite, VP of People Operations at SH Hotels & Resorts
7. Model the right cultural behaviors.
"At In-Shape Health Clubs, we have made a deliberate choice to have company behaviors vs. company values because we believe actions speak louder than words. Every team member in the company is hired and coached based on our four behaviors. It has created an aligned and authentic culture focused on motivating our communities to live healthy, fit and happy."
-- Francesca Schuler, CEO of In Shape Health Clubs
The common thread running through these responses is the centrality of inspiring leadership. Leadership actions aren't taken for action's sake, but to work towards a central purpose that makes it all worthwhile. Whatever actions these leaders perform, they reflect the bold visions they have to offer.
So, what to take from all this? If you want to improve your leadership you first must clarify your vision for your organization or team and then identify the key actions that will make the vision a reality.