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Leadership Isn’t About Title or Position, But Your Ability to Influence Others

Leadership Isn’t About Title or Position, But Your Ability to Influence Others

Are people in management roles necessarily leaders? Leadership skills are subjective – you can have many different styles that work to varying degrees. Our modern day challenges mean methods of leadership are influenced by multiple factors, and adapting to these and keeping your leadership qualities high is an indicator of a good leader.

Some people find themselves in management roles without having developed these crucial skills. Perhaps you’re a manager and struggle to lead your team? Or maybe you’re not in a management role, but feel you want to create better leadership skills?

The Benefits of Having Good Leadership Skills

Whether you’re in a leadership role or not, recognizing and implementing good leadership skills within your team or business can help your productivity and team relationships to no end.

It can even come down to implementing small changes that make a huge improvement. There are many ways you can do this, but there is one fundamental similarity with all effective leaders, and that’s having the ability to establish a co-operating following with either a team or an individual.

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What Qualities and Skills Should a Good Leader Possess?

So what qualities make a positive, successful leader? The ability to set and achieve challenging goals, knowing when to make good, solid decisions, and at the same time be inspiring and supportive toward others are all skills that a person in a leadership role aspires to accomplish.

But there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to good leadership skills. It’s all about using your personality to its greatest effect while being mindful of how your team works best and the goals you wish to achieve.

1. Be the Source of Positivity

Positivity is the number one mindset you should bring to a team or work environment. Positivity spreads, as does negativity, so keeping a good, positive mentality helps to motivate others as well as yourself. It forms the working atmosphere and provides energy, which goes toward better productivity and keeps people wanting to continually do their best.

2. Know Yourself and Your Team Well

Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses and being able to address them in order to get the best out of the team as a whole is one of the best skills you can develop. It’s all about using your resources well and to everyone’s advantage. It’s also about knowing your own strengths and weaknesses – using them well and working on your professional growth.

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3. Be Confident in Your Decisions to Make Everyone Head in the Same Direction

Confidence gains respect, and when challenges arise, keeping yourself and your team calm in the face of setbacks shows that you are focusing on the larger goal rather than worrying about the minor bumps in the road. Having the confidence to stick by your decisions and believe in yourself and your abilities will keep you level-headed.

4. Keep Your Focus Strong

Leadership requires a lot of focus. Being able to visualize and see the end goal, whether it’s managing a big project or building up a small business, is highly important. But keeping that focus strong when challenges are thrown at you is the true trait of a leader. Focus means keeping on top of your team, together with your own responsibilities, without distractions.

5. Delegate to Make Your Team Feel Trusted

Delegating is all about trust, and building trust within your team cultivates a perception of respect with others. Clever delegating can use people’s strengths well, but also create positive challenges in order to allow certain members of your team to grow and gain more skills in the process.

6. Deliver What You Think Clearly to Get Everyone on the Same Page

Good communication is paramount. However, it’s not always about what you say but how you get your point across. Good leaders are articulate and able to clearly explain their visions, wants, and needs. It’s important that you and your team are on the same page at all times, so people with good leadership skills make it clear that they are available to communicate with on a daily basis. This will show you’re dependable and open.

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7. Keep Your Words and Promises

You absolutely have to lead by example to be a good leader. People are less likely to work hard if they don’t see you doing the same. Showing your team that you’re on their side and working hard right next to them develops respect. Keeping your word and promises is also a must if you want to been seen as committed and trustworthy, so stick by what you say you’ll do.

8. Get Your Team to Generate Creative Ideas Together

Having a creative side helps immensely when plans go out the window. Having to make quick decisions is vital, and the ability to think outside the box can allow you to create the best options. Involving your team without making rash decisions isn’t a sign of weakness either, it’s about rallying your best resources to come up with the best solutions.

9. Trust Yourself So Your Team Can Trust You

When things are uncertain and the pressure is on, sometimes you will have to follow your gut feeling. Of course, knowledge of similar past experiences can help in these situations, but when you’re faced with a new challenge, you need to have the confidence to trust in yourself and your ability to make the correct or best decision you can. Your team can’t trust you if you can’t trust yourself.

10. Be Flexible with Your Approach to Deal with Different Situations

Business can throw all sorts of curveballs, so being adaptable is a sign of a good leader. But it isn’t just about adjusting to changes, having the ability to adapt your approach to different types of people and how they operate is a great skill to possess in leadership. The diversity of personalities and different ways of working means you need to be able to customize your approach toward them on an individual basis. This will inevitably get the best out of your team.

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11. Be Able to Inspire and Motivate Your Team

Being able to inspire your team is a good motivational skill, and it’s about keeping the morale of the team up with things like bonus schemes. Enthusiasm and drive is what you ultimately want in your team and making efforts to cultivate this will go toward a more productive and successful business. All too often, workers’ needs are ignored because there’s too much focus on results, rather than looking after who or what is getting those results.

12. See Every Problem As a Challenge

The difference between a problem and a challenge is your mindset. You need to be the solution to a problem – in other words, you want to drive toward a problem, not shy away from it. By seeing a problem as a challenge you are showing your problem-solving skills and using it as a reason to learn and grow.

13. Encourage Your Team to Pursue Relentless Growth

Pushing people to be their very best stops you from having a stagnant team. A good leader knows the importance of nurturing and encouraging their team to be the best they can. Knowing that actively allowing growth will ultimately benefit your team as a whole, is an excellent skill to have as a leader.

14. Be Consistent with the Values You Set

Your employees are usually a reflection of the values you set. Doing what’s right for your team and your business instead of making decisions from the space of needing to be right is paramount for successful leadership. Don’t let your ego get the best of you and always be authentic in your interactions. Be the best example in all areas of work.

15. Be Open to Build Good Relationships with Your Team

A good leader doesn’t hide crucial information. A good leader knows that a team that has full knowledge of what’s going on at all times is a team that can function to its best ability. Trust goes out the window when you’re seen as someone who isn’t being entirely honest. It’s all about building good relationships, and that includes being open, honest, and transparent.

It’s always beneficial to work on your leadership skills, especially if you’re running a business or a project. Some people either aren’t sure what makes a great leader, or get too focused on the importance of results instead of truly looking at themselves and seeing how much positive influence they can have on others. Be a good leader and see how you reap the positive results.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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