January 29, 2019

Earned Influence as an Attribute of Leadership

Bryan Hughes

Bryan Hughes
President /FirstService Residential Massachusetts

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By leadership, I do not imply management but that ability to cast a vision and execute on it. While administrative purposes and tasks of the manager are indeed important, I am speaking of true leadership: the ability to influence people. John Maxwell suggests that in a leadership hierarchy, the first level is Positional Leadership. With this, you will have a certain amount of influence due to your title within an organization. Graduated levels of influence come with demonstration of your skills and abilities, and what others see you accomplish and what you help them accomplish.

In the past year, I have reflected significantly on this concept of leadership. Throughout my career as an employee and as a self-employed consultant, I have been blessed to work with and for some wonderful leaders. I have also have had the displeasure of working with some managers dressed in leaders’ clothes and holding tight onto prestigious titles. I can recall a time where I had a successive run of leaders that I reported to in a corporate environment. These leaders were very different in their style and cadence, but they were leaders indeed. This was in stark comparison to a later occasion in that same organization where alignments of responsibility shifted and my reporting relationship changed. Overnight I transitioned from leaders who were engaging, flexible, and empowering, to a leader that was distant, oblivious, and condescending. The new leader had the credibility of the past and current position, but not from the standpoint of the relationship or experience with the organization.

As I was emotionally and professionally forced to compensate for the absent support that I was accustomed to in this example, this caused me to better consider a key attribute of Jim Collins’ “Level 5 Leader”, which is Humility. In any aspect of my life, those leaders I could truly stand behind were individuals who exhibited significant will and skill, but also with a balanced measure of humility. These leaders were not those with the “gather ‘round me at the bar while I discuss my business success” attitude, but rather those who engaged their teams and acknowledged mutual strengths and weaknesses. These were likely to gather together key persons who had areas of expertise to council together to address a challenge, and then as a group devise a solution.

Don’t get me wrong, these leaders still expected and fought for outstanding results. Exceeding the forecasts and goals was a minimum expectation! But rather than bringing together subordinate managers to tell them how things were going to be accomplished while having no understanding of the business, the true leader would make time to understand the nuances of a situation before providing direction or counsel. The influential leader understands that they will need to understand how to help the subordinate leader navigate the challenges; this is the enabling power of a truly influential leader.

These true leaders have positively impacted me, even those who I have long lost touch with. As I consider my own style of leadership, both direct and indirect, I regret not being perhaps as humble as I should have been at times. In truth, I did purposely work to be humble and to emulate the patterns I learned from other leaders and peer-leaders, but I can also admit that I was not always as effective as I should have been in this regard, especially when the throws of business were happening. May we all exhibit a bit more humility, listen more, and draw people closer to us as we together achieve the visions we are driving towards.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.

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