“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
On the refrigerator in my kitchen is a white board with a calendar on it. It has no dates or months designated, just columns of boxes with a day of the week listed at the top of each column. It allows you to write dates in the proper boxes corresponding to the days of the week depending on the month and year.
I use a dry erase marker for writing the dates and a wet erase for making the notes on a given day. The dry erase marker is the least permanent; it wipes away easily. The wet erase marker requires a wet cloth to remove and lasts longer. Permanent markers are just that; they leave a permanent mark. As I completed the calendar for June, I got to thinking about what type of marks I want to leave behind as a leader.
Oooh…That’s Gonna Leave a Mark…
They say you only get one chance at a first impression. However, in reality, each time you interact with someone you leave a mark. It can change that person’s impression of you or reinforce it. It can be positive or negative. It may be lasting or it may wipe away immediately after you leave the room.
Have you ever listened to a conversation where one person’s remark has had a profound affect on another? Maybe it was positive (“You look great today!”) or maybe it was negative (“That’s the best you could do?”). Many of us have observed a conversation and witnessed a participant’s expression change or eyes roll. Others of us have attended meetings where a manager has given direction or set expectations but the mark they left was quickly erased as their words were disregarded after the meeting ended.
While much of our communication is nonverbal, as leaders our words can have great impact…and leave a mark. In some instances you want it to be permanent. In others you wish it would wipe away easily. It’s true what they say about thinking before you speak. Once your words leave your mouth you can’t take them back. In the workplace your words can have a great deal of influence on what gets done, how well it gets done and when it gets done. They can leave permanent marks that when positive and consistent encourage people to follow your lead and when negative or inconsistent can hinder motivation or cause future leadership efforts to go unheeded.
What Are Your Intentions?
In the past I have written about being intentional. Voltaire wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility” (sorry Spiderman fans, it wasn’t Stan Lee…). My point here is to be intentional in how you exercise your leadership. As a leader you need to be able to successfully build relationships, a department or a company. The words you use and the tone you take will leave a lasting mark or no mark at all. The marks you leave will determine your success in leading and also help or hinder others to become good leaders as well.
Soap Box Alert!
I recently read an article that was linked to an e-newsletter I receive daily. The tag line was “Should bosses used the ‘F’ Bomb?” The article said in part, “Generally, cursing at work can damn your career… But that’s not always the case. Deployed at the right moment and in the right setting, a well-chosen curse word can motivate a team, dissolve tension or win over an audience.” They went on to quote a succession planning “expert” who said, “Companies increasingly prefer authentic leaders. Using colorful language can play to your advantage—as long as you also demonstrate empathy and good business judgment.” Call me old fashioned but I believe being articulate trumps colorful every time. If a leader needs to curse to be authentic then I suggest they re-examine their definition of authenticity. JD
If you’re going to leave a permanent mark make it a positive one. Choose your words thoughtfully and carefully. If you need to give feedback make it constructive (focus on the behavior you want changed, not the individual). Be consistent in your actions as a leader. Do what you say you will and don’t make promises you can’t keep otherwise the marks you leave are quickly wiped away because folks learn you don’t keep your word. If you are wrong or make a mistake, admit it. The mark of your error will quickly be replaced by the more permanent mark left by your example of having taken responsibility for your mistake.
What type of marker do you want to be? If you work at leaving the right marks at the right moments you provide strong leadership as well as provide a positive role model for how a leader should behave in their words and actions.
Today, why not begin leaving a legacy of positive leadership one mark at a time?
Here to serve,
Next month:Flexible Structure