A personal leadership story helps you connect more deeply with others.
To enable this, leaders need to be great teachers. Noted Professor Noel Tichy, who once led the GE Leadership Center, came up with the idea that leaders much have a teachable point of view. A teachable point of view, he says, is a leader’s opinion on what it takes to win in his or her business and what it takes to lead other people.
Management experts Ken Blanchard and Margie Blanchard have taken inspiration from Professor Tichy and defined the Leadership Point of View. They describe a leadership point of view as your “personal elevator pitch…. your journey, your values, your goals and your expectations”.
So, drawing from this, my message today, is on crafting your leadership point of view and why this can be so impactful.
So, why is a leadership point of view important?
Generally, when we need inspiration, we turn to the stories and examples of other companies and people. We all have our favourites. But even as we look outwards, perhaps we should also take a pause and consider the learnings from our individual stories? They can be more powerful than we give them credit for.
As leaders, stating where you are coming from, what you believe in, what you expect from your team members, and what your team members should expect from you, are important aspects to clarify.
Incorporating these into an authentic leadership point of view can enable you to communicate better and establish greater trust with your team. The self-reflection involved in putting this together can also be very fulfilling.
Over the last couple of months, Sunil and I have spent time on business school campuses in Kenya, talking to students as part of Ndiema LOUD. Peter and Kapil have been doing the same.
LOUD, as many of you know, stands for ‘Live Our Ur Dream’ and is a very different approach to hiring, which we piloted five years ago. As part of LOUD, we ask students to share their dreams and offer winners, both sponsorship towards the dream, as well as an internship with Ndiema. Our attempt is to find passionate young people to join our teams. The reason why we focus so strongly on passion, is because we believe that if you are passionate about something, then you will bring that passion to your work – and to Ndiema.
What has made LOUD so different – and successful – is the kind of sharing that ends up happening during these discussions. Unlike the standard interactions that most companies have about their businesses and products, here the focus is much more on our stories; our leadership points of view. That completely changes the kind of conversations that we have.
How to go about crafting your leadership point of view
If you haven’t given your leadership point of view enough thought, here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. This is your story
It is all about you. You can’t really borrow someone else’s approach. No one can tell you how to tell it. And no one can better tell it for you. That’s what makes it unique. And that’s what people want to hear.
2. Be willing to share the good, the bad (and the ugly)
George R. R. Martin, author of the famous Game of Thrones series, once said, “Nobody is a villain in their own story. We’re all the heroes of our own stories.” And sometimes that’s the biggest problem. Sharing your story doesn’t mean just stringing together the happier, easier parts, or the big wins. It’s about telling all of it, including and probably especially, the tougher parts. If you can be that open, it will make people feel like you trust them. And that they can trust you too.
Sunil for example, focuses his LOUD talk on his biggest fears and vulnerabilities and how he has been working towards overcoming them. He talks about feeling insecure, battling with himself, the times when he has been at his lowest and what all of this has taught him. It is easily his most powerful talk. It’s much the same when Andrew talks about the difficult years at Ndiema Infotech, the choices he didn’t want to, but had to, make back then.
3. Talk about why you made the choices you did
Some of the most interesting conversations happen around the choices you end up making. So, talk about why you made them. Whether it’s Rob sharing why he joined the army or Sumit’s decision to try a role outside of HR – these are the parts of the stories that people want to know more about. For instance, in my story, I talk about my return back to India from the US and what led to it.
4. Give it time
Creating your story takes time. It is a deeply personal process, probably more so than some others. So, spend time introspecting. You will need to dig deep to find out what it is that you can and want to share. And this can be an evolving process. You don’t need to perfect it all at once – in fact, this isn’t about getting something right. It is about finding what is the best way to share.
5. Draw other people in
Your story alone won’t be enough. Learn how and where to tell it, so as to draw other people in. How to share without being prescriptive. And leave things open ended enough for more conversation.
Even as you work on structuring your leadership point of view, take a look at this toolkit that Ken and Marie Blanchard have put together. It could be quite helpful.
Who are the influencers (leaders) in your life?
When we ask people who most impacted their lives, seldom do they mention bosses or other organisational leaders. More often they talk about their parents, grandparents, friends, coaches, or teachers. What did you learn from these people about leadership? How did their influences help your leadership point of view evolve?
Think about your life purpose. Why are you here, and what do you want to accomplish?
If an organisation doesn’t have a clear purpose and sense of what business it’s in, there’s something wrong. Yet few people have a clear sense of their life’s purpose. How can you make good decisions about how you should use your time if you don’t know what business you’re in?
What are your core values that will guide your behaviour as you attempt to live your life “on purpose?”
It has been said that the most important thing in life is to decide what’s most important. People don’t all value the same things. Some people value wealth and power, while others are more concerned with safety or survival. Success is a value; integrity and relationships are values as well. Values are beliefs you feel strongly about because you choose them over other alternatives.
In trying to determine what your values are, you might start with a long list. But fewer are better, particularly if you want your values to guide your behaviour. You’ll also want to rank order your values. Why? Because values are sometimes in conflict. For example, if you value financial growth but integrity is your core value, any activities that could lead to financial gain must first be checked against your integrity value.
Given what you’ve learned from past influencers, life events, your purposes, and core values, what is your leadership point of view – your beliefs about leading and motivating people?
Your beliefs are the essence of your leadership point of view. These should show naturally from the people who have influenced you and from your purpose and values.
What can your people expect from you?
Leadership is not something you do to people, it’s something you do with people. Letting people know what they can expect from you underscores the idea that leadership is a partnership process. It gives people a picture of what your behaviour will look like under your leadership.
What do you expect from your people?
Because leading is a partnership process, it is perfectly reasonable—in fact, it’s imperative—that you let people know what you expect from them. It gives people a picture of what their behaviour will look like under your leadership.
How will you set an example for your people?
Your leadership point of view should let others know how you will set an example for the values and behaviours you are encouraging. As most parents know, people learn from your behaviour, not from your words. Leaders must walk their talk.
So, do give this a shot. I look forward to hearing your leadership point of view.