One of the most talked about topics, and yet sometimes least understood, is leadership. Today I was honored to moderate an event on Developing an Intentional Leadership Presence with three outstanding leaders: Brenda Harrington, Founder of Adaptive Leadership Strategies, David Belden, a Master Chair for Vistage and CEO of ExecuVision, and Gordon Bernhardt of Bernhardt Wealth Management. The goal of the panel was to discuss leadership in a new way and provide insights to the CEOs and executives in the room. Here are some of my favorite takeaways.
1. Avoid the Leadership Trap
2. Leadership is Seriously All About the People
During our discussion, we talked about management versus leadership. This is still a constant struggle, however, David Belden said it best when he said management is a process, leadership is about the people. As we talked about characteristics and what leaders need to be able to do, it comes down to a few key concepts. A leader must be able to set a vision by understanding what is coming, even if you are taking an educated guess. A leader must be able to keep calm and set the emotional tone of the company when dealing with change, which is almost always a constant now. In addition, a leader must inspire and truly care for the well-being of their people, this includes allowing each person to bring their best self to work and knowing what value they bring.
3. Leadership is about the Hard Decisions Too
Brenda Harrington brought up that sometimes as companies grow, leaders have to be able to take peoples names off the organizational charts and really understand who they need in each role – not just who has been there, or who grew up with the company. You have to care for your people, but not to the point of sacrificing the company. It is critical to lead with acumen, not entitlement.
4. Leaders Need Support Too
All of the panel members spoke about leaders needing to have time to think as well as a peer group. Blocking time on one’s calendar to reflect strategically and create space to set the vision and adjust it was very important. To look at not just your industry, but others as well, so you can anticipate change and consequences is critical. David Belden, who is a Master Chair for Vistage, also spoke to the absolute necessity of finding a peer group. Every leader needs to not only take the time to think, but also take the time to build a support network (informal and formal) for them to share ideas and challenges confidentially.
5. Own Your Leadership Promise
One of the concepts that I use with clients is to define what you are good at, what you are committed to driving, and how you want to show up to those around you. This ends up being an overarching statement that can be seen daily as a set of promises you make. David Belden spoke about how he asks each of his executives to make the Executive Promise, which is: “I do only what only I can do”. This captures this notion that as a unique leader, you do what you are the best at and what only you can do, and delegate the rest. Do not fall into the trap of doing everything. Be clear on what is unique about you, what you promise to deliver, and constantly assess how you are showing up.
As you look ahead, plan what kind of leader you want to grow into intentionally. Then every so often, at six or twelve month intervals, assess how you are doing and what you could change or adjust, as well as what resources you need to do so.
This panel was a kickoff luncheon at the Tower Club in Tysons for their Executive Series. A panel is a fantastic way to get insights from many people at once, while also pulling in diverse networks of attendees too. These three leaders were just absolutely fabulous, look for more insights in the next blog.
Be a Noisebreaker,