influence are never perfected, only practiced.
Leaders who try to be perfect, self-sufficient and
all-knowing wind up having to throw their weight around and keep others at
arm’s length. They focus mostly on keeping up the display of bulletproof
competence. Of course, competence isn’t a bad thing, but a hyper-focus suggests
a trade-off. There's no need to choose between imperfection and
competence. Imperfection and vulnerability are not weaknesses. They require
true strength of character, which is influence at its best. When you practice imperfection (that is, humanness), you
release your team from the fear of not meeting your expectations and being
criticized. Those are things that block innovation and collaboration. Here are
to help set you on your path:
1. Lead with questions, not answers.
If you arrive with the right answer, people will withhold
their best stuff -- the very stuff that may lead to the next breakthrough.
Learn the art of inquiry. Ask questions that begin with, what have you
noticed? How do you think we could improve? What is keeping us stuck? What
do you love about it?”
2. Share lessons learned. Admit mistakes.
People are drawn to leaders who are not only very smart but
have the confidence to kick back and laugh at their mistakes. We like and trust
individuals who are personable and regular folks. Know-it-all-ness is
off-putting and stifles innovation. The leader with natural influence says,
“Let me tell you about something I learned the hard way,” instead of dictating
the course to take.
3. Leave room for others to be right.
Watch out for the destructive practice of making people be
wrong. Even if their ideas are not the way to go, acknowledge
their contributions. When teammates have the opportunity to be right,
they will demonstrate more spontaneity and freedom of expression. When you
establish a safe environment in which people have the opportunity to be right,
they will take ownership of the results.
4. Demand feedback. Welcome challenge.
Let members of the team know you won’t tolerate compliance
for the sake of pleasing you -- and that you have no need for yes men and
yes women. Ask, “What do you need from me to nail this project?” or “What am I
missing on my end?” People trust and engage with leaders who are not threatened
by those who speak their mind to offer value.
The confident leader understands it's not necessary to be
the only big deal in the company. Cemented certainty can lead to pride of
ownership and close mindedness. On the other hand, if people know they can
approach you and make a case for another solution for a project, you
will always be presented with the best ideas to maintain a competitive edge. If
someone has a better idea, change your mind along with the course of action.
You will earn the reputation of being fair and open-minded.
Hey, nobody said leadership was easy. To be
vulnerable and imperfect requires courage. But the challenge of living in the
white water of change is too complicated to rest solely on one person’s
shoulders. Every person is needed, all working together to reinvent the