This article is part of Amy Franko’s women’s leadership series on the eight skills you need to transform your leadership presence, based upon the book See Jane Lead, by Lois Frankel, Ph.D.
In her book See Jane Lead, Dr. Lois Frankel uncovered a common theme in the women leaders she interviewed: most, if not all, of them mentioned the importance of their values in developing their leadership philosophy. From those values stemmed their vision. From their vision came the strategies and activities to make it a reality.
Within that theme emerged for me a formula that women leaders can use when it comes to accomplishing great things in their organizations and communities:
Values + Vision + Strategy + Activities = Leadership Impact
It combines our natural tendency to work from a place of values, with the skills of creating vision and combining strategic thinking with tactical activities in order to be impactful as leaders.
In this article I’ll share more on each element of the formula, and offer some practical ways for you to build your skills around each one.
Values are Your Compass
There’s a lot of talk about values these days, especially in light of what’s been happening in the business world over the past five years.
When I think about values, I envision a compass. The decisions we make are (hopefully) guided by the principles most important to us. I actually list my personal values in my business plan, and when I’m faced with a leadership decision or presented with an opportunity, I weigh it based on that list.
Regardless of whom you lead today, whether it’s only you for now or a large division of people, your values guide your vision, your strategies, and the activities that support them.
What does this mean for you when it comes to transforming your leadership presence?
- Take the time to reflect on what you value the most. Then create a list of 5-8 overall values that guide your life and work as a leader. Also reflect on how your personal values mesh with your organization’s values. The list should be short, memorable phrases or descriptors. Examples are health and wellness, autonomy, lifelong learning, or time with family.
- If you’re currently a people leader, ask your team to do the same exercise, and share them in your next one-on-one call or individual meeting. I encourage you even to take this a step further and share them in a team-building exercise. (If you’re not a people leader today, consider sharing your list with your leader.)
Your Vision is the Destination
When I think back on the most impactful leaders in my own life, the one thing they had in common was that they knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the destination they wanted to reach:
- The coach who had a vision for our team to win the league championship.
- The friend who founded a non-profit to help previously incarcerated women find a fresh start in life.
- The sales leader whose vision was for her team to become a model for the rest of the organization.
Not only did these leaders know the destination, they could share it in a way that their followers understood it, took it to heart, and wanted to be a part of it.
You might think that being “visionary” is something you either have or you don’t. I believe it’s a skill, something you can and need to develop in order to have a leadership presence. It applies to anything, from the personal to the professional, the small projects to the big initiatives, and whether your “team” formally reports to you or not.
Below are some ways that have helped me with my vision-building skills:
- Each year I create a vision board that visually shows what I’d like to accomplish or bring into my life and work.
- I read books about people I consider to be visionary.
- I spend quiet time several days a week, even if it’s just 15 minutes, to reflect on the big picture.
To help you tune into a specific vision, ask yourself:
- What is the big picture, the future, I want to create?
- Can I get to the essence of that big picture in a few simple phrases?
- What resources do I need? Who do I need to surround myself with?
- Have I shared that vision with those on my team, and are we on the same page?
Your Strategy is the Map
Any destination worth getting to needs a map to help you plan the direction in which you need to go.
If your destination isLondonand you live inNew York, your strategy will likely be to head east, and you have any number of options to get there. You can choose the fastest and most direct path, or you may travel a completely different route to reach the same end destination.
The same holds true for the map you create in making your vision a reality. Your strategies are based upon how quickly you’d like to reach your destination, along with your available resources, your strengths, the people around you, and your values. Like being visionary, being strategic is also a learned skill.
Below are some simple ways to help you build your capacity to be more strategic:
- Do something completely creative, like taking an art or writing class.
- Routinely get out of your comfort zone (for me, I’m learning a new language).
- Pay attention to the big trends and best practices in your industry.
To help you fine-tune your specific strategies (vision in hand), ask yourself these questions:
- What are the different paths we can take to get the end destination?
- What paths play to my strengths and the strengths of my team?
- What resources do I have available?
- What will success look like?
- Can I describe my strategies easily and concisely?
Your Activities are the Turn-by-Turn Directions
With any vision or strategy, activities become the specific turn-by-turn directions to reach that end destination and complete the vision.
This is where I see a lot of women leaders struggle with becoming too involved in the activities themselves – either by trying to take all of it on themselves, or by micro-managing (and not leading) those responsible for seeing them through. In the end, this can cause you to not realize your vision, and you’ll become overwhelmed and burned out in the process.
These are some ways I’ve learned to be successful with the activities element of this formula:
- For any vision and strategy, brainstorm a list of any and all activities that could lead to its success.
- For each activity, note how it will support the strategy, and ultimately, the vision.
- Divide that list into “piles” – those activities that are absolutely critical, those that are nice to have, and those that can be removed from the list.
- Delegate as many activities as you can, with an owner and a timeframe, and track the progress of those activities. Ideally, designate a trusted team member to maintain the list and its progress.
- Review the list regularly with your team and provide direction – whether that’s course correction or celebrating accomplishments. Do your best to keep yourself at the visionary and strategic levels!
Each of the elements in this formula will play a role in your success, and focusing yourself on creating your vision and building your strategic thinking will payoff in your ability to be an impactful leader.
Visit https://amyfranko.com for more information about custom training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group. Amy Franko also works with emerging women leaders, teaching concepts from the international best-sellers Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and See Jane Lead to many national companies and organizations.
© 2012 Impact Instruction Group
© See Jane Lead is the copyright of Lois Frankel, Ph.D.
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