Craft a Style That Leads Even When You're Out

There’s no such thing as a part-time leader. Think about that for a minute.

One of my mentors many years ago reminded me that when I, as a leader, was away at a meeting, my team was wondering what I was doing and if I was thinking about them and their best interests. They might also be breathing a sigh of relief that I was gone for a while, or they might be frustrated because they needed answers or decisions, but the point he was making was to not forget that no matter where I was, I was leading. My team was out of my sight, but they shouldn’t be out of my mind, as I most definitely was not out of theirs. 

Every leader has his or her own unique style, and leadership means something different to every leader (see this article on 30 definitions of leadership from 30 leaders). No two leaders manage in the same way. As a leader, you have a wide range of freedom to craft a style that is both effective and works for you. With this freedom in mind, and understanding that your leadership energy exists whether you are personally present or not, take the time to think about the power of your leadership, which influences your team in your presence and your absence.  Here are a few ideas of how to get started:

  • Leadership is a philosophy. Spend some time reflecting on your standards of leadership. Write them down, and be specific. For example. we all value “honesty,” but what does that look like to you when you experience it?
  • Be loyal to your own hard-wiring. It’s OK to be inspired by other leaders, but remember who you are and tap into your natural strengths. Trying to be someone you are not is a fool’s errand.
  • Ask for feedback to see how others experience you as a leader. My clients are great at giving me feedback, and I will ask them if the time we spent was worth their time and focus. If it’s not, we shift things so they work better.
  • Remember that your leadership focus will shift and change as you climb the ladder, or as your business grows.  Someone who is leading a team of three people in a start-up may be very different than someone who is leading an organization with thousands of employees.

Making it one of your daily practices to think about your leadership will help you maintain a focus on who you are leading, how you are showing up and what opportunities or obstacles you are creating for yourself and others.