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Three Simple Tips To Improve Your Leadership

Written by: William Liu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

There are a lot of different definitions out there for leadership. To me, leadership is all about the influence one person has upon another, whether it be professionally or personally. When I reflect at the last 37 years of my life, I can see how my life would be much different than it is now without the right people influencing me at critical points. The person I am now is shaped by the teachers, bosses, colleagues, and others that were put into my life to lead me through crises or bouts of immaturity, along with the wherewithal to push and challenge me beyond what I thought I could do.

Company executives in discussion outside the office.

As most of us have likely experienced, I have also had people in my life that have not led me well. These people made life worse by causing unnecessary stress and injecting toxicity or simply behaving inconsistently with my values and principles. So, when people ask me why I am passionate about leadership and organizational health. It is because I have lived through the positive benefits as well as the negative return in my personal and professional life.


There is a quote that I internalize from John Maxwell: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.” I think that is incredibly relevant in our current day and age where strong leadership is needed more than ever in all facets of our lives. This is something that I have benefitted from in my life. I am where I am right now because of the time, energy, and sweat others have poured into my life and now is my turn to pay it forward.


So, the question is what are simple ways to improve your leadership skills? I believe that if you can adhere to these three areas, it will make a tremendous difference with the teams you lead or are part of.


Showcase Authenticity:


I know this term gets used a lot but let me provide my two cents. Authenticity is about showing the real version of yourself and not the version that you think other people want to see. Craig Groeschel has a great saying: “people will always follow a leader who is real than one who is right.” But to show your real self, you must know who you are first. This requires time spent getting to know your dreams, your goals, your quirks, your likes, and your dislikes. Start with the question of who you are. If you really get stuck, take a few personality tests like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram to get the juices running. Once you dig deeper, you will know what you value, what makes you unique, and you're why. Then it is just about showing all of yourself in your leadership role and to those you work with. This also gives emotional permission for those under you to do the same, which ultimately creates an inclusive environment.

Build Trust:


Secondly, building trust with those you work with is incredibly vital. Without trust as a foundation, it is difficult to build a solid and functional relationship with anyone. Think of the parable of the two houses. Do you want to build your foundation on solid footing or on loose footing like on sand? Having that foundation of trust with your team ensures that when there is conflict, disagreement, or issues, you can weather through it and that things will be okay. Trust fosters a safe place for people to succeed or learn from their failures.


Without creating that environment where you can be your real and authentic self, you will always limit the potential of those around you. Recent studies in neuroscience show that our brain functions much better in a safer place and it allows our “System 2 side of the brain” to think more logically because of the absence of fear. A quick way to build trust with your team is doing a “gratitude circle” exercise where a team can comment to each other about what they appreciate about one another.

Practice Honesty:


Once you have trust, this is where honesty comes about. I love the quote from Brene Brown, which is “clear is kind and unclear is unkind.” Honesty is first about establishing clarity. You can reduce a lot of self-imposed or imagined anxiety just by being clear and direct with others. Ultimately, clarity is a primary component of leadership. The clarity in the direction, clarity in the strategy, clarity in what is happening today, tomorrow, and next week. Besides clarity, honesty facilitates acceptance of what is working and what is not in your culture and personnel. If something is not working, you must be ready to have hard and candid conversations. That starts with accepting the reality of the situation. That first step allows change to be possible and creates a better future state. A great way to practicing honesty and eliciting clarity and acceptance is intentionally engaging in more frequent conversations around job performance and personal development with those you lead.


The one common thread in each of these leadership skills is about showing your humanity and that you care. Because once people know you care, you can then impact their thinking. There is a phrase that I heard a lot when I was in the military, and it was “winning the hearts and the minds.” There is a reason the heart comes before the mind. To truly lead effectively, you do have to make sure there is alignment on the business objectives, goals, strategies, and performance KPIs. But to get a person’s mental buy-in, you need to get their emotional buy-in first. And that is where showcasing authenticity, building trust, and practicing honesty will help to transform your leadership.


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William Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

William Liu is currently a higher education marketing executive at the American College of Education. He enjoys the challenge of identifying and solving mission-critical problems for organizations and has a wealth of experience tackling challenges around the world from his time in the Army as a psychological operations specialist to now. In his 20 years working in marketing, he has a strong history of transforming teams through his emphasis on organizational health and culture. His mission in life is to leverage his leadership to help solve problems in his community, at work, and in the world at large. He believes that every life he can impact professionally or personally can lead to a better world.

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