One of the best things about being a leader is having the ability to impact the lives of others on a daily basis. It can be especially powerful during challenging times. While the pandemic is unprecedented, it’s also unique because it created a collective crisis for us all. Your team needs strong leadership more than ever, and by showing up you can make a real difference.
Ron Alford, my friend, co-author, and long-time colleague at Southwestern Consulting, recently described the meaning of impact to a teammate. He said, “The opposite effect of not taking action, not having a vision, and not wanting to make an impact is insignificance. It’s having a full bank account but an empty soul. It’s having focus, confidence, and drive but not using those qualities for good.”
Insignificance … I don’t believe any leader would want that as their legacy. I also don’t think they willingly avoid the chance to make an impact. But you can’t simply hold the intention. True impact takes time, it takes purposeful action, and it takes a willingness to change. You must let go of your ego and focus on serving others.
Creating impact as a leader requires a change in perspective. I suggest finding quiet time to connect with what’s truly important. Meditate, go for a walk, pray, or simply pay attention to what inspires you. These activities will help to center you. Once you’re open to making an impact, you’ll start to recognize the opportunities you have to influence the lives of those around you.
Get in the Trenches
My mentor Spencer Hays used to say, “You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t lead where you won’t go.” Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I actually doing the things I’m asking other people to do?” If not, you may feel — and look — like a hypocrite. Leaders who make an impact commit to rolling up their sleeves and taking on the challenge of doing all of the hard parts of the job and mastering them.
I believe I’ve been successful leading our team at Southwestern Consulting because I’ve been in their shoes and I understand the challenges. Our coaches work remotely across the world. Because we believe so firmly in getting in the trenches, our leaders spend time every year shadowing team members, going into the field whenever possible. It allows us to see things from their perspective. The impact of a single day together is worth a thousand emails or phone calls.
It’s impossible to count the number of breakthroughs that have come from getting on an airplane and spending a day with someone or, in COVID times, logging on for a virtual heart-to-heart. It’s a memorable experience. The most authentic conversations happen face-to-face, when you’re willing to step into and see their world.
As a leader, how do you get in the trenches with your team? Make a point to put at least one-on-one meeting on the calendar every week. Better yet, find a way to make it a daily habit.
Be Willing to be Vulnerable
As you connect with your team, another powerful way to make an impact is by sharing your own struggles and missteps. I’ll admit, this is not easy. As leaders, we’re often taught to project an image of confidence and authority, often from a distance. It’s our job to have all of the answers. Vulnerability is a sign of weakness, right?
Research published in the Harvard Business Review suggests otherwise. When we try to appear perfect in order to gain respect, our team members subconsciously register the lack of authenticity. Instead, people feel more comfortable around someone who is willing to be vulnerable because it is a sign of trustworthiness. And when employees trust a leader, their performance improves.
In his book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t,
Simon Sinek writes, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
Most of us are focused on ourselves. We’re driven by ego and spend too much time worrying about what other people think. But at some point, you need to stop caring about yourself as if you are the center of the world and start prioritizing the needs of your team.
By putting your team first, you can completely change someone’s life. It might be as simple as taking the time to listen to someone in need. Or it might be sharing your own mistakes to help someone who may be drifting in their life.
I’ve been a leader in the workplace for many years, and I know this is true: when you are helping others for the right reasons and have your heart in the right place, people will thank you and tell you that you’ve made an impact in their life. They’ll tell you about their transformations.
The best part is that it’s a cycle. You help people, then they help other people, and then they help other people. It creates a ripple effect — and a legacy of impact.
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