Note: Variously attributed to many sources, I found that Irish author and speaker, Mary Kennedy, gets the top hits for that quote on Google. The rest of her quote is just as good:“Never let them see you sweat. Never take a "no" from someone who isn't qualified to tell you "yes." Never let the nay-sayers get you down.” Enjoy! As always, you can find all my blog posts from 2013 to the present on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/.
What Happens When Leaders DO Sweat
The following, by author, John Brandon, is going to be a listing of what not to do to create a powerful presence as a leader. Another way of looking at this is not saying or doing things that destroy confidence:
1. "I don't have a plan."
Let's start with the basics. Admitting you don't have a plan is like sticking a fork in something and letting it spoil on the table. The first act is dumb, but the effects are worse. Smart leaders never tell anyone they don't have a plan. There is always a plan. What you might not trust is whether the plan will work out, but you should never tell anyone that.
2. "I'm not sure."
Good leaders build confidence; they are positive and enthusiastic about the future. There is never a case when that isn't true. Even if you have some data that suggests otherwise, do you really know the future? Might as well stick to what is positive.
3. "I'm stressed."
Letting people who work for you know you are stressed doesn't help anyone-not even you. It's always good to let a mentor or adviser know about your stress. Those who are looking to you for leadership should always see someone who is calm, assured, and confident.
4. "Money is tight."
It's amazing how many entrepreneurs go around and tell people they don't have enough money. Would you give that guy more money? Would you trust that person? Be honest and clear about company objectives; keep financial statements to yourself if sharing them with your staff will just cause them stress and make them wonder if the company will even continue to exist.
5. "I'm having a bad day."
This is a good one to share with your significant other or a good friend outside of work, not your accounting supervisor or your COO. Telling people you are having a bad day is a really bad idea. It breaks confidence. It even breaks trust, because employees don't like to follow people who are moody and unpredictable. Every day is a good day, a great reason to be on the job, and a wonderful opportunity.
Now, Here is How You Are Supposed to Do It!
I have noticed that great leaders share a lot of the following very human characteristics, even though our movies and popular fiction portrays most leaders as archetype superheroes. Serial successful entrepreneur, Eric V. Holtzclaw, offers the following observations on the characteristics of great leaders he has known:
1. Rarely brag
A true leader is the last to talk about his or her accomplishments. When someone is constantly bragging and trying to one-up people, it's a sign of insecurity and gets in the way of true success.
2. Show up on time
The best leaders are the first to a scheduled meeting. They know if it isn't important to them, it won't be important to everyone else attending. They understand that what they do speaks volumes over what they say.
3. Efficiently use time
While a true leader is the first to a meeting, he or she will be the first to end it when all of the topics are covered. Top leaders use every available second to stay on top of their game. They respond to emails and catch up on reading and writing in the spare moments in their schedules.
4. Respect others' space
A leader knows that others need their space to get their work done. He or she gives the team time to get through their deliverables, and understands that hovering or micromanaging won't move a project along any faster.
5. Are Friendly But Not Your Friend
An important characteristic of top leaders is the ability to walk the fine line of caring about those that work for them while maintaining a healthy level of distance. This approach is necessary for keeping relationships in perspective and allows a leader to make the right decisions for the company.
6. Don't gossip
Workplaces are breeding grounds for gossip. Effective leaders stay above the fray. They know that gossip doesn't move the company forward, results in poor company morale, and impacts overall culture.
7. Never complain
Even when times get tough, top leaders do not complain. They know they are responsible for setting the tone, and that negativity creates a domino effect across the organization. Instead of complaining, they will seek a way to change the situation to make it positive.
Top leaders know they can't do everything--and don't want to. They surround themselves with smart people and give those individuals the tools and authority to get tasks accomplished. They see their success in the accomplishments of others (see No. 1).
Nothing is accomplished by focusing on what isn't working. To be successful, a top leader and his or her organization must find ways to solve any problems. Top leaders insist their team members bring them possible solutions for whatever needs to be fixed in the organization or a process.
When an employee, vendor, or contractor is waiting for a response, the delay is costing the company time or money. Effective leaders stay on top of the inquiries they receive. They understand that lack of responsiveness impacts the overall organization.
11. Actively participate and encourage others to do so
When in a meeting or a work session, leaders actively participate. Their involvement leads the team on to greater levels of effectiveness. They encourage others to contribute ideas, and they consider them as seriously as their own.
12. Confidently flexible
To lead a company, a leader must be confident in his or her instincts but willing to revise a plan when shown that another approach, direction, or result is more appropriate. The team is looking to the leader for assured, consistent direction, but also an ability to change course when presented with a good case.
There are many examples of boisterous, outspoken entrepreneurs and business leaders. You see them on television shows and discussed in the media--from Richard Branson to Donald Trump to Mark Cuban. Unlike these pop culture icons of leadership, most top leaders, in my experience, are quiet, unassuming, and serve as the bedrock of their companies.
Leaders of companies must do what they say they will do and be consistent in their approach and message. Our society is used to a certain level of inconsistency and will rally behind a consistent leader.
Leaders have failed many times. They have persisted through these setbacks to reach their current status. The best success stories have equally interesting back stories of failures and frustrations.
So, Will Doing All of the Above Help Me to Create a Strong Presence as a Leader? Yes, and no. Yes, if you diligently adopt all of Eric's points above, you will be miles ahead of most of your competitors. No, because I still believe in the fundamental premise that you must first, know yourself, before you can create a strong presence as leader. And, that takes a certain measure of Emotional Intelligence.
Next week: The Three Elements of Strong, Charismatic Leadership