Pop quiz: What is your leadership point of view? By that I mean, what are your thoughts about how you lead others, and where did those thoughts come from?
I learned from Noel Tichy, author of The Leadership Engine, that the most successful leaders have a clear, teachable leadership point of view and are willing to share it with others. My wife, Margie, and I were so fascinated with this idea that we developed a course about creating a leadership point of view that is part of the Master of Science in Executive Leadership program offered by the School of Business at the University of San Diego.
If you’re thinking that this discussion does not pertain to you because you are not an executive in an official leadership role, let me ask you this: Have you ever tried to influence the thoughts and actions of others toward a goal? If your answer was yes, then you have engaged in leadership—in other words, you’re a leader. As such, you and the people around you will benefit from knowing your leadership point of view.
Creating Your Leadership Point of View
Developing your leadership point of view is a process that goes through three basic steps:
- Identifying key people and events that have shaped and influenced your thoughts about leadership.
- Describing your leadership values.
- Sharing your expectations of yourself and of others.
Step 1: Identify Key People and Events. Begin by spending some time thinking about key people who have influenced your life, such as parents, grandparents, coaches, or bosses. What did you learn about leadership from these people? Next, think about the significant events that were turning points for you. What did you learn from those events, and how did those lessons prepare you for a leadership role?
For example, I’ve often told the story of how, in the seventh grade, I was elected president of my class. When I rushed home and told my father, he said, “That’s great, son. But now that you are president, don’t ever use your position. Leaders are great not because they have power but because their people trust and respect them.” That experience taught me that leadership was not about me, it was about the people I was serving.
Step Two: Select Your Leadership Values. Values are core beliefs that you feel strongly about. These core beliefs will determine how you behave as a leader. For example, we know that Mahatma Gandhi valued peace, because he modeled that value by encouraging non-violent resistance as he led a successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule.
When you think about your values, you may come up with a long list of things like honesty, creativity, freedom, success, humor, spirituality, security, etc. What you want to do is narrow down your list to three or five core values. The best way to do this is to look back at the key people and events in your life and think about the values reflected in those stories. This way, your values will flow naturally from the people and events you talked about in Step 1. You will be able to define each value in your own terms and explain why it is meaningful to you. It would be easy to read a list of values to your team, but that isn’t very impactful. Sharing stories about actual events that shaped your values is a more personal and authentic way to communicate.
Step 3, Part A—Communicate Your Expectations of Yourself. Now—based on the lessons you learned from key people and events and the values you hold dear—what, exactly, do you expect of yourself as a leader? How do you expect to behave as a leader? Making this clear to the people you lead lets them know the intentions behind your behavior. For example, here’s what I might share:
“My expectation of myself as a leader is to help you win and accomplish your goals. I expect to cheer you on or redirect your efforts if progress isn’t being made. If I am living up to my expectations of myself as a leader, everything I do with you will be geared toward helping you produce great results and feel good about yourself.”
Step 3, Part B – Communicate Your Expectations of Others. What do you expect of others? When you let people know what you expect from them, it gives them a picture of how they can be successful under your leadership. Here’s a partial example of one leader’s expectation of others:
“I expect you to stand tall on the integrity issue and to not allow anyone to think that you tolerate fraud or anything unethical. People need to know how important integrity is to you.”
The reason I say “partial example” is because you should put all these elements—key people and events, values, and your expectations of yourself and others—into a narrative format, so that they flow together as a story. Stories evoke feelings, so people relate to and remember them.
Sharing You Leadership Point of View
Creating your leadership point of view is a process, so don’t try to craft it overnight. Take time to think deeply about each element and how it fits into your leadership story. A leadership point of view is a very personal statement that requires reflection and vulnerability.
The Final Step. When you are ready, share your leadership point of view out loud by using an outline of key points or perhaps even reading it to the people who work with you. Margie and I have been amazed to see how powerful it is when leaders share from this deeper place. Don’t skip this final step, because in the end, your leadership point of view is not about you. It’s about helping the people you lead understand where you’re coming from so that together you can become a winning team.