When the executive came into the room, all the dynamics changed. People acted differently. It became unusually quiet. The executive seemed to be used to this because he immediately started talking, or barking...yes, it was definitely barking. He didn't ask any questions and he didn't ask for any input. There seemed to be a fear in the room. Is this leadership?
If you have done any boating, you surely recognize the "No Wake Zone" sign. It is always positioned near where others boats are docked. The purpose of a “No Wake Zone” sign is slow boaters leaving or arriving in the marina to keep their wake to a minimum so they don’t damage the other boats in the marina. Some leaders could use a “No Wake Zone” sign.
It’s easy for leaders to expect those around them to defer to their title. To step back and allow you to step up. But, what if you threw them a curve and actually stepped back and insisted that they step up? Instead of relishing in being thought to be the smartest person in the room, you make other feel like they have value to add to your room.
High Engagement Leaders
If you want to be a high impact leader in your organization, I would recommend the following:
- Recognize that all of us are smarter than one of us - Ask questions and listen to answers. You don't have to do what others say, but you can listen to what they say.
- Be bigger on the inside than you are on the outside – Be bigger as a human being than your title. No matter how important you become, be bigger as a person. (see my article on this site about Muhammad Ali if you want the real truth about this).
- Expect every person on your team to have a point of view. If everyone thinks the same thing as you, then one of you isn't necessary. Teach people to think and expect them to share.
There are times when you need to speak in direct terms to your team, but it is probably less than you think. Increase your influence by drawing others into the conversation. Ask questions that require others to think. Listen is a way that shows that you value those you have placed on your team. Be mindful of the wake you create and what damage it might be doing to your organization.