Extraordinary leadership is a term that still needs to be fully understood or embraced by many in leadership. Extraordinary leadership is an evolution of thought that requires a leader to understand that to operate in an “extraordinary” capacity of leadership; there must be a conscious awareness and immediate realization that it is not something you do; instead, it is something you become. More importantly, it requires the ability to digest truth by utilizing much realism and responsibility-taking. The leader must be able to take ownership of their environment and the people they are responsible for managing and guiding. They must understand the power of their influence on their peers, the people they lead, and their subordinates. It is incumbent on them to ignite these actions and drive change in how they relate to cultivating relationships. Therefore, realizing one’s circle of influence is essential (given the potential impact one can have on the people and community around them) because this is an area of your life you can do something about in your surroundings.
The ability to have empathy for others is the true essence of extraordinary leadership. In my many years of consulting and leadership, there has been a precipitous decline in people demonstrating connection and compassion towards those in their circle of influence. This lack of connection and understanding has further led to a superficial decline in morale and a reduction in the collaborative performance of people within organizations.
From my own experiences, although the company can have the best strategy and roadmap to success, limitless budgets, competent teams, and other attributes and keys to business success, they could have done better in the execution of producing extraordinary results. This has been a perfunctory result to companies reaching desired progressive results.
This is due, in part, to the inability of aspiring leaders to relate to and strategically think of others more than themselves. We have always been taught to look out for ourselves first and sometimes use others as collateral damage, and this thought process has led to many leaders’ propensity to sacrifice others at their expense.
These leaders focus on what makes them look good and are evaluative from a “what’s in it for me” mentality. Building and sustaining strong, positive relationships enables an exceptional leader to engage others in ways that inspire and motivate, thus increasing the chances of becoming an extraordinary leader. Effective leadership seeks solid relationships and the ability to pursue different viewpoints on various business areas, which can result in exceptional leadership and associated business outcomes. More importantly, the most impactful leaders teach others to build and maintain these types of practices of thought and understand that networks are critical.
Below are a few of the steps I believe helped and continue to help me strengthen my ability to become an Extraordinary Leader:
1. Be a Great Listener- Are you a good listener to others, but more importantly, do you listen to yourself? Trust your gut and what your intuition is telling you about yourself and the people you are leading. A big part of being a good listener is self-awareness and being authentic as a leader. You can only begin to improve if these truths are known and acknowledged. This, balanced with self-confidence, and your ability to be decisive when needed, is critical to success. You’ll need to pay attention to your intuition indicators.
2. Be a Great Communicator- Be willing to write those people who are crucial to implementing your long-term strategies. Be ready to share successes because you are only as strong as your weakest team member. Feel free to document the process and the key players participating in the strategy and vision. This provides clear direction so everyone will know their part in the plan. Communication should also include celebrating successes along the way. Communicating the program is great but remember to communicate the progress along the growth continuum. Poor leaders often share the goal but must remember to come back and celebrate what was just accomplished.
3. Be a Promoter of Growth- Identify ways to help others succeed at their personal and professional goals without strings attached, understanding that others’ successes and growth complement servant leadership.
4. Be an Advocate for Respect – Be willing to help those who cannot help you. (I.e., treat people with respect and compassion)
5. Be able to Self-Assess- Owning and changing how others experience you could change their fundamental beliefs of you and how they interact with you. If you do not like how someone treats you consider stepping up to the plate and altering your behaviors first. This takes commitment and guts!
6. Be able to Foster Great Relationships-Do and remember to underestimate the strength and connectedness of your social and professional network. One can only succeed in extraordinary ways with a well-connected, sustained network. Many have them but need to put them to use effectively. Building relationships is still essential to a leader’s overall success.
We must listen to what our organization and its people tell us—listening, after all, is required to communicate effectively, and great leaders know how to do this.
When people are not privy to critical information or decisions, they will instinctively make up their own stories to fill in the gaps of what they perceive. This is often to the firm’s detriment because it only has pieces of truth, and the information may need to be more accurate and will have gaps. The stories are typically shared in the hallway or at the water cooler with peers and others without the necessary information to convey a truthful narrative. As leaders, we must ask ourselves, how do we change this? This will be altered by being transparent and willing to make changes based on the feedback we receive from workers and subordinates. This will build trust, and with trust comes a psychological feeling of confidence. When people can trust you, they will work harder for you and be more open to investing their time and energy. They will also feel empowered to share suggestions and more prone to take more initiative. Furthermore, they will be more apt to enjoy what they do, thus improving the overall firm’s productivity and effectiveness.
Extraordinary leadership requires stepping up and taking ownership of situations and having the courage to make those needed changes. As leaders, we must ignite these actions and drive proactive change to achieve the desired outcomes. This will change behaviors and mindsets by shaping how the organization views success. This can be very powerful for you and the people you represent and lead—those whom you need to know where we are going and how we will get there.
Finally, from a professional perspective, results are what people focus on and use as the measuring stick of success. There is no way of avoiding the hard truth that numbers are what people are looking for to determine success. However, one of the most potent dynamics leaders need to improve is the ability to use people’s feedback data to determine success. Many people can create strategies, but only some can successfully execute them. A foundationally sound organization seeking success must realize that leadership has changed throughout the years and adopt a transformational approach to be effective.
Rico M. Miller