Communicating Your Leadership Point of View

In case you didn’t read my blog last time, please take a look. It’s about an important exercise you can do—creating, writing, and communicating your leadership point of view. Where did you get your image of what a good leader looks like? What beliefs about leadership led you to become a leader?

Sharing your leadership point of view can be a significant part of gaining trust and building relationships with your people—because as you share your thoughts and experiences with them, they begin to see who you are as a human being and can’t help but feel closer to you.

In this post, to help you get a better idea of what your leadership story should include, I’m going to repeat the steps of creating your leadership point of view and include some examples written by real leaders. These pieces of someone else’s history may be just what you need to get started with your own creative process.

Elements of Your Leadership Point of View

Developing your leadership point of view is a process that includes these three steps:

  1. Identify key people and events that have shaped and influenced your thoughts about leadership.
  2. Describe your leadership values.
  3. Share your expectations of yourself and of others.

Step 1A: Identify Key People in Your Life. Who are key people who have influenced your leadership style, and what did you learn about leadership from these people?

“When I was considering moving into leadership, I looked to a colleague who was a wonderful leader and role model. He led with love in all his relationships because he valued his direct reports and coworkers. I learned the phrase ‘It’s not about me’ from this man and he taught me what it meant coming from a leader. I learned how to love serving others both at home and at work, which indirectly led to me meeting my future spouse. My amazing colleague flew across the country to attend my wedding and I know it was because he knew I had acted on what I had learned from him.” – L.R.

“While I owe a great debt to my parents, they were very strict when I was younger. Fearing consequences, my siblings and I made up stories about where we were going when we wanted to hang out with friends. It felt bad to not be honest with my parents—but because of that feeling, since becoming an adult I’ve been committed to truthful communication at home and at work.” – T.C.

Step 1B: Identify Key Events that Shaped You. What significant events were turning points for you, what did you learn from those experiences, and how did they prepare you for a leadership role?

“I was the oldest of four children. My family traveled extensively when my siblings and I were in school due to my father’s job. As a result, we were constantly the new kids in the neighborhood and were sometimes subject to bullying from the locals. This taught me to look forward to better times because there was always a new situation around the bend. When I was in my mid teens, my parents divorced. I took on the role of the “man of the family” and began working to help pay the bills. It was a challenge but I was able to help my family, make my mom proud, and still excel in a few areas in school. From misfortune, I learned hard work pays off.” – T.J.

“I once was the head of a work group that messed up on a huge project I had fought for. We drastically underestimated our workload and were going to miss the delivery date by at least three months. My boss, an executive leader, left me a message that the project needed to be wrapped up in two weeks. I summoned the courage to call and let him know the truth. Needless to say, it was not a fun conversation—but it ended up being a turning point in our relationship. He later told me that call convinced him I would always tell him the truth. We still meet for lunch every few months. It was a tough lesson, but it taught me telling the truth is always the right option.” – B.R.

Step 2: Select Your Leadership Values. Values are core beliefs you feel strongly about that have determined how you behave as a leader. Think of three to five fundamental values reflected in your stories about key people and events in your life. Then define each one in your own terms and explain why that value is meaningful.

“I value helpfulness and describe it as regularly seeking moments to offer support and assistance. On a team, helpfulness is one of the primary ways you can demonstrate respect and kindness to others. What makes me happier than just about anything else is to see teammates proactively reaching out and helping others.” – O.S.

“Esprit de Corps is a value I define as pride, camaraderie, loyalty, and accountability shared by the members of a team. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. We all spend a significant part of our lives at work and it’s my firm belief that accomplishing great things and having fun are not mutually exclusive—the more fun you’re able to have, the more likely it is you’ll come out on top.” – D.Y.

Step 3: Communicate Your Expectations of Yourself and of Others. What do you expect of yourself as a leader in terms of your behavior and your leadership style? What can people expect of you? And what do you expect of your people? When your people know your expectations, they can more easily determine how they can succeed under your leadership.

“What do I expect from myself? No less than what I expect from all of you. I hold myself accountable for how I’d like to show up in my interactions with you and I ask you to hold me accountable for these three things: high standards (set your mind on big things); transparency (frank, candid communication); and tenacity (do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal).” – K.R.

“Because people and relationships are both values of mine, you can expect me to see you completely—not as a means to an end. To honor my relationship value, I will be honest with you and work to help you get through rough patches at work and in life as we partner to achieve our goals.” – E.S.

“I expect three things from people I work with:

  • Self leadership: ask for the leadership you need to be successful. This is the only way for me to effectively lead my team.
  • Be reliable: don’t make me chase you to do basic job responsibilities.
  • Peer-to-peer influence: Set the bar high and push each other to do more than you’d do on your own.” – D.D.

These short excerpts from real leadership point of view essays are meant as writing prompts to get you thinking about your story. If this feels out of your comfort zone, that’s good—we all need to stretch our comfort zone once in a while. In this case, some people may feel they don’t have much of a story to tell—or that their life isn’t interesting enough for anyone else to care about. But here’s the truth: when you are the leader, standing in front of a group of people talking about your leadership influences, what kind of experiences you’ve lived through, what you value, and what you expect of yourself and others, believe me—you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.

Sharing with Others Creates Strong Connections

So often in organizations, people don’t have an opportunity to really know their leaders—what kind of person they are, what their needs are, what’s important to them. Sharing your thoughts on leadership forms a trusting bond can’t help but strengthen your relationships with people. The experience will help you, your people, and your organization flourish together.

I hope you are able to get started soon on crafting your leadership point of view and sharing it with others. It’s a powerful experience.

The Power of Your Leadership Point of View

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.

The Beauty and Magic of SLII®

Millions of people the world over know the massive positive impact SLII® leadership training has had on leaders at every level and their team members in every industry. If you’re not one of these people, I’d like to introduce you to the basics of SLII®.  

SLII® is based on these two beliefs:

  • People can develop and want to develop.
  • There is no best leadership style to encourage that development; leaders must tailor their leadership style to the situation.

Think about it—we all are at different levels of development, depending on the task we are working on at a particular time. Leaders who over-supervise or under-supervise their people—give them too much or too little direction—have a negative effect on their development. That’s why it’s so important to match leadership style to development level.

SLII® is an easy-to-understand, practical framework that enables leaders to first diagnose a person’s development level on a specific task or goal: Enthusiastic Beginner, Disillusioned Learner, Capable but Cautious Contributor, or Self-Reliant Achiever. Leaders then apply the matching leadership style: Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating—the one that has the right amount of direction and support to help the person succeed at that development level.

  • Enthusiastic Beginners have just begun to learn a task or work on a goal. They are excited about doing it—but they don’t know what they don’t know. They need clear direction from their leader on exactly how to do the job.
  • Disillusioned Learners have been doing the task or working on the goal just long enough to understand that it may not be what they thought it was going to be. They aren’t sure if they can do the job or even want to do it. They need a coaching leader who can encourage them and build their confidence through this tough stage.
  • Capable but Cautious Contributors have the experience and skills necessary to do a job well but may have times when they still doubt themselves. They need a supportive leader who has their back and is there to cheer them on and show them how much they are appreciated.
  • Self-Reliant Achievers are capable, confident, and at ease with the task or goal at hand. Their leader is happy to delegate the job to these high performers—but is always available to help work a problem or celebrate a success.

So how would this model work in the real world? Let’s start with an example from your childhood. Can you remember when you started learning how to ride a bicycle? Sometimes you were so excited that you couldn’t sleep at night, even though you didn’t know how to ride yet. You were a classic Enthusiastic Beginner who needed directing.

Remember the first time you fell off your bike? As you were picking yourself up off the pavement, you might have wondered why you wanted to learn to ride in the first place and whether you would ever really master it. You had reached the Disillusioned Learner stage, and you needed coaching.

Then came the day when you could ride your bike with a parent cheering you on. But that confidence became shaky the first time you took your bike out for a spin without your cheerleader close by. Now you were a Capable but Cautious Performer in need of support.

Finally, you reached the stage where your bicycle seemed to be a part of you. You could ride it without even thinking about it. You were truly a Self-Reliant Achiever—and your parent could delegate to you the job of having fun on your bike!

The beauty and the magic of the SLII® model is that it can be applied in every part of life that includes tasks or goals: your personal life, family life, work, school, church, community, workplace, friendly or romantic relationships, etc.

As an educator, I know the thrill of witnessing the moment when a student suddenly realizes a concept I’ve been teaching them. It’s the same feeling you will get as an SLII® leader when you meet your people where they are in their development on a particular task or goal. Why? Because leadership is not something you do to people; it’s something you do with people.

September: A Time to GROW

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love September, because I always associate it with my days as a college professor. This was the time of year when everyone returned from summer vacation and we began again, refreshed and renewed.

When we’re students, the start of the school year gives us an opportunity to learn new things and grow. Yet as we move into adulthood, one year begins to blend into another. Confronted with daily demands, we tend to rely on past successes and past knowledge alone. Pretty soon we’re just going through the motions. We become stagnant; we don’t grow.

This trend is especially troublesome for leaders, because once you are stagnant—or even perceived as stagnant—your influence erodes. As my friend Norman Vincent Peale used to say, “Once you stop learning and growing, you might as well lie down and let them throw dirt on you, because you’re already dead!”

A Four-Part Plan to GROW

In our book Great Leaders GROW, Mark Miller and I contend that the best leaders make a conscious decision to grow throughout their careers and their lives. In the book, we outline four key practices that lead to the development of your highest potential, both on and off the job.

G Stands for Gaining Knowledge

Gaining knowledge isn’t something you do once and stop doing when you get a degree. It is a long-term decision—a habit, actually—to nurture and develop through the years. You can work on gaining knowledge in these areas: 

  • Self-knowledge – The better you know yourself, the better you’ll understand how you’re perceived and how you make decisions. To gain insight into your personality, check out assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the DiSC Profile, or StrengthsFinder.
  • Knowledge of others – The more you know about others, the easier it is to work with them to attain mutual goals. Go beyond superficial conversations and really get to know the people you work with.
  • Knowledge of your industry – Read up on the history of your industry. Research what’s happening in your field today. Who are the major players? What do they offer? Where is the industry headed?
  • Knowledge of the field of leadership – Keep reading business books, blogs, and newsletters to learn new leadership trends and best practices. What skills do other leaders have that you might need to work on?

R Stands for Reaching Out to Others

Reaching out to others and sharing what you’ve learned accelerates your own growth. You can do this formally by using your expertise to:

  • Lead a seminar.
  • Sit on a panel at a professional conference.
  • Become a mentor to someone in your field.

Or you can take an informal approach by making a conscious effort to:

  • Seize on teachable moments.
  • Share what you’re learning with others.
  • Tell stories that convey lessons you’ve learned.

O Stands for Opening Your World

Opening your world is a little tricky during a pandemic, but you won’t grow unless you expand your mind through new experiences that light a spark within you. Thanks to technology, many of the following examples can be done virtually.

Here are things you can do to open your world at work:

  • Attend training events to broaden your perspective.
  • Interview recent retirees and seek their counsel on current issues.
  • Have lunch with someone different every day to expand your network.
  • Lead any kind of a team or group. Leaders are learners!

You can do the following activities to open your world outside of work:

  • Travel—anywhere—when it’s safe to do so.
  • Volunteer regularly—anywhere.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Visit virtual museums or attend virtual plays or concerts.

A balance between stimulating work experiences and fulfilling personal experiences is essential if you are going to keep growing.

W Stands for Walking toward Wisdom

Wisdom can be defined as the application of accumulated knowledge and experience. Contrary to what you might think, wisdom has nothing to do with age. We all have known younger people who might be described as “wise beyond their years,” and many of us can say we know a few “old fools.”

The pursuit of wisdom never ends for those who aspire to leadership. Your journey toward wisdom should include the following elements:

  • Self Evaluation. Look in the mirror and be truthful with yourself.
  • Honest Feedback. Ask those around you for feedback on how you are doing.
  • Counsel from Others. Learn from others’ experiences as you move forward.
  • Time. Understand that acquiring wisdom is a lifelong process and can’t be rushed.

Your capacity to lead is determined by your capacity to grow—and the fastest way to grow is to learn. As we head into the fall, challenge yourself. Set new goals and sign up for training. Keep learning and keep growing. Make it a habit, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of becoming a leader for life.

What Principles Are on Your Belief Window?

Many years ago, my late, great friend Hyrum Smith was a member of a team that discovered the Reality Model, a brilliant visual way of describing how people look at life. Hyrum was so taken by the concepts in the model that he spent much of the rest of his life traveling around  and spreading the life-changing message to businesses, schools, churches, and even prisons. The ideas in the model aren’t new, but they are remarkably relevant for today. Why? Because the Reality Model helps people see the world as it really is.

The main concept of the Reality Model is the idea that each of us has a Belief Window through which we observe the world around us. On our Belief Window are thousands of principles we believe to be true about ourselves, our world, and other people. Most of these principles are an attempt to meet a basic human need such as to live, to love and be loved, to feel important, or to have variety. Some principles, such as “the Earth is round,” reflect reality, and some, such as “dogs are better than cats,” are subjective. Either way, we believe them to be true and we will behave as if they are—because our beliefs drive our behavior.

That said, the key to effective living is to continually identify the changing principles on our Belief Windows, look at the results they give us, and ask an important question: Will these results meet my needs over time? If the answer is yes,it usually means it is a valid belief for us. If the answer is no, we can chalk it up as a lousy belief and choose to either get rid of it or change it.

Let me give you a personal example. I once found myself tipping the scale at more than thirty pounds over my normal weight. My wife, Margie, asked me what my philosophy of eating was—particularly when I was consulting and teaching on the road. I answered, “If I’ve been working hard, I deserve to eat anything I want at night.” She said, “So how is that working for you?” I had to admit, it wasn’t fun carrying around the burden of that extra weight. These results weren’t meeting my needs over time. I needed to make a change.

Now remember: beliefs drive behavior. I realized that before my behavior could change, what I believed about eating had to change. I had to find an alternative principle. After much thought, I came up with this: “If I’ve been working hard, I deserve to eat a healthy dinner so I can sleep well and feel good about myself.” My revised principle helped me, over time, to get the results I wanted—and evaluating my Belief Window was instrumental in helping me turn my health around.

Why am I sharing these thoughts with you today? In the past eighteen months, we all have been carrying around the burden of living through a pandemic. Each of us has faced our own challenges—physical health, mental health, jobs, finances, etc. Many people’s lives have been turned upside down in too many ways to count. I’d like to suggest we all take a look at the principles that have formed on our Belief Windows and determine whether or not they have been meeting our needs over time.

For example, let’s say you have this principle on your Belief Window: “I’m afraid to leave the house. The world is a scary place.” Is that a lousy belief or is it a valid belief? Have the results of your behavior met your needs over time? If they haven’t, perhaps you could adopt an alternative principle that would meet your needs better. How about this: “Walking my dog after breakfast is a safe way for me to get back into life.” Will that alter your behavior in a positive way? Yes, it will.

Or maybe there’s been a change in what is important to you: “I’m not looking forward to going back to my office. Working from home makes me happier and I get more work done.” Is that a lousy belief or a valid belief? Have those results met your needs over time? If you think they have, talk to your supervisor—perhaps you can make working from home a permanent choice.   

When you discover that certain principles have helped you find peace of mind, hold on to them. When you uncover beliefs that haven’t been working for you, get rid of them or come up with alternatives that can help you change your results for the better. And don’t forget the phrase over time—because results take time to measure.

Are the results of your beliefs and behavior meeting your needs? Following this model won’t improve everything overnight. But becoming aware of your principles and applying the concepts of the Belief Window may be a step in the right direction.