Five Words That Will Increase Your Leadership Impact

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“I loved my job… and then I got promoted.” 

Over the course of 20+ years that I have been designing and facilitating professional development for leaders, I have heard this sentiment expressed hundreds of times. People do really well in their jobs and then they get promoted into leadership positions. This is the natural order of things. Promotions typically come with higher compensation, more opportunities, and serve as an indicator of advancement. All good things. 

But leadership roles, particularly people leadership positions, are not the same as front-line or non-supervisory leadership jobs. In people leadership, the focus shifts from being the expert in a task or skill to needing to know how to guide, elevate, support, motivate, and steer other people. The job is completely different and much like becoming a spouse or a parent… one for which there is very little or no meaningful training. 

(Just curious… Why is it that the most important roles we fill in life come with little or no meaningful mentorship or training? Just wondering out loud.) In any case….

There are many leadership training programs out there that offer terrific frameworks, systems, and protocols that can be applied in targeted situations. However, I am most interested in the nuances of leadership: 

  • How does an individual shape his / her / their identity as a leader?  
  • How does an individual leader develop the confidence to lead in a way that is unique, genuine, and authentic to them? 
  • How does a leader develop the capacity to guide, elevate, support, motivate, and steer a diverse range of direct reports who are all different from one another? 

Not long ago, I designed and facilitated a 6-month leadership development program for a vertical line of leaders from new managers to senior directors. At the end of the program, one of the directors in the group spoke about his experience: 

Before participating in the training sessions and Community of Practice leadership meetings we held over the last 6 months, I really had no idea how to be a leader. I only had the model of others in the organization to follow, many of whom lead with an autocratic and harsh style, so this is what I started to do. It never felt good to me, but I thought that this is how it must be done. But now, having had the chance to explore what leadership means to me, I am able to lead in a way that is much more collaborative, participatory, and supportive. It feels much more like me and I am getting much better results.” 

So how do leaders develop their most authentic and impactful leadership style?

Five Words that will Increase Your Leadership Impact

One of the most powerful exercises I work on with leaders is identifying five core values. A core value is a fundamental belief that guides our behavior and choices in a way that keeps us aligned to what matters most to us. When I work with leaders, we take an evidence-based approach to identifying them. In other words, rather than thinking about values in an aspirational way and then trying to construct a leadership approach to match, I ask people to examine the moments of their lives and leadership when they felt most confident, aligned, at ease, proud, and genuine. These moments serve as evidence of core values that are already at work. Since core values are fundamental beliefs, it would reason that they already exist within us. Through this process, we can become more conscious of them and begin to apply them more consistently. 

I recently leveraged my own five core values to help me work through something in my business. I was working on the relaunch of my podcast – Courage to be Curious with Adina Tovell. As instructed by my marketing team, I put together an editorial calendar and recorded my first few episodes. The problem was that when I went back to listen to them, I didn’t like them. Something was off. 

As I always do, I began asking myself questions to root out what wasn’t right. In response to one of those questions, I jotted down my five core values and the problem was immediately clear. One of my core values is courage and there was nothing courageous about these episodes. They were vanilla. They were technically good and passionate, but there was nothing courageous about them. And while they were not inauthentic, they did not reveal enough about what was most important to me. 

Yes, I had to ‘redo,’ but the redo felt so much better. The do-over versions felt aligned with my core values and are bound to have more of the impact I’m looking for. In many ways, I felt liberated. Instead of checking items off my content creation checklist, my work became my self-expression and soon stopped feeling like work at all. If you want to hear what the new episodes sound like, check out our podcast here. You can also watch the podcast on YouTube here. 

And if you are curious about your own core values, you can get the “Defining Your Core Values” workbook for free here: Download the workbook


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