Building A Shared Vision By Using My Strengths In Flexible Ways
In my last semester of business school, I decided to register for the pilot of an intensive leadership development course called, Ross Leaders Academy. This course integrated executive coaching, reflective learning, and a practicum in launching a business using the lean startup method. One week I asked my coach how I could work on being a more commanding style leader. Instead, she recommended a technique, called the "third space" activity, to repurpose my leadership style – a mix of relational and vision-focused – to create a results oriented environment.
SKILLS AND AND INSIGHTS GAINED
Future-framing unleashes creativity – The activity I applied was to have everyone on my team brainstorm according to this prompt, “If we have a successful transformation, what will our stakeholders be saying? Write down actual quotes you imagine and note who says them.” After a 5-7 minute brainstorm the members of my team had tremendously thoughtful and specific quotes written down. This “future-framing” unleashed their creativity and helped them imagine a vivid image of what success looked, felt, and sounded like. Framing questions the right way makes a huge difference in unleashing the creativity of others.
Visions have to be detailed – This exercise showed me how helpful (and motivating) it is to create a detailed, sensory vision for what a team is trying to accomplish. Simply listing out tasks that need to be done or creating a statement of vision and values isn’t enough. Doing this exercise with my team reminded me how useful a detailed vision can be to build excitement and clarity around a team’s goal.
I don’t have to be a commanding-style leader – I am not a commanding style leader and I didn’t have to be. Instead, I used my strengths (building consensus and an inspiring vision) in a "commanding way", by forcing my team to write specific quotes they would want to hear on a piece of paper, before sharing it with the team. Leaders do not necessarily have to be able to switch their styles, but they do have to adaptable enough to apply their styles and strengths in different ways.
IMPACT AND LESSONS LEARNED
For a long time I’ve worried that I wasn’t assertive, commanding, or pushy enough to be able to lead successfully. I looked at myself compared to heralded leaders and thought, “I don’t think that’s me.” That was a little bit unnerving because I feared that I’d consequently never get to lead in a high-stakes, high-impact environment. After all, in my experience only commanding leaders were allowed to lead the fun stuff.
I’m so grateful to my coach, Kathy, for recommending that I try this activity because it showed me that I could command results without being commanding. All it takes is a mind open to new ideas, a little advice from your friends, and some effort to creatively apply your strengths in new ways. Now, I don’t worry so much about whether I fit the mold of what others expect from a leader. I know now that I can adapt myself to get the results needed by any situation.