Leaders are like lighthouses. They provide a guiding presence that leads the team through good times and challenging times.
Leadership presence is defined by what is expected, what is accepted and what is encouraged. It isn’t just physical presence; it’s the intangible sense of direction and stability that the team feels whether or not you are physically present.
You communicate these three things in everything you say and do, and people fit themselves around that presence. It happens naturally and unconsciously, but it can also happen on purpose if you work at it. So let’s explore each pillar, shall we?
What You Expect
We all know a team needs to have clear expectations to be successful. So, how do you set expectations? The most common ways include memos and goal statements, performance agreements and job descriptions. Written expectations are a must, but certain expectations don’t lend themselves to those communication vehicles. Even when they do, they still need to be reinforced.
Here are some additional ways to communicate and reinforce expectations:
- Conversation – If you are having a conversation with someone, such as an impromptu problem-solving conversation, and they make a suggestion or comment that is not in line with the expectation, correct it and move on. For example, you can say, “I expect that you make a call first before writing the email as we want to give a bit of context before opening up a controversial topic. Let’s make that a default step in these types of situations.”
- Praise – When someone carries out the expectation well, praise them in public. Emphasize how that particular action or achievement is in line with the expectations.
What You Accept
When someone shows up with a bad attitude or submits a deficient deliverable, how you accept it sends a message. How you accept or don’t accept things sets the stage for future interactions with your team. If you don’t accept something, you can return, discuss, reiterate or do all three.
- Return – You can send the document back with comments. This is usually best for minor errors. If the deficiency is significant, a discussion is likely needed.
- Discuss – You can discuss the deficiencies one-on-one or in a group. This has the added benefit of engagement and employee development if done in a patient and encouraging tone.
- Reiterate -If the expectation is one that was set before, you can reiterate that point and even provide a reference to the original expectation.
What You Encourage
What are the things you say yes to? Do you say yes to innovative ideas? Do you praise positive attitudes? Do you let people go on details, or leave the team with a supportive or begrudging posture? Do you create an environment of competition, encouraging employees to outcompete each other for awards?
You can encourage something by identifying it, supporting it or amplifying it.
- Identify – When you find something interesting, share it with your team. You are encouraging them to value something or take action on something without making it an official expectation.
- Support – When someone requests training or comes up with an idea, do you support it? What you support sends a message about what you value and what you think the team should value.
- Amplify – When someone does something or creates something you think is excellent, you can encourage it by amplifying it. Could you share it with others? Could you raise it to your boss?
I am not advocating for any particular value. All work environments and leaders are unique, and the combination of what they expect, accept and encourage will be different.
Develop Your Own Leadership Lighthouse Statement
Leaders must take time to assess their presence, and refocus and adjust as needed. Creating leadership lighthouse statements is a way to help you focus on the basics of your presence, so you can be an effective guiding presence that your team needs.
So, what do you expect, accept and encourage? Is it what you envisioned? Is it working? Is it aspirational? Write it out. Make it tangible so as you go about your day, you can align your words and actions with your internal lighthouse. All else will fall into place.
Example: I expect my supervisors to create a positive and productive environment for their staff. I accept good quality work and praise high quality work. I encourage continuous improvement of people, processes, and products.
Leave your statement in the comments below to help inspire the lighthouse leadership statements of others.
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Nefertiti is a Supervisory Life Scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She is passionate about employee engagement, mentoring and helping people and groups achieve their goals. Her leadership mantra is, “Prioritize people. Simplify processes. Celebrate progress.”
In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawing and writing. Nefertiti is the mother of a curious and compassionate seven-year-old, with whom she enjoys rediscovering the world.