Marketing News Archive

The AMA's flagship publication

The May 2018 issue of Marketing News was the career issue.

So many people have asked me for career and leadership advice over the years. The fact is, there is a mundanity to successful careers. The key to life can be found by simply committing to being other-people-focused—maintaining an inner voice that can tell you to simply shut up, listen and commit to understanding someone now and then. 

In improvisation, one of the cardinal rules is not to deny what the other person on stage has given you. You always have on your mind to take what others have said and expand upon it. At the AMA, we call it the “yes, and” behavior. If you miss it, the magic never happens, and countless ideas die a quick death. 

My leadership style is about making others comfortable with me. My first instinct is to ask myself how I can put others at ease. Nothing is more unbecoming than a leader who inspires fear of honesty or provocative ideas. Focus your comments on the work-product, not the people who created it. Through that constructive behavior you’ll make people feel safe. 

It is said that towering leaders cast a long shadow. The shadow I’d like to cast is, if an idea makes good sense to you, then you can get a fair and earnest shake from me. In exchange for a safe and inspiring environment, I expect a team with the managerial courage, talent, positivity and commitment to be forthright with me and with one another. We all have a responsibility to assume positive intent. No hallway muttering, passive-aggressive pocket vetoes, or slow noes. 

Beware of devil’s advocates who can only cite what’s wrong with an idea. They are impediments that prevent others from progress. Don’t be that type of leader. In the short run you’ll get people to listen to you. In the long run, after everyone notices that all you do is play the role of the critic and nothing gets done, your impersonation of a leader will come to an end.

Half of my leadership is leading myself. Control is not leadership, self-control is. Benjamin Franklin asserted, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” How true is that? I’m sure of this: Control yourself, and you will have taken the biggest step toward leadership.

Once you’ve established a brutally honest self-awareness of how you make others feel, you have cleared the way to become an inspirational leader. In today’s world, finesse is always preferred over force. Inspiration is also other-people-focused. It’s not enough to paint a picture of an appealing future; you haven’t inspired others until you help them see the starring role they play in achieving it.

And finally, the last ingredient in leadership is inspiring others to have faith in themselves, to believe that their inner strength and determination is always superior to the circumstances around them. If you can instill this in others, your career will take care of itself. That’s the power of casting a big, long leadership shadow.

Years ago, senior business leaders met with the principals from management consultancy L’Institut Idée to experience the firm’s proprietary business methodology called the structural mapping process. This group of distinguished thought leaders used their process to map the successful leader in the 21st century. The process yielded insight into three distinct motivational types that are key to the success of a modern leader. 

The first is the intuitive anthropologist, whose pronounced powers of intuition and social skill provide the ability to clearly see what needs to be done. These leaders are motivated to understand others.

The second is the child-like genius, who has an innate ability to know what is required and how to do it. This person appears to have a naïve but remarkable ability to see the path to follow and is motivated by unbridled possibility.

The third is the nurturer, who is caring and compassionate, genuinely concerned about others and thus inspires trust. This person is motivated by taking care of others.

The findings confirm that leadership is not to be confused with a title. The map does not only apply to heads of organizations or senior executives—it applies to all levels of leadership, from corporate or political leaders to leaders of families or communities. An individual at any level of an organization or in any part of society can use this map effectively in asserting leadership.

Daniel Goleman, author of Mind-blowing Leadership, further buttresses the L’Institut findings in an introduction he wrote for the book Inspiration Leadership: A Primer.

Inspirational leaders, he writes, can articulate a shared mission in a way that motivates and offers a sense of common purpose beyond people’s day-to-day tasks. Their effectiveness is documented by research. 

“Emotional intelligence remains a key ingredient in the development of corporate leaders,” Goleman writes. “Leaders who have developed … emotional intelligence competencies such as emotional self-awareness, empathy, positive outlook, and teamwork are more likely to be equipped with the capacity to think creatively about the best ways to engage people. This is because they will have had discussions with their teams, listened to them, and responded to their input. Such a leader would have a better gut sense of what to invoke in terms of a powerful shared goal. And it is precisely such human connections that light the spark of inspiration.”

Few pathways are so clearly documented and defined as the path to successful leadership. Are you a 21st century leader? What shadow do you cast?

Russ Klein


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