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It’s among one of the most underrated elements of leadership. Underrated in that not enough leaders give it the full attention it deserves. It’s very difficult to keep it at the forefront of our intentional behavior, but surely most of us can do better.
How do you show up?
When I was growing up – and attending elementary school – times were very different. Parents – just about ALL parents – impressed their school-age kids to behave and “act like somebody.” Moms made sure we were all clean, neat and prepared for our first day of school. And every day thereafter. Shirttails tucked in. Homework completed. On our best behavior. And they’d ask our teachers how we behaved. That was back when kids didn’t rule the world and our folks insisted we treat teachers with respect. We called all adults “sir” and “ma’am.” Like I say, it was a different time. 😉
Our parents taught us the importance of how we showed up because of the way we looked and how we behaved reflected on them. We had a responsibility to our family and our name.
Fast forward into the corporate office, shop floor or any other place where leadership is exhibited and that principle is still valid. How we show up matters.
What does it mean?
It may be easier to consider what it doesn’t mean because it includes most everything. From major appearances to micro-movements of body language. Mostly, it means that people are watching and paying attention. They’re taking visual and audible cues from leadership. That puts a positive burden on leaders to display things that will serve others.
It doesn’t mean leaders front. Phony leadership isn’t effective. Hypocrisy isn’t a trait of any good leader.
It does mean an honest, self-awareness of what others need. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Contrivances aren’t part of it, but intentionality is. Effective leaders show up with intent and purpose to provide whatever is most helpful at the time.
Social intelligence is defined as the ability to successfully build relationships and navigate social environments. In short, it’s our ability to read a situation as a leader and respond in ways that can serve others. Social intelligence requires listening, watching and paying close attention to others. Leaders unwilling or unable to do that will fail to show up as they should to best serve the people they lead.
Questions can help.
What’s going on?
What are people doing?
What are they feeling?
What do they most need?
What can YOU do to help? What can YOU supply?
If all eyes and ears are on YOU (and they are), then what’s the message you’re sending (either intentionally or unintentionally)?
Part of this is why leadership is so lonely. It does require a more public display that may not always be fully congruent with how you truly feel, or what you truly think. That’s not being fake. Or hypocritical. It’s being a proper servant of the people you lead. Again, it’s about them – not you. You put yourself on a back burner.
Sometimes displays of anger or displeasure are effective. People need to see it. It can curb poor behavior, spark improved behavior and help people get on track.
Sometimes displays of patience and longsuffering are effective. People need to know they’re no longer in the dog house. They need to feel reassured that you have confidence in their ability to recover.
How you show up is determined not by how you feel when you wake up, but by what the organization needs from you today. Right now. And that may change during the course of the day. Or depending on who you’re interacting with.
It means you pre-think and prepare how you’re doing to show up before you actually (physically) show up. Before you enter the conference room or the meeting, you’re highly aware of your mood, how your voice will sound (tone) and how you’ll look. Your facial expressions, posture and body language will all impact the people you lead. You’ll be fully responsible to provide the best vision possible for your people so they can perform at their highest level.
Lastly, it means if you fail to do that…you’re being selfish, making it all about you. Don’t do that. Get behind a closed door and do whatever you must to make sure that when the door opens you’re appearing as you need to to help others. As the leader, you have what Pat Riley created in the old Los Angeles Lakers’ culture back in the days of Kareem and Magic…he called it, “Showtime!” You’re on stage. Even if you’re an introvert. People are paying attention to you. You want that. It goes along with leadership.
Be responsible for how you show up. Make it always count to the favor of the people you serve.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!