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To Achieve Greater Agility, Optimize Your Leadership Brand originally appeared on Forbes.com.
My last article addressed the concept and importance of employer brand, which I defined as "the distinct impression that job applicants and employees have of your organization as a place to work." Every employer has an employer brand in addition to its overall brand — that is, the image and reputation of the organization in the marketplace.
Well, believe it or not, there’s yet another type of brand that applies to certain individuals within every organization. It’s leadership brand. This is the distinctive set of characteristics that you exhibit as a leader and the reputation you carry as a result.
Now wait a minute, you might say, I don’t have a leadership brand — I’m just me. On the contrary, if you’ve been in a leadership role for any amount of time, every one of your decisions and interactions has created and contributed to your brand.
The objective now is to identify that brand and optimize it. When looking to do so, many leaders strive to become more agile. In a world that, as we learned the hard way in 2020, can change so suddenly, the ability to respond to crises quickly and decisively is a much-sought-after leadership trait. And it’s one that you can achieve.
The Three Archetypes
In the broadest sense, leaders fall into three archetypes:
Not every leader will fall neatly into any one category. People are complicated. The archetypes’ purpose is to provide a starting point from which to identify your leadership brand and, from there, find ways to maximize the positives and deal with the negatives as they arise.
Enter The Derailers
About those negatives, they have a name: derailers. Organizational psychologists use this term to describe behaviors that slow down decisional agility and, over time, damage leadership brand.
Derailers tend to vary, depending on leadership archetype. For example, let’s say you’re “the artist” — an independent innovator who likes to mostly work alone, generate ideas and strategies and delegate as much of the day-to-day as possible.
These types of leaders often run into the derailer of being perceived as arrogant. They might sometimes overestimate their own abilities and seem self-absorbed or inconsiderate. They often push their own agendas and show little interest in others’ points of view.
This is not an easy persona to cop to! No one wants to think of themselves as arrogant, but if you’re constantly at odds with others and want to improve the situation, there are things you can do:
All these things will neutralize the situation and enable you to act more agilely because you’ll encounter less friction — even though making decisions may take longer.
Let’s say you’re more of a player-manager. In this case, you might struggle with a derailer called “approval dependence.” In times of stress, these leaders don’t like to rock the boat and might avoid confrontation. After all, they want to not only lead their teams but also be part of them. They may be less willing to support an unpopular idea or stand up for (or to) their team regarding a controversial issue.
If this sounds like you, work on recognizing how often you agree simply for the sake of agreement. As difficult as doing so might be, give people the feedback they need. Engaging in constructive conflict will build trust, respect and loyalty. In turn, you’ll be able to apply more agility to your decision-making — especially when dealing with a crisis. This is because you’ll be better able to ask the tough questions and get to the truth more quickly.
Then there are the boardroom bosses. A typical derailer for them is risk aversion. These leaders are usually deliberate and cautious, which others might perceive as being indecisive. They might be slow to react and favor the status quo when there’s a need for urgency or more radical change.
If you’re naturally risk-averse, learn to hear and change your self-talk — especially in situations that cause you to worry about doing the wrong thing. Avoid binary thinking or catastrophizing, steering clear of analysis paralysis. Set limits on data gathering, and establish firm deadlines for final decisions. Remember, particularly in times of crisis, making no decision is often worse than making a bad one.
Overcoming risk aversion is perhaps the purest example of becoming more agile. The overly cautious leader will encounter a mountain and spend hours or days at the base trying to figure out how to climb it. More agile leaders will find their way to the top while climbing.
The funny thing about derailers is they’re often strengths that have gone to extremes as others see or experience them. Even an unflattering trait such as arrogance could just be strong self-worth and confidence, which, in and of themselves, aren’t bad attributes at all.
More Important Than Ever
Many leaders may fulfill their roles for years without incurring serious challenges. Of course, that all changed in 2020 as the pandemic has put the agility of nearly everyone in a leadership position to the test. The experience, no doubt, has reinforced the importance of eliminating impediments to your ability to lead and strengthening your leadership brand as a result.
Original post by Lynda Silsbee
Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.