Dr. Relly Nadler: This week we are going to be focusing on the competency of leadership. How can a leader better position themselves as a leader? How can leaders communicate a compelling vision? How do they transfer their enthusiasm into commitment and to action their followers? What are the best practices to improve leadership? As a leader, how do you hold others accountable? As a leader, how do you keep the workforce more engaged?
The answers to these questions are the focus of this session. I’m Dr. Relly Nadler, psychologist, and executive coach. Today for the Star Secret section we are going to have Kevin Eikenberry, the author of Remarkable Leadership. Kevin is a consultant, he’s a speaker and trainer, and a coach who has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Chevron Phillips, Southwest Airlines, and US Marine Corp. He’s a best-selling author and a contributor to 13 training and development source books. He has a popular weekly newsletter with hands-on tools. It’s going to be very exciting and we’ll have him give us some specific tools around a leader and how a leader positions himself and how they develop and communicate a compelling vision.
One of the things we want to talk about is what is it that allows someone to be an inspirational leader. An average leader uses formal authority and they stimulate enthusiasm. A star leader does both of those, but they also position themselves as a leader, not just every once in a while, 80% of the time. They communicate a compelling vision.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Let me welcome Kevin to the show.
Kevin Eikenberry: It’s my pleasure to be with you today.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Why don’t you give us a little bit of background? Sounds like you have been doing leadership development and leadership training for the last 20 years. Just tell us about your interests and how you came to this around leadership. Then we’ll get more specific.
Kevin Eikenberry: Well, I think that the nature of our work certainly includes leadership and it’s become a big focus largely for two reasons. One is that over time we have looked to figure out ways that we can help our clients more broadly. One of the biggest levers that is out there for any organization to get more effective is to have stronger more effective leadership skills. So, we’ve sort of gravitated to it in that regard. I think secondly, one of the things that leads me to do the work that I do, Relly, is I find that it’s in the areas where we can improve ourselves both in a professional and a personal way at the same time. It’s what really interests me, I suppose.
The way I like to think about leadership is that when we become a better leader we become a better human. When we become a better human we become a better leader. So, I like to think of leadership skills, that big, vast, set of leadership skills, as being skills that we can use in all parts of our lives. Then from the organizational perspective, as I said before, leadership is that great lever to grow your organizational performance.
Dr. Relly Nadler: I think one of the things we talked about earlier in the show is just the influence that leaders have. So it’s great to hear that. What I am struck with is just how similar what you’re doing is what I’m doing in our organization. We’re focusing on these emotional intelligence competencies. But what I really looked at what’s coming up in your remarkable leadership, many of the competencies match very, very well. Learn continually, champion change, communicate powerfully, build relationships, develop others, focus on customers, influence with impact, think and act innovatively, value collaboration and teamwork, solve problems, take responsibilities, manage product cycles. So probably two-thirds of those are all the same things that we have been talking about on this show. How did you come up with those competencies and how did you create that model?
Kevin Eikenberry: We built the competencies over all of the time that I have been in business. Those competencies come from my study, they come from my observation, they come from a lot of the work we have done with clients in terms of what are those areas that let people that either are very successful at or could be more successful at. It’s really a list I’ve developed over time and really comes again, not only from study but really largely from observation and study of clients and of situations and what are the things that make for more successful remarkable leaders.
Dr. Relly Nadler: Looking at these, I know the one like I mentioned earlier, when I deal with executives sometimes they may come up through engineering, they come up through different ways. So this idea of being a compelling vision, and that a vision is important and a lot of things that we are talking about specifically for this topic on leadership, how do you work with them around that compelling vision or if someone inherently isn’t inspiring. Are there specific tools or ways that you can help bring that out with them?
Kevin Eikenberry: Yes, I think there definitely are. So first thing I think it’s important to recognize that vision is absolutely critical because we are a leader because people are following us, not because of the job title, right? So, if we’re a leader, that means people are following us. That means that we are going somewhere. A vision is, hopefully, to somewhere that we are going, so vision is absolutely critical.
So, let me talk about what I think it takes to create that compelling vision and you said, or to be inspiring. I think in some ways they are the same. So let me just talk about the vision piece and we can come back to any additional stuff on inspiration if we need too.
I think the number one thing that we need to do as leaders, and it really ties to what you were talking about in the first segment of the show, is that leaders have to be authentic. They have to be sincere, transparent and genuine so that people understand their intent and know where they are coming from and where they are going to. So that, even if we don’t agree with everything the leader is doing, we at least understand the whys and we understand and see that there is a genuine person there. So I think that is an incredibly important starting point to inspiration and the vision. Communicating the vision is to be authentic, and this is really what I believe. This is really where I’m headed, where I think we should be heading.
The best leaders recognize that that vision is only compelling when seen from the perspective of the other person, not from their own. The first mistake that some leaders make is that they paint the picture of a vision from their own perspective, which is never going to be very compelling. It might be interesting, it might be engaging for a while, but in the end, as followers, we must see how we fit in. We must see the benefit of it from our perspective. It must be our vision. So the best leaders create a compelling vision by helping us make that vision our own and see it from our own perspective. I think that is an absolutely critical component.
So, four things. Beyond making it theirs, from a leader’s perspective, we must make it theirs. The next thing is the compelling vision must be something that is truly desirable to the other person. There must be value in it. Both in terms of the self-interest of the other party but also in the greater good sort of scenario. The more of those things we have the more successful and more compelling that vision will be.
The third thing is that the vision must be real. We must be able to really see it, we must be able to make it clear and specific, and again, from the perspective of the other person.
Then lastly, that vision needs to be seen as being reachable. So, Relly, if my goal, if my compelling vision if I had a brand new company with zero dollars in sales and if my vision included a component that next year we’ll make a billion dollars, that might not be real to go from zero to a billion in one year.
So the vision, to be compelling, needs several factors. It needs to be theirs. It must be real and specific. It must be truly something that is desired, and lastly, it needs to be something that’s reachable. We believe we can actually get there at some point in the future.
So all of those things together will help you craft a vision that will be truly compelling. Not for you, but for those you are leading.
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