If you want others to view you as a leader in your organization, you first need to define your Ideal Image. Your Ideal Image is the image that you want to portray. It’s your best self, or the way you want others to see you. According to James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, the best way to determine your Ideal Image is to write a tribute about yourself.
Imagine that you are being honored as the Leader of the Year. What would you want people to say about you? Some questions to ask are:
- What do I believe in?
- What makes me jump for joy?
- What keeps me awake at night?
- What do I want in life?
- What do I really care about?
When you understand these qualities about yourself, you can then live those qualities in your business and personal life. That’s when others will view you as a leader.
Aside from the image you project, you also need to exude key qualities that outsiders perceive as traits of a leader. Over a twenty-year time span, Kouzes and Posner surveyed 75,000 professionals. They asked participants one key question: “What are the qualities required to successfully lead?” The answers the surveyed professionals gave revealed the top ten traits of successful leaders. Following are the top four:
1. Honesty (88%): Honesty means telling people what you know and not keeping key information to yourself. People can tell if you’re withholding something from them, no matter how small or trivial you may think the information is. As you reveal information, you need to be open and let people respond. Therefore, ask open-ended questions to facilitate discussion and let people air their feelings about the topic.
2. Forward-Thinking (71%): People within the organization view true leaders as those who encourage others to go to their own next level. When you’re forward-thinking, you foster an environment of creativity. In order to instill such a culture in your company, have everyone participate in monthly brainstorming sessions regarding the organization’s future. Keep these sessions fun so that people can be open and playful about potential new ideas.
3. Competence (66%): People view you as a competent leader when you’re willing and able to seek out experts on various topics. This lets others know that you don’t see yourself as the smartest person in the company. You can promote this by scheduling regular knowledge-sharing meetings so that others within various departments and groups can share their expertise and information. Not only does this help educate others, but it also allows everyone in the organization to appreciate others’ various levels of competency.
4. Inspiring (65%): People like to be around others who display a “can-do” attitude and who use positive language. So when you’re responding to challenges, don’t begin by stating the challenge or hurdle. Rather, make the first few sentences positive statements about what you’re trying to achieve. Yes, it’s a different approach than what you may be used to. But from now on, provide positive solutions first, followed by an overview of the challenges.
By firmly projecting your Ideal Image, and understanding the importance of each of these four qualities and displaying them on a regular basis, everyone in your company will view you as a true leader. You will attract positive attention, garner support for your ideas, and reach new heights of success more quickly than you ever thought possible.