When I work with an individual leader as a coach, we create my version of a development plan. This plan documents a personal journey from the intangible to the tangible – from values, strengths and brand to success story, goals, and practice.
In the many hours I’ve spent assisting individuals in creating these plans I have learned a great deal. I’ve learned that true leadership forms in the intangible realm and effective leaders know how to bring the intangible into tangible reality. I’ve learned the importance of confidence, communication and credibility in the leadership journey. And most of all I’ve learned that leaders must always be conscious of behavior.
As I reflect back on the hundreds of goals and thousands of supportive strategies I’ve helped leaders create, I’m taken by one thing: It is all about the leader’s behavior. All of an individual leader’s growth and development is about behavior. How we communicate is a mix of skill and behavior. How well we connect authentic confidence will skillful communication determines the level of our credibility. And credibility is driven not by results, but by an impact with reach – a complete story of impact that tells of results and the behaviors that brought about those results.
You’ve most likely heard the cliché, “Other’s perception is their reality.” I’ve found this one fact to be the most difficult concept for leaders to accept. An individual has a perception of you because she has observed your behavior. That behavior, or even a lack thereof, has formed her perception. This is her reality because of what she has ‘seen.’
If you truly want to change this perception, you have only one choice – to change your observable behavior. For a behavioral change to be sincere and permanent, you have to be willing to analyze the belief that drove the original behavior. By belief, I mean what you believe you can and cannot do.
This is the reality of perception.
The greatest leaders do three things well:
1) They make the intangible tangible for those they lead and influence.
2) They manage behavior in light of the reality of perception.
3) They bring intent through the flow to practice.
This is about the larger story and the more present stories that unfold on the way to the better future. In The One Thing You Need to Know – About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Marcus Buckingham says great leaders inspire with a story of a better future. To get to that future, great leaders leverage the practice of clarity as they help us understand and focus in the present – a practiced focus that moves us to that story.
Practice is present attention and behavior applied for the balance of your desire, intent and impact. Attention negatively focused on the past produces distracting regret. Attention negatively directed at the future disables you in the present. Practice can only occur in the present and your developed sense of presence alerts you to the specific practice you need in the moment for the particular situation.