Are you Challenging Your Leadership Skills?

by Kaley Warner Klemp, a YPO certified forum facilitator

Most chief executives are looking to not only bring forward their best as a leader, but also inspire their teams to greater performance. While there is no formula that works in all situations, when I coach chief executives and work with their teams, I share these three commitments that create a platform for better results with more cohesion and fun.

Learn through curiosity

The most influential leaders stay curious in all situations, especially when receiving challenging feedback. These leaders are more committed to learning and growing than proving their own idea “right.” Teams that adopt this perspective are more able to bring novel ideas to each other and build on them for inspiring innovation.

Leader challenge: Promote someone else’s idea or perception as being more compelling than your own.

Take responsibility

Taking responsibility is the ability to see the roles that create drama and shift back to accountability. This ends the complaining of the victim (“life is happening TO me”), the blame of the villain (“someone is at fault!”) and the rescuing of the hero (“I’ll temporarily relieve this problem!”). Instead, effective leaders and their teams wonder about how they — consciously or unconsciously — created the situation they are facing. They learn from the experience (curiosity) and make choices around how to respond.

Recently a team had a big IT initiative that was late to market. While it was tempting to blame the development firm for the delays (villain) or feel helpless, “All IT is late and over budget” (victim), they instead stopped to ask how they created the experience. They realized that their lack of understanding of the process meant that they had set their milestones too far apart. They didn’t need to fire everyone (villain) or take all development in-house (hero); they chose to have more robust spec documents for future projects.

Leader challenge: To start your next meeting, ask if everyone would be willing to take responsibility for their meeting experience. This means that if you are bored, there is no complaining; make a request to move on. If a topic you want to discuss hasn’t been raised, it is your responsibility to raise it. See if it alters the level of engagement or the timing of the meeting.

Be your best

Most people have been told to change — to be different or correct a weakness that has been in place for years. This is futile: It uses lots of energy, creates self-criticism and rarely produces better results. Instead of having people focus on changing long-standing weaknesses, find the gift in the pattern and focus on bringing out its best.

For instance, a chief executive of a growing firm continued to get feedback that he was too intense. His performance review was full of comments like, “lacks empathy” or “burns people out.” He’d been getting similar feedback for most of his career. What the feedback missed was how many initiatives he had created that had proven the seemingly impossible to be possible. Instead of trying to model patience and compassion, resulting in frustration, the chief executive committed to channel the intensity toward setting the vision, leaving more of the day-to-day management to a partner. Giving himself permission to be as driven as he is, he committed to smile while talking with people. The appreciation for the leadership gifts and subtle shift of a smile helped people get inspired by the lofty goals and get to work.

Leader challenge: Identify one pattern that has been consistent for your career. Celebrate the good it brings you personally and your company (such as tools, accomplishments, risk mitigation and culture). Choose one small way to bring out the best in this pattern, while embracing your full self.

Powerful leaders are far more interested in learning, growing and shifting out of old patterns than being right and proving it. Being a great leader is about enhancing self-awareness and seeing where vulnerability, curiosity and responsibility can take you.

Learn more from Klemp in her recent TedX Talk

Kaley Warner Klemp is a sought-after speaker, YPO certified forum facilitator and transformational executive coach. She advises senior executives on how to uncover and address core challenges in communication, trust and culture. Klemp is an Enneagram specialist, helping organizations outperform their competitors by unlocking a deeper understanding of what motivates and drives people. She co-authored “The Drama-Free Office” and “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadershipand wrote “13 Guidelines for Effective Teams.”

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