6 steps to becoming a whole leader at your workplace

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When we hear the word ‘leader’ we often think of someone with authority and power, but that doesn’t have to be the case in an era where everyone has versatile tools to become a leader regardless of their position at work or their job description. Not all employees can have authority, but they can definitely have power in their jobs. That being said, standing out looks simple but can require real effort backstage. So here are six steps to becoming a well-rounded leader at your workplace, bringing out the power in you to be impactful through your job.

1- Have a sense of purpose

What are you at that job for? What is your purpose in life? Jon Foster-Pedley, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa, and chair for the Association of African Business Schools, explains that the most important thing for a leader is to have a real purpose. “I’m not just talking about the ‘performative’ purpose that looks good on social media and that everyone would praise you for. I mean a purpose that burns you up inside and scares you to do anything about,” he said.

2- Network and know how to do it

In a seminar hosted by the AUC School of Business in September 2022, Jon Foster-Pedley said that networking relentlessly is one of the keys to becoming a whole leader. “You have got to network relentlessly. Networking isn’t just about saying ‘hi’ to somebody. I met you once but we don’t have a relationship. I don’t know if you trust me,” he said. One trick to building trust quickly with people you’re networking with is to make the person you’re trying to build a relationship with unhappy in a little, subtle way, then make them very happy quickly. This can accelerate the trust relationship between the both of you, according to Pedley.

3- Improvise

One of the key points to being a leader is the capacity to improvise when things go wrong, according to Pedley. “I believe that great leaders are great improvisers. They can take an unexpected situation and work with it,” he said. This is where having a purpose can be extremely helpful. “When something doesn’t work a certain way, come at it from another angle towards the goal you’ve already set for yourself. If you work in improvisational mode, you accept whatever offer comes your way, and you catch it. You don’t drop it on the floor. If you try to move from point A to B in life and something gets in your way, you’ll be paralyzed because your plan has been disrupted, but if you improvise, you find a way around it,” Pedley added.

4- Feed your emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a prerequisite for improvisation. Emotional intelligence is an individual’s ability to accurately recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others. It is essential for career development according to this Business Forward article. It helps you manage things as they come and make sound judgements based on the variables of each situation you encounter. According to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in the USA, emotional intelligence enables leaders to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

“The ability to connect emotionally with employees/colleagues and lead with emotional intelligence is essential for leadership effectiveness. In part, that’s because the way a leader makes you feel can impact your engagement, as well as your productivity. Emotions can weave through every work situation you experience,” it said. There are several practices to help you improve your emotional intelligence, according to CCL. They include making an active effort to listening closely to others and withholding judgement, connecting with employees on a personal level, and seeking to understand yourself better and building a conscious awareness of your actions.

5- Communicate effectively

According to Corporate Finance Institute, leadership requires excellent communication. “A good leader is able to clearly and concisely explain problems and solutions. Leaders know when to talk and when to listen. In addition, leaders are able to communicate on different levels: one-on-one, via phone, email, etc.” Successful communication also includes seamlessly communicating expectations, especially if you’re responsible for a team. Making ‘performance expectations’ clear makes a huge difference, says one Forbes article. It says, “In doing so, a leader can remind their colleagues of the organization’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed”.

6- Embrace your imposter syndrome

Jon Foster-Pedley believes one way you can be powerful is to accept and embrace your imposter syndrome. “When I became a dean and a chair at Henley, I started looking at myself and wondered “why me? I see all my weaknesses and problems”, but does that mean that everybody else should too? The answer is no. Listen to the lovely cat on one of your shoulders saying you’re clever, you can do this, and ignore the parrot repeating that you can’t do it on the other shoulder. In fact, ask yourself “why not me?” he said. The first step is to acknowledge your imposter syndrome, welcome it, and embrace it. “Once you do that, it evaporates. It’s a good sign to find yourself saying to yourself “I’m a fool”. It just means you’re in the zone, and that you’re challenging yourself and doing well,” he added.

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