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Leading Effectively Podcast

Building an Authentic Leadership Image

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Developing your leadership image doesn't have to be a complicated process. Often, gaining the awareness of your current image and its limits goes a long way.

For example, if you realize you talk too fast when delivering bad news and are often viewed as nervous, you can make a conscious effort to take a breath, slow down and remain calm.

But before you make any changes, be sure to get a good, truthful picture of your image. Take time to understand how others see you and why. Seek feedback from colleagues, your boss and direct reports. Ask your friends, children and significant other. Each of these points of view will shed light on how your words and behavior are viewed by the people around you.

Next, remind yourself that genuine change is rarely dramatic. For leaders, a significant change is likely to be viewed suspiciously as false or manipulative behavior. You're not likely to make genuine, sustainable change without commitment to small, daily changes.

Practicing new behaviors may feel uncomfortable or strange, but avoid doing anything that doesn't mesh with your values and intentions. An authentic desire to learn and change is what building a leadership image is all about. With that in mind, consider the gap between the image others have of you and the image you would like to project. Decide what you can go to work on immediately, and try these six helpful techniques:

  • No.1: Tell stories. Leaders who give examples through their stories are more engaging. You influence the organization's culture when you tell stories about what happened, about how a problem was solved, or about someone who did something notable.
  • No. 2: Master your message. Clarity of thought and message is key. Think about what you want to say. Every question and every conversation is an opportunity to share ideas, vision and values. But strike a balance between too much detail and not enough. Also, be sure you can talk vision and concepts, yet show your grasp of the tactical.
  • No. 3: Use vocal variety. People listen better to a pleasant and enthusiastic speech pattern. Pay attention to your intonation, speed, diction, pacing and volume. Do you regularly overuse a word or forget to breathe and rush through what you have to say?
  • No. 4: Focus on "we." Leaders who use inclusive language, like "we" and "us," inspire their listeners and draw on shared effort and interests.
  • No. 5: Smile. You'll appear friendly if you tap into your personal warmth, and the best way to convey warmth is to smile. Often leaders don't relax or crack a smile unless they're talking about something personal such as a child's school event or a recent vacation. You'll be more effective if you take the same tone when talking about the business.
  • No. 6: Consider visual impact. Your listeners will see you before they hear you, and nonverbal communication is powerful. Change your haircut or update your wardrobe. If you feel good about your appearance, you will project an image of greater confidence.

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