As some of you know, at Carpenter Smith Consulting we define leadership in this way:
to influence your world
be influenced by your world,
regardless of role or title.
We’ve brought this definition to leaders of large organizations, leaders in school, leaders in communities, and leaders in life… and based on their positive feedback, we’re more dedicated to this definition than ever.
This definition represents a powerful shift in your behavior and supports you in creating success in your work and world.
- You no longer stand on the sidelines, arms crossed, waiting for someone else to do something.
- You think about how you can influence situations with your perspective and wisdom.
- You don’t believe you, alone, know the right way, but you listen and are curious about others’ wisdom and perspective… you let them influence you.
It’s quite a different way of understanding leadership than most of us were taught, so we find that people can struggle with envisioning what this can actually look like in their lives. And, we know that if you can’t see it, you probably can’t do it.
So today we’re going to share three simple examples of how people bring this to life in their work, their communities, and their world.
1. Debra is a powerful CEO who was feeling very frustrated that a key project had not gotten any traction.
She started to take control of the situation and tell people what to do—when she remembered that leadership is influencing and being influenced by. So, she went to her executive team and told them her frustration, shared her expectation for getting traction on this effort, and asked what they would suggest in order to get things back on track.
At first her team looked at her silently, and she found herself preparing to fill in the silence with her thoughts about how to move forward… but she paused, remembering the goal was to lead and not take over.
It took about five seconds of silence (which can feel like an eternity!) when a member of the team started to share some ideas – some very good ideas. Then another member refined those ideas a bit and added some additional information.
Before too long, the team was working together to figure out how to get movement on this very important project. In addition, they started to volunteer for the different actions needed to get it off the ground.
Within about 15 minutes, they proposed an approach to Debra. She provided a little feedback on the proposal and they were off with a deadline to report back in five days.
2. Mark has been coaching soccer at his daughter’s high school for about three years.
There’s much about the role that he loves, but he’s finding more and more work landing on his plate and he’s becoming resentful.
When he heard this definition of leadership, he assured us it would NOT work in this situation. “The school administration won’t budge, parents only think of themselves, and the kids have no interest in being a part of the solution.”
As you might imagine, we challenged him on this and encouraged him to influence and be influenced by, and then influence and be influenced by… over and over again, and see what happened.
He started with the school administration, letting them know that he would remain in this important role if he had support for some of the administrative work that was taking all of the fun out of coaching.
Much like the example above, he was initially met with silence. In his head, he made up a story that they weren’t going to help him, they were judging him as a bad dad, and on and on from there… but he waited those eternal five seconds… and the administrator said, “I think we can get Patty to help you, she has some flex and her daughter is a soccer player.” Influence and influenced by.
He let the administrators know how much he appreciated the support and then asked for some of their wisdom on how to handle some challenging parents.
They spent about 20 minutes influencing one another as they explored ways to set limits on some of the parents’ demands and ways to invite their participation going forward. Influence and influenced by.
At the next soccer meeting, he brought up some challenges the soccer team was having and asked if several parents would step in and manage the parent side of things. More silence. Then some discussion. Then some ownership. Influence and influenced by.
Then he had a similar conversation with the students. Similar silence. Then the conversation started and several students stepped up to help the team get snacks for the games. Influence and influenced by.
And, truth be told, he had to have similar conversations multiple times, but over time a small group of committed administrators, parents, and kids stepped up to help him lead.
3. Sam is a friend of ours. He’s struggled with weight issues his whole life and it was starting to take a toll on his health.
He assured us that his family wouldn’t tolerate changing their diet. They felt connected and happy when they shared their pasta, pizza, and desserts.
He hated to ask for their support as he felt ashamed, and even stupid, that it had reached this point, but he agreed to give it a try.
One night over a dinner of pizza and beer, he broached the issue. He let them know that he was having health concerns and that if he didn’t change his diet they were likely going to get worse.
He said he didn’t want it to have a negative impact on the family and he wanted their help with thinking about how to do it so it had the least impact. Awkward silence ensued until his adult daughter said, “Are you going to be okay? Do we have to be afraid?”
He had influenced her and she was influencing him. She needed to know more before moving to action. He told her what he knew and that he believed he’d be okay if he made these changes.
The next thing he knew, the whole family started to talk about how they all needed to change their diet. They all realized that they could each stand to improve their health and would work together to support each other in the change. They agreed to pizza and beer once a month vs. twice a week, as it had been.
We encourage you to spend some time thinking about where your leadership is needed and how you can take the first step to influence and stay open to being influenced by others.
Let us know how it goes.
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting