I recently did a search for books about leadership at amazon.com. My searched turned up 96,703 results in a variety of formats from paperbacks to hardbacks to Kindle books and audio books.
Although millions of words have been written about one word, understanding leadership doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. Leadership is not – as the old saying goes – rocket science. It is, however, “human science,” because the essence of leadership is about understanding yourself and others.
Leadership can exist at any level in an organization. And in the best organizations, leadership does exist at every level. Regardless of whether you are a sole practitioner, managing partner, paralegal or law clerk, you have the responsibility to lead.
As someone once said, leadership is not a position; it is an action. But how can you distill all that leadership is into a concept that can be drawn upon and put into action every day? In an effort to add only slightly to the lexicon of leadership, I offer the acronym VOICE – with a nod to my friend and leader, Florida Bar President, Gwynne Young, who helped to inspire this post.
Great leaders don’t focus on what’s wrong, they envision a positive future. Then they work to influence others to help them make that vision a reality.
“The goal is not to speculate about what might happen, but to imagine what you can make happen.”
– From, Leading the Revolution, by Gary Hamel
O: “Own It” – Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Leaders are self-aware.
Self-awareness means understanding ourselves – and understanding how we are perceived by others. Why is self-awareness important? Because without self-awareness we can get caught up in behaviors that are inconsistent with our own values and beliefs. Without self-awareness, we may not have the courage to say “no” to the unimportant things in life so that we can focus on the truly important. Without self-awareness, leaders may fear appearing vulnerable. Without self-awareness, leaders can’t understand how their characteristics and behaviors are impacting other people. Self-awareness is the ability to understand ourselves and our characteristics, and utilize our characteristics in ways that serve us best.
I: Influence – Leaders know how to influence others and mold consensus.
The days of “my way or the highway” leadership are over. There was a time when leadership was thought of as mere strength. In today’s world, an autocratic, dictatorial leadership style just doesn’t work. Even worse, it’s damaging. It leads to one-way communication and misunderstandings. Regardless of whether you’re leading an executive board, the people in your office, or your family, understanding and appreciating people’s differences will help you influence them to your point of view.
C: Communication – Leaders know how to effectively communicate and listen to others.
Communication is one of the most important skills in life. And while at least half of the communication equation involves listening, most of us have little or no training in listening – really listening. In fact, various listening studies have shown that we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. So the best way to improve your communication is to practice being a better listener. Here are three things to always remember: 1) Don’t interrupt; 2) Don’t finish the other person’s sentences; 3)Don’t be distracted; focus on the person.
E: Example – Leaders walk the talk and lead by example.
Do you bring a positive attitude to the office every day? Remember that, as a leader everything you do matters. Everything. Look at the culture of your office, is it positive or negative? Whatever the culture, environment or mood, it is a reflection of the leadership. Whatever your attitude, good or bad, it’s your choice. Here’s the good news; you can make a conscious decision to change your attitude at any time. As a leader, it’s your job to model the kinds of attitudes and behaviors you want to encourage in your team. You set the tone for your office. So, make a conscious choice to set a good tone. In the words of Winston Churchill, “If you can’t laugh, smile. If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin, stay out of the way until you can.”
Leadership may not be rocket science, but if you remember these five components of leadership and act on them, you can give VOICE to leadership every day.