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18 Positive Leadership Strategies

        posted by , August 16, 2013

The term leadership strategy invokes images of battlefields and political intrigue where all is fair — even dirty tricks. The reality is that effective leaders take the high ground.

Positive leadership strategies are techniques to produce win-win outcomes. They start with the assumption that leaders should focus on creating value.

The following 18 positive leadership strategies are based on well known management, motivation and influencing techniques.

1. Perfect one skill

Leadership isn't a single skill — it's more like 59 skills that together make you an effective leader.

No leader fully perfects every skill. If your skill development plan is too broad you may end up completely ineffective.

Master one skill and you'll benefit from a Halo Effect. When you do one thing very well, people tend to assume you're good at everything. This will give you more leverage to motivate and influence.

A good critical skill to focus on is public speaking.

2. Let people steel your ideas

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.
~ Howard Aiken
When most people get a great idea their first instinct is to keep it a secret. After all, someone might steal it. This is often a mistake.

Good ideas are common. What's uncommon is the ability to sell and implement an idea. Most leaders will have a few good ideas a week.

What's most valuable is not your ideas themselves but your ability to make them happen. You'll grow old hiding your ideas under you pillow. Let people steal from you, your ideas are too important to let them go stale.

3. Over communicate and then over communicate again

People have a tendency to underestimate communication challenges. For example, if you give a great presentation your audience may remember 2 or 3 points. If you give a mediocre presentation the audience may remember nothing at all.

It's a good habit to view communication as a massively difficult thing.

When you fully recognize communication challenges you'll over communicate. You'll communicate so frequently and clearly that you'll risk being annoying but at least your point will get across.

4. Become a believer in human intelligence

In politics stupidity is not a handicap.
~ Napoleon Bonaparte
Go with the assumption that everyone has something to teach you. Develop a strong sense of curiosity — try to learn something from everyone you meet.

You'll learn important things from unexpected people. You'll easily establish rapport with people because you'll listen to them.

5. Balance your life

Over focus on your career can cloud your creativity. In fact, it can make you blind to mistakes and ultimately make you less productive. That being said, under-focus on your job is just as dangerous. Most accomplished leaders work reasonably long hours.

6. Tell stories

It's easy for leaders to recite slogans and long-winded logical arguments.

If you really want to stand out as a leader you need to become a good storyteller. Compelling storytelling is the key to motivation and influence.

7. Be a little weird if you want

It's called the Bizarreness Effect — a tendency for people to remember the strange and unusual over the plain and ordinary.

Being a little odd can increase your influence because people are more likely to remember you and your ideas.

A little personality and character tend to make you a more popular leader.

8. Spend time with other leaders

Nothing will do more for your leadership abilities than socializing with other leaders.

Attend leadership networking events such as industry conferences and executive leadership training programs.

Follow other leaders in social media and interact. Add something meaningful to each conversation and you'll quickly find you have leaders following you.

9. Avoid blind overconfidence

Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident, because when you get overconfident, that's when something snaps up and bites you.
~ Neil Armstrong
Leadership is often associated with self-confidence. As important as self-confidence is, blind self-confidence is dangerous.

When you're able to self-assess yourself realistically or even pessimistically you're more likely to find improvements in your leadership style and strategies.

10. Find certainty where there is none

People value certainty and consistency in a leader.

After all, the basic function of leadership is to set direction. When that direction seems uncertain or inconsistent, followers drop off (e.g. employees become disengaged).

The challenge for leaders is that they must balance the need to be certain and consistent with the need to be dynamic and responsive to change.

Highly intelligent individuals are rarely certain about anything because they understand that thousands of unpredictable variables are involved in every decision. Consistency often makes no business sense, it's more important to refocus strategy in response to change.

The trick is to provide your team with a degree of certainty and consistency while managing the complexity of intelligent decisions.

If you change your strategy, tie it to your previous strategy to provide a sense of consistency. Even if the strategies are very different, them may have underlying commonalities.

11. Make leaders of your followers

This strategy has several benefits. The best way to win people over is to support their professional growth. Clearing obstacles for your team boosts creativity and productivity.

By making leaders of your team you increase your own power base. It's better to be a leader of leaders than a leader of worker bees.

12. Be a mystery

It doesn't hurt a leader to be a little on the mysterious side.

We've all had that boss who is completely predictable. That boss who is always hitting on the same themes and telling the same old stories. You can almost complete his or her words.

Don't be that leader.

13. Anticipate others' emotions

It's the basis for modern business — don't be selfish. Look at things from other people's perspective. Otherwise you'll never influence them.

A solid understanding of basic social psychology doesn't hurt either.

14. Write drunk, edit sober

Write drunk; edit sober.
~ Ernest Hemingway
I'm not actually suggesting that you drink in a professional capacity. However, it's important to recognize that people have creative and productive modes. You can't juggle both modes at the same time.

Creativity comes when you play — it's about freedom and breaking rules.

Productivity comes when you focus.

It's a good idea to spend time in both creative and productive modes every day. It's not easy to switch from one mode to the other. A good block of at least an hour is optimal for each mode.

Too many leaders spend their entire career in one mode or the other.

15. Lead globally to lead locally (and vice versa)

Far too many leaders are completely focused on their own organizations.

Think about participating in industry, business and technology conferences. Publish your ideas in social media and interact. Write a book.

The better you lead globally, the better you'll lead locally. The opposite is also true — you can't hope to have a global impact without first having a local impact.

16. Judge what criticism is important and what is noise

No leader is going to appeal to everyone. As you grow as a leader you'll be visible to more and more people.

It's a bad strategy to ignore criticism. Leaders who are completely insensitive to feedback quickly become out of touch.

Judge what criticism is important and what is noise. The ability to realistically evaluate criticism is a powerful tool.

17. Feel fear every day

The biggest myth about leadership is that leaders must be fearless.

The reality is that most great leaders feel fear all the time. Their secret is not fearlessness but mastery of fear.

People naturally have a tendency to avoid situations that make them nervous. It's a good strategy to do the opposite — seek experiences that make you nervous.

18. Publish your ethics

Develop an excellent set of professional ethics and publish them for the world to see. Follow them as best you can and admit it if you misstep.

Unethical leadership may have short term advantages but it's always a strategic mistake.

This is the 7th in a 9-part series of posts called how to win at leadership.

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Lists of skills by profession.

Facilitating icebreakers can be tricky. It's a good idea to have at least 3 or 4 icebreakers planned for your team building event. If one ice breaker crashes and burns move quickly to the next.

Diplomatic techniques and strategy that can be applied to everyday business negotiations.

It takes dozens of skills to be a good public speaker.

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