At the heart of great leadership is influence, as in the ability to influence others to do what needs to get done.
In a piece written for Forbes, contributor Kevin Kruse defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” I like his approach because it factors in some important primary leadership elements: (social) influence, others, effort optimization and goals.
Leadership is about influencing others, rather than demanding and coercing. It speaks to the ability to win people over to a new way of thinking and practice, though idea sharing, collaboration and role modeling.
While influence is important for every leader, it is especially critical when we’re understaffed and need to maximize every ounce of talent and time at our disposal.
Leaders often think, “How can I know if I am really doing my job well and getting the most out of my people? Maybe my self-perception is not what others think of me.” It’s a valid point. You might be doing well, but there are always gaps between your self-perception and how others think of you. So, leaders who really want to know how they’re doing need to be willing to get honest feedback.
Many leaders use some form of leadership assessment, such as 360-degree feedback or a psychometric tool, that provides information about leader characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits.
If you haven’t done this in a while, now is the time to act. The feedback that you get will form the basis of an action plan to help you become a better leader. Even if you have, it is still worthwhile to brainstorm on the results with a coach or mentor who can help you make sense of things and maximize your leadership capacity.
Of course, whenever you ask for feedback, the possibility exists that it will not be all positive. Some may be less than flattering or even scathing. Here are some tips that can help you make the most of the feedback that you receive and help position you to get more open, quality feedback in the future.
- Lower your defenses – If you want to grow from the feedback, you have to be able to look at it objectively, as if was describing someone else rather than you. Take time to understand what’s driving people’s observations and identify ways that you can improve upon their perceptions moving forward.
- Respond carefully – If you are unsure about the validity of feedback or what to do with it, let it settle for a bit. There’s nothing worse than a misguided, rushed reaction. Consider discussing it with a few trusted colleagues and / or mentors.
- Thank them –Let whoever took the time to share feedback know that you appreciate their willingness to share their views.
- Do something – This may be the hardest part. No one likes to change. But it’s often a lot better than continuing on as is while waiting for the other shoe to drop.
We all want to hear that we’re doing well. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. But no one wants to be an emperor without clothes, or, worse yet, a dethroned emperor. Whether the feedback that you receive is solicited (ideal) or not, be sure to make good use of it, so that you can become the very best, most influential leader possible and lead an inspired and engaged team forward.