Blog post

Lead through Openness

By Jennifer Polk | January 04, 2021 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketing Leadership and ManagementMarketing Leadership and Strategy

Phrases like, “be open-minded”, can sound like cliches. But, beneath that advice are key steps you can take and avoid to improve leadership effectiveness. All of these steps can be tied to a single mantra, “Be open.”

Be Open.

This could be misinterpreted as another glib piece of advice, devoid of substance. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Being open is a choice to see things differently, do things differently and show up differently.

Make the choice to see things differently. shallow focus photography of eyeglasses

Try to see things through the lens of a leader, whether of a team or a product. Looking at situations through a leadership lens takes the focus off you. It broadens your view and requires you to consider decisions in terms of their implications for others. “Others” could be customers, prospects, peers, partners, stakeholders and shareholders. Seeing things differently starts with choosing to view change as an opportunity, not a threat.

If you’re struggling to embrace change, ask questions to learn more. When possible, ask “Why was this decision was made?”. Try to glean, “How will it benefit the company and its customers?”.

You may still feel the sting of change. You may disagree with the decision. But understanding the bigger picture can enable you to “disagree but commit”. It can help you embrace change in order. This can enable you to support the strategic direction of the organization and help others do the same.

Make an effort to do things differently.

A more experienced colleague once advised me to store away my perspective on how leaders should do things. Then, when given a chance to lead, choose to do things differently.  In retrospect, it was easy to assume I had all the answers when I didn’t have full visibility into the problems.

Given full visibility, I might make the same decision as others. Or, I might choose to do things differently.

But the keys to doing things differently are:

  1. Identifying opportunities to lead from where you are.
  2. Committing to do things differently as a leader within your own space.
  3. Gaining the experience and perspective to solve increasingly complex problems.

Another valuable piece of leadership advice I received was “offer to help with the small stuff and ask for help with the big stuff”. Everyone wants to lead the high-profile strategic initiative, often long before they’re ready. Very few people offer to take charge of the seemingly low-profile project or activity.

But those low-profile projects and activities can be hidden gems, offering:

  • Quick wins and easy ways to add value to your team or a client
  • Opportunities to stand out from the crowd as a team player
  • Chances to lead, even in small ways, and doing it differently or finding your style

Do things differently by being open to opportunities, great and small. See them as chances to hone your leadership and decision-making skills.

Make a commitment to show up differently. 

Show up as a hand-raiser.  Be open to stretch assignments. Be willing to embrace new approaches, engage with different teams and expand your capacity. Here’s the sports or fitness analogy you’ve been waiting for. Building muscle comes from challenging yourself, not engaging in the same routine every day.

Show up with curiosity. Trying to have all the answers puts a lot of pressure on yourself and your team. It’s the hallmark of leaders who think their worth is tied to their knowledge. Great value lies in the ability to ask questions and humbly admit what you don’t know, yet are willing to learn.

Show up as your authentic self. Commit to showing up differently, including showing your own vulnerability and areas for growth. You may find this disarms others, humanizes you and highlights those around you who are willing and able to contribute to growth.

Be open to new ways of contributing to business success in 2021. Remain open to the ideas of others. Open yourself up to development, both personally and professionally. Challenge those around you, starting with your team, to do the same.


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