Quite recently, I watched an episode of “The Bold Type”, which is a TV-series about a high-fashion magazine, led by strong female, inspired by the life and career of Joanna Coles at Cosmopolitan. At some point the editor-in-chief makes a decision which leads to her immediate dismissal by the supervisory board. I didn’t watch any further at the time I wrote this article. Instead, I thought right away that she owed to come back. She was the one, why everyone in this magazine was that committed. So THAT was the interesting part. Why was I so sure about this? What was it that made me think that these employees are certainly going to bring her back, no matter what happens? I believe that this was due to her leadership-style she lived: powerful, authentic and empathetic. How has this executive managed to accomplish this? How did she create such a company culture? The answer is in this article.
Leading can be hard and lonesome. Practice.
Personally, as an employee, I have never experienced convincing leadership-skills on the receiving end. Hence, it’s no surprise that I too, felt quite insecure in my first weeks of team-leading. So I learned that leading is often a hard and lonesome task. There are hardly any Role Models out there and often not enough mentors to prepare for the team-leading role. Perhaps this is why I became so interested in what it needs to be the difference I wanted to experience myself. However, the remarkable thing that I discovered is that you don’t actually have to lead employees in order to improve your leading skills. You can start to develop these skills by “leading yourself”. This way, you are creating a style that is powerful, authentic and unique.
Simon Sinek once told a story where he saw an officer kissing the forehead of a wounded soldier, who was getting carried away by the Red Cross. This observation made him wonder how a leader could possibly behave in order to inspire others to be ready to sacrifice everything for a cause, including their own life. It is this magical Pull-Power instead of Push-Power that makes a difference. So, how does this work? Let’s get back to editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle in “The Bold Type” and figure out how she does it:
5 Steps to create Pull-Power
1. Coach your employees so they can develop their unique strengths
There is a difference between leading and coaching. When you lead people, you tell them what to do. This is absolutely important in case of fire where you have to protect your staff or your product. But keep asking yourself: Is there any fire? If not: Choose coaching instead.
How that works? Don’t tell your employees the solution right away, encourage them to find one. Maybe it’s a better one than the one you already have imagined.
2. Observe well
However stressful it may be – take your time to observe why this stress has come up. Often it is not connected with the problem itself. Is there anything going on you haven’t noticed until then? Is solving this underlying problem maybe a game-changer?
If you have got a hard time developing this skill – be aware: it is a skill. It can be trained. Through any art you practice actively, you may get better. For example: Draw a pencil, placed right in front of you. Where do you see shadows, where do you see light? How long is it in comparison to the book lying next to it? Draw it. Don’t only think about it, do it. It’s the only way to know whether you get it. It works with playing music as well – the master discipline of course is improvised music. Whoever has done THAT before actively, knows what I am talking about. You want to have a good leader? Take a true musician.
3. Be interested in your employees and co-workers, sympathize
What is going on in your employees lives? This is not a skill, you really HAVE to be interested in what their personal needs are in order to perform. In a way that stays professional, which is super-hard to differentiate. In Jacqueline Carlyle’s work it is obvious: The more work has to do with what has impact in her employees’ lives, with their values, with their meaning in life, the more they are engaged, intrinsically motivated and innovative.
If we want to make a change in someone else’s life, we must allow that change to have a place in our hearts too. Don’t tell people what your company’s values are – live them. Sounds easy? Practice.
4. Empower others
You’ll run out of time and energy if you want to pull too many strings personally. Define responsibilities and boundaries first – dare to have engaged and empowered employees in consequence. Of course, this means that the company may run without you as well for a certain amount of time. But, does it truly in the long run? Without your Pull-Energy? Trust that your absence will be noticed. Or that your path may lead to a much better place eventually. It’s brave to let go and empower others. But for me, it’s the only way it works.
5. People are more important than the product
This is a hard one. If the company performs well, everyone is more happy, right? So, in consequence: If your top-employee tells you that she or he wants to leave the company – it is your obligation to keep her or him if possible, because it is what is the best for the company (and the easiest way for you…)?
Well. That’s a tough one, because it’s a bundle: If…
- you are the leader that helps to reveal and strengthen the impact and competence of your employees,
- your employees feel appreciated, because the feel seen in their personal capabilities, but also their needs,
- they are convinced you want them to be the best version of themselves for a common reason,
then, as a result, they will never forget that feeling of being truly cared, honesty and professionalism. If you force them to develop the best version they can be – maybe even better than you are capable of – you created Pull-Energy. Your employee eventually will come back even better, or, for instance, will be a Role Model the world strongly needs somewhere else (which is an incredible success). However, your super-power of being a strong, passionate, compassionate leader will not end. Your way will continue. If you’ve been authentic, there will be many others to step in in short time. Pull-Energy.
How to get there
The base for being able to develop this leadership-style is a common purpose. The reason why you all are enthusiastic to come together to work on something that means something important for all of you. But that’s another article.
For how to get there personally, three simple, yet powerful ways: Get a coach. Get creative in arts. Practice. I’d love to read about your experiences.