Practicalspeak CEO/Founder, Pankaj Srivastava helps organizations punch through the status quo, unlock growth and create lasting advantage.
Leading is hard. Why make it more complicated? An overwhelming amount of material has been produced that aims to decipher good leadership: books, manuals, online courses, TED Talks and even graduate programs on leadership. If you look closely you’ll find that all of these offerings distill leadership to the same ideas and unnecessarily complicate our thoughts. Is there a simple leadership rule that anyone can remember and apply that helps you become a great leader?
Everyone is a leader. You don’t require millions of Twitter followers, a lofty title or a thriving YouTube channel to be considered a leader. There are leaders in families, local businesses, small corporations, rural communities and sprawling cities. Leadership isn’t a nebulous collection of ideas or a list of precepts. Boiling it down to one essential point, I’d say this: Leadership is an example that you set for at least one other person to emulate (or avoid). It’s a practice that takes daily work — not much different than physical exercise or mastering a difficult skill, so let’s make it easy to follow.
During my career, I developed a single rule that allows me to keep my focus and keep my leadership honest and direct. It has been my greatest ally and gives me clarity when I communicate. I call it the “Triple R” rule: relevance, reason and recipe. Here’s how it breaks down.
Bad leadership is about serving a single ego. It’s insular. Good leadership is about others. It’s about community and connection. Relevancy to others should be the primary goal of a leader. Before you launch into a subject, ask yourself: “Is my message going to help increase my audience’s understanding of their role, of the impact they make or my own understanding of their mission?” Each discussion — whether it’s with employees or outside stakeholders — should connect to your audience’s purpose. When you understand that connection, you become more relevant, and your message is going to resonate better. You and your audience both come out of that discussion having gained something.
Relevance ensures that your message is important to your audience; however, reason is what helps enable your audience to believe you’re sincere. Providing your team a reason to believe is crucial for success. It’s about your credibility, authenticity and, most importantly, your trustworthiness. Ask yourself: “Do I believe in my own message and why?” The answer to this question can either strengthen your resolve or alert you to a charade. You also provide your audience with a reason to believe you if you’re unfailingly honest and transparent. And, it’s great for business. What’s the point of working on something that you aren’t sincere about?
This is the “how and where” you deliver your message. It’s important to understand how your team receives information best. Does it prefer formal or informal methods? Does it prefer private or community communication? Does it prefer personal appeal or data-based communication? The best messages flounder if they’re delivered the wrong way. Would President Obama’s inaugural address have carried the same weight if it was sent out as a press release? Constantly think about not just the content of your messages, but the optimal way to present them to an audience, and be mindful that the “recipe” can change for each discrete audience.
It’s About Interaction
Leadership is ultimately about how you interact with others. The big question is whether you use interactions as opportunities to impress or be impressed. For many who want to impress, leadership becomes self-centered and prevents them from fully realizing their potential. For those who open themselves to be captivated by others’ potential, their action unleashes new energy helping them (and their teams) achieve amazing things.
While some are born with a little extra leadership acumen — whether via charisma or a sharp mind — everyone must work to develop skills that help them become accomplished leaders. Studying examples of great leadership is helpful, but ultimately what matters is how you choose to interact with others. Do those interactions inspire and challenge — or bewilder and demoralize? Thinking about this simple Triple R rule — or devising your own method that touches on similar timeless truths — will not only simplify the practice of leadership but maximize your ability to make a difference in other’s lives.