Outsmart Your Leadership Genes

Last week, I gave a presentation to the National Black MBA Association, entitled: Leadership Is Your Fate – Outsmart Your Leadership Genes By Shaping Your Environment.

 The concept, which was adapted from my recently published book, explores the notion that everyone has natural leadership attributes (genes) that can both enable our success and threaten to derail us. While we all strive to grow and evolve as leaders, changing our core personality can be very difficult. As an alternative to making difficult behavioral changes – like asking Madonna to be more modest – I encourage professionals to modify their work environment to support their authentic leadership style.

A recent example from an executive coaching assignment comes to mind. My client, let’s call her Linda, is a VP of Global Marketing for a large retail chain. Linda is a motivational type of leader who is energized by spreading ideas and galvanizing others around new possibilities. She possesses incredible vision, and has a fresh, amazing idea every minute. Yet her direct reports complained that despite her impact and brilliance, their meetings never produced tangible results. Instead, ten more ideas would replace the old ones with little regard for implementation or pull-through.

Since there was no way to turn off her creative faucet, Linda and I set out to manage her leadership genes by making adjustments to her environment, starting with her meetings. The first step was having Linda create an agenda that she would distribute ahead of every meeting. Her agenda needed to be prioritized based on business need – not her personal interest or curiosity. Linda made a rule that if an idea popped into her head and wasn’t already on the agenda, it could not be introduced until the next meeting. She even assigned the role of timekeeper to a team member to make sure she stayed on track. To ensure pull-through, Linda began recording and distributing meeting notes, so that subsequent meetings would revisit commitments made at prior meetings. Finally, Linda scheduled follow-up calls between meetings to check on the status of initiatives and help with implementation.

None of these new processes required Linda to think or feel differently. Yet, the result was profound; Linda’s team rallied around her innovative ideas, and actually brought them to fruition. And by doing so, Linda received more recognition for what she’s best at – inspiring others and contributing breakthroughs.

If you’re interested in getting more practical advice about how to shape your environment to complement your authentic leadership style, the book can be purchased here.

- Renee -


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