How to Come Across as a Leader

Valarie Willis

Q: What is the most effective way to come across as a leader, and not "just a manager"?

A: As a manager you probably spend a lot of time sweating the details, following up on action items, and tracking things. While these things are still important in an organization, when you lead, you have a different focus.

As a leader, people are looking for you to show them the future of the department, organization, or project. They expect and anticipate that you will understand and discuss the big picture with them. They are not necessarily looking for you to be 'hands-on'. People will appreciate a sense of direction, especially in times of change.

Talk about where the organization is going and what it will look like when success is achieved. One way to get yourself started is to imagine that you are being interviewed by a national business publication five years from now. You are sharing with them the vision that you have finally achieved; the successes, the learning, the people and the metrics. What did it take for this vision to be accomplished? What will it look like, feel like? What is different, how have things changed? Once you can articulate what the future will be, you will start thinking and behaving more like a leader.

Leaders concern themselves with the strategic aspects of the business without losing touch with front lines. Be sure that front line associates are included in your vision messages and that you get input and feedback from them about what the future holds.

Be attentive to celebrating the milestones, small wins, and successes of the organization. People will emulate what you do.

Leaders also address the hard issues, they make decisions and they stick to their values and leadership philosophy. There is the old saying that "the buck stops here" and it does. As a leader, you will address the issues that others want to avoid and you will ask the tough questions that need to be asked.

Above all, be authentic in your leadership, and show the people that work for you that you care about them as you lead them on new paths and in new directions.

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