The Most Powerful Lever for a Leader

As leaders, anytime is always a good time to reflect on how we are leading our people and getting the most out of each of them. One thing you should regularly assess is the image of leadership that you want to project.

Let’s back up a bit, though, and review the three primary levers that we have to gain influence over others.

The first is money. If you are willing to pay enough, you will be able to entice people to do pretty much whatever you ask. The second is force, or intimidation. “Do this or get fired” pretty well sums up that approach.

Those two levers, you will notice, have one thing in common. They address the fact that the person in question isn’t willing to do the work unless they are either compensated beyond what the work is worth or unless they are threatened with job loss if they don’t perform.

Obviously, that’s not the environment you want in your organization. So let’s look at the third and most powerful lever, the one that motivates people to want to do what it is that you ask of them.

That lever is respect. When people respect a leader, they follow that person. They happily do what the leader asks them to do because they have bought into the leader’s vision and because the leader has inspired them to embrace the organization’s mission. They follow you as a leader because they respect who you are, what you have accomplished, and how you in turn respect them, and care about them, as individuals.

So I encourage you to think about what you can do to increase your respect among your team members. Focus on building better relationships, and one way to do that is to particularly concentrate on listening. It may be a simple act, but listening generates massive amounts of respect and good will.

Also, look for ways to believe in – and demonstrate that you believe in – the people on your team. Find the little “nuggets” in the people that you want to influence that you can tap into, in order to demonstrate that you see something special in them, a talent or skill that you want to help foster.

By focusing on these three things – building better relationships, listening, and finding the strengths in your people – you will watch the level of respect and influence that you command rise up.

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