Walking a Leadership Tightrope 

Navigating the perception of others while honoring your natural tendencies may sometimes feel like you are walking a leadership tightrope.

You are!

Yet, it’s an essential self-management practice to maximize your leadership effectiveness.

Why Walk the Leadership Tightrope

What comes as a natural behavior may unknowingly send an unintended, unwanted signal to others.

As a result, you may experience strained business relationships or outsider behaviors without knowing what precipitated the environment.   

Team members could become bare minimum contributors as they quietly lower their engagement to compensate for the signals they receive.

No-Nonsense Ways to Elevate Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness is a journey of continuous learning and improvement. The more intel you place in your toolkit, the better equipped you are to balance yourself on the tightrope. 

Consider the following three behaviors from others’ perspective:

Quiet, Reserved, Minimalist Communicator with Limited Proactive Interpersonal Interactions.

People engaging with each other get things done in organizations. When we go directly to our office and operate behind closed doors (including virtual doors) most of the day, unless necessary, it creates distance between us and the people we lead, the peers we should collaborate with, and the executives we need to keep informed. It could unintentionally signal being unapproachable, a preference for working independently, and a lack of care about others, all crucial factors when leading others.

Mitigating Action

Use technology as your assistant, starting with planning. Set reminders on your calendar throughout the day, week, or month, prompting you to engage and connect with others intentionally. Get to know individuals beyond their technical expertise; express interest and let them know you see, hear, and appreciate them. Importantly, give them insight into who you are beyond the perceptions they glean from behaviors they interpret.

Outgoing, Engaged, Social, and Communicative.

While outgoing behaviors are more engaging, there are perception challenges when we overuse them. Being the most talkative may leave little room for others to express their ideas. So, others may perceive interpersonal interactions as overwhelming, becoming zapped of energy and interest because there is little opportunity for two-way dialogue.

Mitigating Action

Withhold being the first to speak or carry the conversation. Instead, pose a question that invites others’ engagement, allowing you to actively listen and add to the conversation where it brings value. Give space for others’ brilliance to shine.

Direct, Forthright Communications.

Who doesn’t appreciate directness? It depends – on the individual, the situation, and the interaction context.

When we are too direct, others may perceive the behavior as judgmental, critical, aggressive, demanding, and hard to do business with. What it creates in others is resistance and avoidance behavior.

Mitigating Action

Read the room and the people. Determine the barometer for engaging in candid communications or whether there is a need to socialize information through informal networks and channels first to set up the best possible opportunity to create win-win outcomes. Keep a focus on creating an environment where mutual listening and learning occur with full engagement and without judgment.

What Will You Add to Your Self-Awareness Toolkit?

What one behavior could you begin intentionally managing today that would have a marked impact on your leadership effectiveness? Define your action steps.

Want to delve more into self-awareness? Check out this article, Self-Awareness: A Life-Long Leadership Journey.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.