Author: margaret@beatonexecutivecoaching.com

Own the room explores why and how commanding a strong leadership presence is critical in navigating career transitions effectively. Career progression is always associated with changes in your key audiences. And so success in a new role is heavily dependent on influencing how you are perceived by these audiences. The phrase owning the room was first used over a century ago to describe someone who drew positive attention to herself socially because of her manner speech and body language. Amy Jen Su’s and Muriel Wilkins’ Own the Room is a first-class book; I have used the title and some of their ideas in this post.

In Practising dialogue I examine the role and power of holding a conversation based on dialogue in contrast with a discussion or a debate. It’s through dialogue that people work together to create shared understanding; and thereby harness diversity, collective knowledge and fresh insights to enhance problem-solving and decision-making. Whereas, in discussions and debates the focus is more narrow and the intent is usually to arrive at one point of view as expeditiously as possible.

Controlling your emotions is a critical skill for leaders. How well you control your emotions influences your effectiveness as a leader, your personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. This ability is a function of your emotional intelligence (EQ). This post is about how you manage two of the components of EQ: Awareness of your emotions and How you react to and manage these emotions [1]. Awareness always comes first – you can’t control your emotions if you’re not aware of them.

Does this sound like leaders’ heaven to you? Imagine you are able to negotiate any deal, win arguments and influence people to do what you know needs doing. There’s ample evidence this is possible – the tool is rapport. This post is about the nature and power of rapport and how to build and use rapport to influence and persuade others, at all times with integrity. Importantly, using rapport is notabout being manipulative.

While working with an executive coaching client facing a tricky change management situation, I came across Stop Overdoing Your Strengthsa telling HBR article by Bob Kaplan and Rob Kaiser. Kaplan’s and Kaiser’s messages about the dangers of over-doing your strengths as a leader are enduring, powerful truths. And their practical application helped my client see that the more forceful she became with her team, the less she succeeded in getting the results expected by the executive committee.

In today’s enterprises truly effective leaders deliver outcomes by persuading for results. Without the ability to persuade, a leader is hamstrung and cannot realise her or his vision where this requires the collective actions of others – direct reports, peers, superiors, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. Competence in the art of persuasion enables a leader to get things done without coercion.

The topic of becoming a strategic leader arises with more than a few of my clients who have been advised in performance discussions that they need to become ‘more strategic’ in their style of leadership. Typically, they’re in senior functional or operational roles and are being considered for enterprise-level positions. To respond, they need to understand how strategic and operational thinking and action differ.

In blogging about your leadership purpose, I declare I am a fan of Bill George’s well-known book True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, first published in 2007 (pictured). While I agree with George that strong values, personal integrity and a strong sense of self are fundamental to effective leadership, in my view these traits are necessary, but not sufficient, for you to be a truly great leader. While thinking about individual leadership on behalf of some of my high-performing clients, I came across ‘From Purpose To Impact’ a Harvard Business Review article by Nick Craig and Scott Snook, written in 2014. ‘From Purpose to Impact’ extends ‘True North’ by adding the notion that having a clear personal purpose is the key to exceptional performance and well-being as a leader.

A leader’s ability to influence without authority – in the traditional sense – is rapidly becoming a hallmark of the new era in the world of work. A client recently captured the challenge of having to influence others without authority when she said: “Can you teach me how to hold someone accountable who does not report to me? If I can’t demand compliance, how do I get enthusiastic cooperation?”.

In a 2015 PwC survey of a thousand CEOs globally, ‘curiosity’ and ‘open-mindedness’ were identified as increasingly critical leadership traits in these complex and challenging times. My own experience with c-suite executives supports this thesis and shows every leader and their organisations will benefit by investing in learning to become more curious. Better answers to today’s complex challenges and groundbreaking ways of grasping big opportunities come from asking the right questions. And the ability to ask probing, out-of-the-box questions comes from being deeply imaginative, and from having the courage and insight to ask penetrating ‘Why’ questions, as well as speculative ‘What if ’ and ‘How’ questions? In other words, to be curious.

The November 2015 Mindfulness Leadership Summit explained mindful leadership as “an alternative to just leading from the top down, mindful leadership is leading from the inside out”. To understand how becoming a mindful leader will benefit you, those who follow you, and your organisation, let’s start with a recap of what it means to be mindful. With its origins in Theravada Buddhism, mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the moment. You are totally present in the now, not the past, or the future. Now, the present.

Late yesterday Bob, one of my high-flying clients in a listed corporation, called me in a perplexed state. He was wondering about how he could influence others when making decisions. During the day he had landed in a near shouting match with his favourite direct report, and later with his boss, the chief executive, he had enjoyed ‘one of the best one-on-ones we have ever had’. In both conversations substantial decisions were scheduled for immediate action. Driving home, he couldn’t for the life of him understand why they felt so different, so he called me.

Curiosity killed the cat refers in everyday parlance to the dangers of needless risk-taking and experimentation. But a lack of curiosity is what kills many an executive’s career. This is a story about Luke Potter (pseudonym) who believed the reasons for his previous success as a CEO could easily be transferred to his new role. Luke is still wondering why he failed and why he was asked to leave.

My January 2014 post is about how to become an authentic leader. Authentic leadership is about your self-concept and the relationship between your self-concept and your actions as a leader. So I was delighted when one of my regular readers was inspired to send me this piece of wisdom from best-selling author and spiritual guide Deepak Chopra in The Soul-Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness: ‘Leaders and followers co-create each other. They form an invisible spiritual bond. Leaders exist to embody the values that followers hunger for, while followers fuel the leader’s vision from inside themselves.’

In December last year my post ‘To be an authentic leader, first be true to yourself’ caused many to write and call. How to become an authentic leader was a common theme in these conversations. This post, Construct your life story and develop as an authentic leader, shows how by constructing your life story you can develop as an authentic leader. Let me explain.