What does it mean when someone says “You’re understated?” My perception of this is that maybe you’re not seen as verbose and loud enough and that you’re not quick enough to voice your opinion in front of other people. Of course these situations build the brand and persona of who you are in the business world and that can heavily influence how people see you. But does it make you any more or less effective as a leader?
The thing about being a great leader is that there is no one true model to follow. All the studies I’ve done and all the people I’ve observed – the one constant is that everyone has a different approach to leadership. Some are loud, some are quite, some are collaborative, some are dictatorial….and some may be understated.
You are who you are and being under/overstated is one trait that I personally don’t feel is as important as others. I have constantly battled with the idea that I have to be more “overstated” and “verbose” and just give an opinion for the sake of it – so that I’m noticed. But do I? No…I can’t say I have.
A colleague of mine shared a really interesting article with me the other day titled “One Trait A Great Leader Can’t Live Without” – I couldn’t agree with it more. The article talks about a leader’s aversion to anything that makes them appear weak. You’re a leader – you know everything right? Being humble separates being a good leader from being a great leader. So could a perception of “being understated” make me appear weak? That could very well be the case – but I would rather stay true to who I am and what I represent.
It’s often said that you don’t show your true colours as a leader until you are forced to make a tough decision. I do believe in this, and that the very essence of leadership is about showing true grit in times of uncertainty and when emotions can get in the way. I tend to think it’s easy when things are going well. As a manager and leader of people, it’s never easy to give the news of budget cuts or even harder to let roles and people go – which is happening a lot these days with the uncertainty of global economic markets. To some, people you work with are literally family, spending over 40 hours a week together. And when you have to be the bearer of bad news it’s never easy. So you appreciate the emotion that can affect people. But how, as a leader, do you pick up the pieces and ensure the rest of your team continues to push ahead with your vision in the face of challenging times?
As a leader you can’t hide behind your decisions. When things change and people depart, there’s always a sense of uncertainty, emotion, shock and confusion. Give people peace of mind and be honest about the what and the why. I think that as a leader a core skill is to be authentic and genuine. Show that as much as you’re a manager and a leader, at the end of the day, you are human. To me that’s when you gain the respect of your peers and your team. As much as it can be daunting, building that “leadership mettle” is a critical step to advancing ones’ career. I can guarantee that in any career, there will always be ups and downs. Enjoy the ups, but make use of the downs. They can be invaluable.
You’ve really got to put things in perspective. Is life fair? No. Of course not. But we’re all dealt the hand we’re given and we have to push on.
I’ve worked on a few projects with a company called Seven Stories whose work is all about “bringing compelling stories to life”. They do some fantastic work and really help simplify the complexity and build s story. Working with them introduced me to the power that story telling can have on people and organisations.
As marketers, one of our roles is to tell stories. Really you ask? Think of when you had to sell an idea to your boss. Maybe it was selling the idea of a rebranding project, a creative concept on the latest ad campaign, or maybe a website redesign. Come to think of it, whether we are in marketing or not we all have to tell stories one way or another in the workplace. And as we move up the Corporate ladder, I think it’s all about telling stories to convince staff, shareholders, and the market of the journey you are taking them on. Q-How did Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone and iPad to the market? A-He had a compelling story to tell.
In business, a lot of our story telling is done by rational approaches: hard facts, numbers, return on investment. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, that’s how economies function. However, when you tap into the emotional side of things, that’s when you connect, when people remember you, and where you can make a difference. I guess that’s what movie directors are always trying to do in making the next Hollywood blockbuster. That’s not to say you should be coming up with a movie script each time you do a presentation to your boss in the workplace. But it is beneficial when you are selling the idea to try and think about what story you are trying to tell.
What was widely considered one of the more successful/popular Superbowl XLVI commercials recently (even though I loved the funny ones-see my post on 2012 Superbowl Ads)? It was the Clint Eastwood Chrysler commercial. Why? Because it told you a story. It took people on a journey. And it was a memorable one because it connected with people’s emotional side instead of the rational side which would otherwise just talk about the car’s features. Over 5 million YouTube views can’t be wrong!
It’s that “a-ha” moment that you want to cultivate. But it’s not just the end that’s important, it’s how you construct your story from start to finish. So when you do your next idea pitch, think about the story you want to tell. How can you connect with the audience to make it memorable like Mr W below…