What is Your Legend?

 photo credit:Seanwes.com

photo credit:Seanwes.com

BY OLIVIA DONNINI, Yahoo

Earlier this year, I attended the Watermark Conference, a frisson-inducing conference that celebrates women in Silicon Valley. In one panel session, Brenda Dulger-Sheikin of State Street asked a thought-provoking question: What’s the legend of you? What are the stories people tell about you when you’ve left the room? It’s been tumbling around in my mind ever since, particularly when I thought about this month’s leadership focus on the blog. So often leadership is merely used as a synonym for management, but this question of legends, of the impact and legacy you leave behind is what can set you apart and step your leadership game up. The aspects below have helped me be more thoughtful of the legend of leadership I carry with me, and think about the impact I want my leadership to have in the future.

Team: Put Your People First

A leader would be nothing without her team -- whether formal or informal, in order to be a leader you must actually lead people. When it comes down to it, the greatest leaders I’ve met, the ones who have the most heartfelt, sincere, dedicated teams, are the ones who put their people first. In every decision they make they ask themselves: What impact will this have on my team, on my organization? How can my efforts bring us closer to our objectives, how can I help grow, challenge, and support my people?

There are tough choices every leader must make (sometimes they can feel like daily occurrences!), and while they may cause grumbles at first, prioritizing the overall good of your team in those choices can help mitigate them. Putting your team first and communicating that motivation will build a foundation of trust and understanding to solidify your bond and set you apart as a true leader.

Vision: Think About the End Game

Leaders set the vision for their team, the goal or milestone towards which they march faithfully, overcoming whatever challenges cross their path. Inevitably, frustrations and roadblocks may attempt to hinder your progress, wearing down your team’s motivation and your own.

Rallying your team around shared values and objectives will help diminish whatever distractions may erode your efforts to achieve them. It’s more than merely setting long term goals -- How can you support your team, encourage their development, and provide guidance so their work reflects your collective vision and mission and together you can reach your goals? Setting a vision and then focusing on that guiding question can elevate your leadership from a perfunctory role to one that truly drives change for you, your team, and your organization.

Humility: Check Your Ego

Great leaders are able to remove themselves from the equation. From seeking out others for their knowledge and experience to rising above office politics, leaders are able to step their game up by realizing success is not all about them. It's about the bigger picture and whole community of people working collectively to make that vision a reality.

A critical counterpart to this is when mistakes are made. In those humbling moments, great leaders own the situation - the events leading up to the mistakes and the consequences that follow. Not only does this allow you as a leader to learn and evolve from your experience, but you also serve as a role model for others, showing that it's okay to make mistakes as long as you own them and grow from them. This challenging dichotomy, sharing credit for success and owning responsibility for mistakes, is a humbling yet critical way to elevate your leadership style.

Advocacy: Use Your Position as an Amplifier

Being a leader is about much more than your day-to-day work. It’s also about using your position to elevate those around you, enabling their success as well as that of your own and your organization’s -- so often the wins of those around you directly contribute to the larger wins for you and your organization!

In your everyday work, ask yourself: What am I doing for others? How am I using my position to enrich the experience of others? By exposing others to leadership opportunities, advocating for those who may not have a seat at the table, and speaking up for what you believe in, you can evolve your leadership position into one of transformation and positive change for those around you.

The concept of being a leader is about contributing to something larger than yourself. Awareness of this aspect of your role allows you to use your platform to serve that larger purpose - be it a civic cause, a company’s bottom line, your team’s development, or all three and more!