You hear it from bosses and parents many times.
“Now make sure we behave ourselves when (regional leadership)/(grandparents or minister) comes to visit us.”
“After all, we need to look good in front of them.”
When anyone is worried more about looking good for the sake of optics, rather than doing what’s good and right as a matter of practice – there raises a red flag that those in authority aren’t truly being the example leadership they should be.
Whether it’s fudging the numbers on reports, checking the boxes to ensure tasks are done, or creating the rehearsed “dog and pony show” to stay in someone’s good graces, the failure of leadership to develop their people to create the right patterns of thinking and behavior to do what should be done reveals the leader’s true heart.
Optics are just a cheap way to be a leader. The great leaders ensure that their people are solid performers.
Great leaders don’t ask their people to “stay in their lane” or be scarce when others come to check on them. They encourage honest conversations and want to place their people front and center to prove how great their people are. This is the antithesis of leaders who want to do all the talking to control the situation so they look good.
The optics problem always reveals a leader or a broader organizational culture that allows this type of leadership mindset to exist. It fosters the place-holding of a leader who doesn’t want to look bad instead of generating a dynamic of leaders who excel at developing great people and great systems.
Optics aren’t everything, but they reveal more than the facade they create.
It’s very easy to slip into a path of negativity in your leadership. It’s a basic tenet of people to slide into negative outlooks and behaviors unless acted on from some outside agent, or disciplined from within.
In the current state of our world, with Covid-19 lock-downs and their resulting economic impact, racial police brutality that leads to riots, and people on social media harassing others in a self-appointed social justice warrior role, it’s easier than ever to become more negative, or at least stay there longer.
Negativity is always waiting to manifest within ourselves. When we allow more negative to taint our effectiveness, we lessen our impact to others and our own outlook.
It’s a drain on any organization that will always have diminishing returns. And yet it’s completely avoidable if we take some proactive measures. Here are & ways to lead positively by adopting habits that crowd out negativity from impacting you.
Lead With A Clear, Positive Vision. A vision centered around despair and “what-ifs” will not encourage others to grind out towards a clouded goal. Nor will a goal that is unclear, or unspecified. Having a big, audacious vision for what lies ahead and making sure it’s clear (and clearly communicated) to all will get the teams eyes on a common goal.
Assume Positive Intent. Most of the time leaders assuming the worst in their people will only erode that employee’s trust. Just like most worrying is about things that never end up occurring, assumptions of ill-will are usually unfounded. Having an outlook of positive intent, such as what Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo has adopted in her life and leadership, can be the single best approach to changing your leadership impact.
Look For What’s Working. Plans fail. Machines break. Employees Struggle. Systems break down. A lot can take away your attitude, such as worrying about what you don’t have instead of using what you already have at your disposal. Being content in what is working and available leads to a leveraging that is more beneficial and productive. Celebrating what’s working and succeeding are good places to start.
Communicate Incessantly. Negativity breeds faster, so it must be diluted with communication that’s upbeat and assuring. Positive messaging is a change in habits, but ultimately becomes easier over time. What needs to be communicated is vision, work culture, goals, successes and recognition of what is working. Everything on this list won’t be impactful if not communicated to everyone on your team. Inoculate your people with the right type of communication.
Keep Away From Negative Influences/Influencers. This is probably more internal than external. Any leader needs to be informed of the world around them. To be blissfully ignorant of socio-economic, market, political and physical forces is a naive approach to your role. However, consuming more negative input than positive messages will create hopelessness, distrust and divisiveness in your own being. Just as feeding on junk food is harmful to your body, it’s difficult to lead effective and visionary change by gorging on influences and people that make your outlook anemic.
Be A Positive Impact In Your World. Having a determination that you will enable others to make a tremendously bright impact on your sphere of influence will start your team in a productive direction. Coupled with communicating vision, focusing on how to make lives better through your work culture, services, products or just from interacting with you and your people can be a huge intangible difference in other’s lives. Look at how you can make everyone’s (or as many as humanly possible) brighter by how you conduct your affairs and those of your organization.
Seek Opportunity In Every Situation. No matter how challenging the times, there is always opportunity. Some of our best medical advances have unfortunately come during periods of war. We have seen numbers of companies pivot during this Covid-19 pandemic – such as distilleries making sanitizer and game companies making face masks – because they saw opportunities to meet a need for the common good.
We can wait for circumstances to be better, and they most likely will. However, good and bad times have always and will always ebb and flow.
Making your leadership one of positivity, one that is beneficial and not consumed by the world’s events, will empower you to help others lift their heads and efforts above the challenges of the day.
It starts with an effort to block the despair and cynicism both from within yourself and from the outside.
There is a saying that I am particularly fond of:
“Your only competition is yourself.”
And there is another saying as well:
“You’re only as good as your last performance.”
By combining these two sayings, it should give us each a sense of the one thing we need to accomplish every day.
Are You Getting Better?
We should all ask not just ourselves, but those who we allow to provide straight honest feedback, to answer if we indeed truly getting better. Some questions to ponder:
- Am I becoming more trustworthy among those I work and know?
- Do I find new ways to learn and challenge myself to grow?
- Is my reputation getting better?
- Have I taken care of those things I’m scared of others finding out?
- Did I overcome excuses today?
- Am I working towards peak health, thinking and attitudes?
- Did I create more happiness for others today?
- Am I allowing others to be more important than myself?
Questions like these to ourselves and our accountability partners will peel away the surface performance and attitudes and challenge ourselves to go deeper to be a truly better human above all else.
So, how are you getting better today?