In my first article on this topic, I discussed just what is “Leadership Capital” and what are the components that make it up. So, if we have a good understanding of what it is, let’s move on to see how we gain more of it.
This much I know to be true. It is earned in small amounts and often over long periods of time. Thus, you have the first half of my quote – “ . . . earned in pennies . . . ”
What Steps Can I Take to Build My Leadership Capital?
Be Approachable — Several years ago I wrote an article that reminds us that leaders are accessible and not aloof. Accessible and approachable are similar enough that for my purposes I am considering them synonymous. Leadership capital is earned by being approachable. If you already have a position of leadership, it is all the more necessary for you to remain approachable.
Human nature desires “to know and to be known” and that is certainly true in a leadership context. Your team wants to know that they can approach you and that you will not look at them as though you don’t know who they are or why they would ever feel that they could just walk right to you and have a conversation. Leaders who are approachable gain a little leadership capital every day. Leaders who are aloof see their capital devalue or erode over time.
Be Assertive — Leaders need a certain degree of assertiveness. Notice that I did not say “aggressive.” Unlike the terms approachable and accessible above, assertiveness and aggressiveness are not necessarily synonymous. In fact, they are often viewed very differently by those around us. Assertiveness is almost universally viewed positively while aggressiveness can be viewed quite negatively by those around us.
Being assertive may be the only way to get your ideas out there for consideration. This is especially true when you are competing with other team members or other leaders for visibility. However, please note that there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Assertive leaders present their thoughts and ideas with a high degree of confidence, they indicate their underlying convictions, and they are always tempered with humility and grace. Assertive leaders are aware that any excessive degree of confidence could be mistaken for arrogance, and that will most certainly reduce their leadership capital. Leaders who are assertive gain a little leadership capital every day. Leaders who are aggressive see their capital burn up in the heat of the aggression.
Be Action Oriented — Building up leadership capital means that we are action oriented and not argument oriented. Folks want to follow “doers” and not “talkers.” This is especially true if the talk is very argumentative. Arguments don’t win the day. Influence wins the day.
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Let your actions do the talking. It has been said that often what we do speaks so loudly that folks can’t hear what we are saying. Or, to use another cliché, We need to walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. Leaders who are action oriented gain a little leadership capital every day. Leaders who are argumentative see their capital blow away in the unyielding winds of their arguments.
Be Amenable — You are not always going to be right and you are not always going to know what to do in every situation. Therefore, be amenable or flexible. I realize that this may seem like it conflicts with the need to be assertive. Isn’t it difficult to assert yourself if you are open to changing your mind? To the contrary, being too stringent or adamant in your approach will work against you. Your followers will come to see you as stubborn, immovable, and incapable of being open to being lead themselves.
Being able to work vigorously, yet showing your flexibility while holding firm to your core beliefs builds leadership capital. Negotiations and compromises are often the best ways to do this. Stay rigid in your core values and do not compromise your integrity when someone contradicts you, but work with them to find a mutually acceptable solution. When others view you as being flexible, they will be more likely to listen to you in the future at another point where there seems to be an impasse. Leaders who are amenable gain a little leadership capital every day. Leaders who are too rigid or unyielding see their capital crack under the stress and strain of conflict.
Our Leadership Capital is built up through the daily and consistent way that we approach our role as leader. It is built up in the small increment of a kind word of encouragement spoken to someone on our team. It is increased through the decisive way that we approach a challenge or some adversity. It grows again as we actually “do” something that makes a difference in our organization. And it is enlarged when we are vulnerable enough to know that we don’t know everything and when we are able to be lead.
One Last Thought
Just like with financial capital where you “have to spend money to make money.” You have to spend your Leadership Capital all the time. It is not something that can be hoarded. Surely we don’t want to waste it unnecessarily. But, we must use it or we will lose it. You cannot hold onto it so tightly as an old miser would hold onto their money. Spread it around. And watch it grow!