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Three words to lead by?

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When you think about people whose influence on you has left a lasting positive Aubrey Warrenimpression - what words come to mind?

You may have worked for these people or with them, or you may have simply observed them for a period of time. Whatever the circumstance, we've all been positively influenced by the active presence and real-life examples of others in formal or informal leadership roles. Naturally, we often try – consciously or unconsciously – to emulate some aspect of their effectiveness.

So it can help to reflect in a focused way on the particular behaviours, the practices and the approaches of those exemplars in order to clarify how to direct our own efforts at leading and influencing others. Sometimes "labelling" what it is that makes these influencers so effective can provide us with a few "key words to lead by".

So, what are the words that come to mind when you think of, say, three people whose influence on you has left a lasting positive impression?

From the rich gallery of people whose examples have influenced me over the years, I’d like to highlight just three to illustrate this idea of “three words to lead by”.

I think about Dennis, who gave me my first paid writing job. I’ve never been quite sure why he took that risk, except that as I came to know him as both a boss and a friend, he obviously enjoyed giving people opportunities. He invested time in helping me learn the craft, he provided opportunities to gain experience, he invited my input, and he encouraged his team to enjoy our work and to enjoy working together. He believed in having fun as well as being productive. His approach to managing people was so  different to anything I’d experienced in the first eight years of my working life that I admit that at first I thought there was something wrong with him!  When I think of Dennis, one of several leadership words that comes to mind is “opportunity”.

I also think about Mandy, who introduced me to the work of coaching. Her passion for her work was only matched by her positivity about the people she worked with. She was unabashed about expressing positive perspectives on you and your work - encouraging, praising and celebrating achievements. Operating in tandem with her generous expressions of support and encouragement was a very firm hand that unapologetically encouraged you to to challenge yourself and follow through on commitments. In so doing she communicated that she believed in you. Not surprisingly, "encouragement" is one of the leadership words I will always recall from working with Mandy.

Another whose influence I think about is Jon – someone who literally walked into my office one day and asked “so, what do you do?” The small whirlwind that was Jon’s presence picked me up and drove my growth as a trainer. Jon sees opportunities and translates them into action with an extraordinary level of sustained mental and physical energy. He can translate ideas into action at light speed. His formidable intellect, harnessed to practical application, means he’s able to translate knowledge into production rapidly. And his own energy radiates its effects onto those around him. So when I think of Jon, “energy” is word that comes to mind.

Three people, three influences, three words: opportunity, encouragement, energy. Three words that in different situations I'm more conscious of applying because the influence and example of three other people have made those words more real and achievable to me.

When you think of three people whose examples have influenced you, what are the words or phrases that capture the essence of their influence on you? How might those words encourage, enlighten or enliven your own leadership? How might they enable you to focus your leadership more effectively? And how might your focus on those words and behaviours more positively influence those around you?

Aubrey Warren

Situational Leadership® Australia

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