Impact is a word we love to throw around, but what does making an impact truly mean when you’re a leader? And how do the most impactful leaders behave day in and day out? To answer those questions, it’s as important to pay attention to what highly impactful leaders never do as what they do regularly.
“An impactful leader is someone who is focused on bringing out higher levels of engagement, driving peak performance, and ultimately helping their team achieve their goals and dreams while working for the company,” says Stella Odogwu, Founder of INTELLE Coaching Solutions, an executive coaching program for women, and host of The Career Catapult Podcast.
Keep in mind there is no need to manage a huge team to become a more impactful leader. You can embody the best leadership principles even if you mostly work alone. “There is a misconception that a leader must oversee a large team of 200 or more to make an impact. People usually relate impact to something grandiose, when, in fact, you can make an impact having as few as one direct report,” adds Odogwu.
“Real impact comes when you are able to focus on another person’s growth and development, which is ultimately what makes them better and stronger in their role. The impact isn’t always about quantity. Every time you are able to positively help change the course of someone’s career, you are making an impact.”
Here are seven things highly impactful leaders avoid doing at all costs to help you maximize your own impact.
According to Odogwu, you won’t catch a high-impact leader feeling like they have to compete for the spotlight.
“A truly impactful leader is secure enough in themselves and the value they bring not to try to compete for the spotlight. Also, they understand that while some of their team members will serve as experts in their areas, their role is to drive strategy and set the vision for the team,” she says.
Highly impactful leaders also avoid throwing others under the bus. “Often, in the corporate world, things can get pretty intense, and there are a lot of eyeballs on the work you are doing. Sometimes those projects don’t go well; maybe someone on your team dropped the ball. As a leader, it is your job to protect your team and foster that team culture versus hanging them out to dry,” says Odogwu.
Protecting team members is one thing. But the most impressive leaders are dedicated to advocating for them as well.
“Impactful leaders understand the power of advocacy and support and make sure that their team members’ accomplishments are highlighted.”
“I’ve seen situations where a team member is interested in exploring a different opportunity, perhaps in the same company, and the leader is concerned about losing that person than having to deal with covering off incomplete projects, post the job opening, and go through the hiring process all over again, which can be inconvenient and costly,” says Odogwu.
However, “a good leader understands that allowing someone to grow can be mutually beneficial.” Because careers are long-lasting journeys that extend past current departments, roles and organizations.
Highly impactful leaders focus on the art of divide and conquer and set a strategic vision– they don’t try to do everything.
“An impactful leader knows the value they bring in relation to the other members of the team and that everyone has different strengths and levels of expertise. Instead of doing somebody else’s job, they should strive to be a strategic leader and not a tactical one.”
Great leaders are strong strategists, coaches, communicators and project managers. But the most impactful leadership comes from self-awareness. For that reason, leaders who make the biggest impact never shy away from inner work such as improving their confidence.
“Before you get promoted into a leadership role, you spend quite a bit of time being the expert, the doer, the subject matter expert, the go-to person. And sometimes when leaders become leaders, it can be a very insecure place because they don’t feel that they are making that tangible impact in the organization,” according to Odogwu.
“A truly impactful leader is somebody who’s already done that inner work, who’s honed in their confidence, worked on their mindset, and is secure in their role.”
On that note, the best leaders are eager to share the wisdom they derive from their self-improvement efforts with others and mentor them as they strive to improve.
“Highly impactful leaders work on themselves so that they know what their lane is. They’re secure in their role. And they are actively developing their team members, setting stretch goals for them, and supporting them in accomplishing said goals”
“I have a saying that people will leave your organization as long as there are opportunities elsewhere to make their dreams happen better or faster. So, part of your job as a leader is to think about how to help them not only deliver value to the organization but also achieve their dreams and goals while doing it.”
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