“Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” – John Maxwell
Scrolling through LinkedIn, there are endless posts on constructive leadership. They’re a great reminder of how we should conduct ourselves in our business circles, especially those in management. But I think most of them still slightly miss the mark. Leadership isn’t about commanding people; it’s about commandeering your environment.
We’re all leaders in some way. Think about everyone you come across on a consistent basis: friends, family, co-workers, even the security guard at your office. This is your sphere of influence and you are the axis. Each interaction you have is a chance to affect those around you. A strong leader influences everyone in their sphere positively. Consequently, you can have the opposite effect.
I had the privilege of serving our local CREW Network chapter, BirminghamCREW, as the 2018 president. Although excited for the opportunity, I felt unqualified and was terrified of public speaking. But I made a choice to turn the focus from myself to building up the success of my team and our chapter. I credit all the success of my term to my team and the incredible members of BirminghamCREW. (Thank you – ALL!)
If you are involved with CREW for any length of time, you know membership value is a frequent topic of discussion. And, in my opinion, leadership development is one of the greatest take-aways from CREW Network. Early in my CREW journey, I thought leadership development would come by way of trainings, programs and education, but that’s not it at all. While we like to offer leadership training to our members, it’s simply the exposure to the Network which gives you the opportunity for leadership development. What you do with it is up to you!
Whether you are a part of BirminghamCREW, another chapter of CREW Network or different professional organization all together, the exposure to your group will foster your personal leadership skills. So, jump in and get involved! Here are a few areas which I believe can help you utilize your network and develop you as a leader.
1. Authentic Relationships
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the scramble of networking functions, but being a leader requires you to take a more intentional approach. Be willing to meet one-on-one with those you meet even if you don’t think they will bring you business right away. They may provide you with something more profound than your expectations. You also have the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life! I’ve heard countless stories of women successfully navigating a difficult time because of connections and friends they made through CREW.
When I meet with someone, I like to actually get to know them, not just what they do or how they may help me. The more intentionality I take in digging deeper to develop a relationship, the more value I receive in the end. And that sort of value far outweighs what I would normally gain from a shallow, one-time “maybe we can work together” meeting.
2. Industry Expertise
Most organizations have some sort of member database. Another reason I appreciate CREW Network is their online platform – CREWbiz. It’s a place where all 11,000+ members can connect, gain insight and obtain new business opportunities. I had a client learn her property sat in an Opportunity Zone (OZ) shortly after the bill was first released, before final regulations were set. I was – by no means – an expert in OZ and there weren’t many in Birmingham who were, so I took to CREWbiz. The response was overwhelming! After 7 conference calls over the next week, I had become an expert in exactly what my client needed, and we had the answers essential to moving forward.
Utilize your network to help educate and prepare you to do the best job you can. Make it the first place you go to offer or to gather information.
3. Seek the Intangible
William Arthur Ward wrote, “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” You can effectively influence a room by deliberately exuding positive qualities.
Speak positively into the lives of others. If someone is working hard or doing a good job, let them know. Express your gratitude to those around you; be grateful, even when it’s hard. Be present. Be adaptable. Your engagement and encouragement will shape your environment.
4. Endless Improvement
I recently overheard a 5-year old girl quote her mom. She said, “I like practice! My mom says, ‘Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.’” What an incredible notion I learned from a 5-year old that day! I believe this is a valuable takeaway for us all! We can always get better. We can always learn something new. And we can always continue to refine our character.
Lean on those with more experience than you. Remove your pride by admitting you don’t know everything. Instead, stretch yourself by learning all you can to become the person others lean on.
John Maxwell, well-respected leadership guru, also teaches, “The only thing a title can buy is a little time-either to increase your level of influence with others or to undermine it.” To be an effective leader, you must first understand your title does not define you… but your attitude will.
I am not the expert on this, but I am constantly looking for ways to further build my character and learn how to affect those around me in a positive manner. I want to influence those in my sphere to be a better version of themselves and I want relationships with people who are doing the same. Leadership is about your character, not your title. Look in the mirror and be honest… What can you do today to positively shape your sphere?