by T Tesfaye
FOUR ACTIONS I TOOK THAT HELPED ME TO INFLUENCE OTHERS
1. I prioritized building relationships.
A key lesson I have learned about leadership throughout my journey is the vitalness of relationships to a leader’s success. Intentionally invest in building vertical relationships–from c-level executives to the last person you manage–as well as horizontal relationships–from your colleagues to the custodian staff. You will need to call upon these people at different points in your leadership journey, and having solidified rapport early on will smoothen your process and deliver you to success. You will also get to learn a lot from each individual.
2. I genuinely cared and fully committed.
People will notice your dedication and be inspired by it, creating a nurturing leadership environment. This genuine drive will also make your leadership journey’s inevitable ups and downs more meaningful and worthwhile.
3. I embraced the power of servant leadership.
Early on in my leadership journey, I discovered that I preferred the “servant leadership” style. I was skeptical if this style was fit to bring about the large scale impact I envision. It wasn’t until my colleagues lauded it, and my students started to emulate it that I realized its immense power. Servant leadership is like a quiet wave–consistent, metered, and dependable yet capable of peacefully driving a ship across the vast sea.
4. I pushed myself to be vulnerable and owned my mistakes.
Despite the infamous myth of the infallible leader, carefully revealing your relevant vulnerabilities will permit your followers to be authentic. Also, as long as your mistakes were not motivated by callousness, owning up to them, even laughing about them, and taking tangible actions to fix them will make your followers connect and respect you.
TWO SIMILARITIES AND ONE DIFFERENCE I FOUND IN DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP AMONG YOUNG AFRICANS AND NORTH AMERICANS
After leading young Africans as well as young North Americans, I was surprised by the striking similarities between the skills required to lead both. Here are a few that stood out.
1. Leading people that look like you is much smoother.
Analyzing human behaviors from a sociological and psychological perspective reveals that people connect with those who look like them. Until we get to a race, gender, and ability neutral world, leading those who do not look like us will take more effort. Meanwhile, we could approximate “looking like” through shared interests, common hobbies, and other mutable backgrounds.
2. Listen. Listen.
Any person, from any culture, in any corner of the world, desires to be listened to and craves to be understood. A leader who can quench this need is undoubtedly headed for success and can guide people toward a shared vision.
In some cultures, “yes” means “maybe.”
I spent many moments staring at my watch, waiting for a meeting to start only for the person not to show up. Some cultures prohibit the blunt use of “No.” So, people end up uttering the words “Yes” even when they don’t mean it. After a few encounters, I learned to read between the lines and started to differentiate when “Yes” actually meant “YES! I will definitely be at the meeting” vs. when “yes” meant, “I can’t make it, but I want to appear nice.”
THREE THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT LEADERSHIP IN THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING OTHERS
1. Leadership is a continuous journey, not a once-off destination.
2. Level 5 leadership needs to be practiced more. The pinnacle of level 5 leadership is ensuring your successors are equally, if not more, successful. Unfortunately, this goal is underappreciated and rarely practiced. Doing all you can to make sure that leaders that come after you can successfully build on your vision is the best way to bring long-term transformative change in the world.
3. One of the hardest parts of leadership, I finally realized, is having the courage to stop and say, I’ll try again later.
About the Author
Tsion (aka T), from Holeta, Ethiopia, is pursuing a master’s degree in statistics (data science track) at Stanford University, where she is also a Knight Hennesy Scholar. She graduated from Hamilton College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, where she worked closely with the Levitt Public Affairs Center. Tsion aspires to build a data science and design-thinking based institute that will promote evidence-based decision making in developing countries to maximize positive impact. I met T as a participant in the Levitt Leadership Institute. Her talents in developing others were immediately apparent, which is why we invited her to become a member of the training team a year later.
- What actions to help influence others would you add to T’s list?
- Who has been most important to your leadership development? How?
- What areas of leadership interest you most? What can you do about it?