October 29

Recalibrate your leadership skill set

Many leaders stop growing because they’re getting great reviews from their boss and strong feedback from their people.

Unfortunately, they don’t realize they’re still only in the first phase of their leadership journey.

Perhaps you’re getting results from your team that bolster your company’s bottom line. Your people respect you and look to you for direction. You know you’re an effective leader – maybe you’d even rate yourself as, say, an 8 out of 10.

However, you might be using a scale made for people with more modest ambition.

It’s time to recalibrate that scale to reveal the tremendous opportunities for growth--and to inspire yourself to reach for greater heights.

How Coca-Cola recalibrated its idea of what was possible

Look at how Coca Cola recalibrated its concept of what it had the ability to achieve. The company had already cornered over 65% of the international soft drink market – the height of success, one might say. However, instead of just patting themselves on the back for a job well done, executives realised they’d only cornered a small portion of the total drink market.

Meanwhile, Pepsi dominated 77% of the sports drink market and 88% of coffee drinks. Now, Coca Cola too is focused on becoming a “total beverage company” that dominates in many different categories of drinks where it has boundless room for growth.

The lesson: Don’t just luxuriate – and languish – in your success, and 

  • Re-calibrate your idea of what is possible for you to achieve in your own journey 
  • Evaluate yourself on a new leadership scale; a scale calibrated for people who want to leave behind a legacy of success


Take a look at what the height of success can look like for these three key areas of leadership--influence, inspiring leadership in others, and visionary leadership--and expand your idea of what it’s possible for you to achieve.

Growth Area 1: Inspiring leadership in others

You might see yourself as a supportive leader who helps your people step outside of their comfort zone. But for world-class inspirational leadership, let’s look at the example of Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit.

Smith catalyses leadership in his 7,900+ employees by encouraging them to take risks, find new solutions to problems, and overcome their fear of failure. Instead of leadership flowing from the top down, it flows in all directions.

The company’s business model resembles an assortment of startups rather than a centralized corporation, giving leaders across the organisation plenty of room to soar.

When you re-calibrate your idea of what inspiring leadership in others looks like using Smith’s example, where do you sit on that scale?

Inspiring leadership scale

  • Level 1: You give the natural leaders on your team the support they need to blossom, assigning them to projects that boost their confidence and hone their abilities.
  • Level 2: You work with all your employees to determine their leadership style and bring out their strengths. Your people think of you as a mentor. You regularly make introductions to high-level leaders.
  • Level 3: You celebrate failures, rewarding people’s efforts rather than just results. In addition to serving as a mentor and coach to your people, you’ve launched successful initiatives for creative brainstorming and idea-sharing that draw input from all employees.
  • Level 4: You foster an innovative culture where ideas from lower-level staff are heard and adopted by CEOs. You might have implemented a less hierarchical system than the typical business model follows. Other managers and executives follow your lead by encouraging leadership at all levels.

ACTION POINT: Encourage your people to push their own limits. Invite criticism and solutions to both small and large problems from people at all levels of the organisation, fostering a new business model that rewards innovative thinking.

Growth Area 2. Exerting influence

You might have no trouble getting your team revved up about your ideas, which may lead you to think of yourself as a great influencer. But what does world-class influence look like?

Mary Barra of General Motors is an excellent example of an influencer. She’s guiding not just the success of her company, but the direction of the whole auto industry. She’s implemented bold strategic moves like pulling Chevy out of Europe and investing in self-driving-car technology, getting buy-in from major stakeholders for her often controversial ideas. The first woman to serve as CEO of a major auto producer, she’s also quickly becoming the most influential CEO in GM’s history.

Like Barra, great influencers can persuade people to take actions that at first might seem counterintuitive. They spearhead radical change that keeps their company cornering new markets and constantly increases their own sphere of influence.

When you re-calibrate your idea of what the height of influence looks like using Barra’s example, where do you sit?

Influence scale

  • Level 1: You can usually get your peers and direct reports enthused about your ideas. You easily inspire your team to put forth its best effort in new initiatives introduced by upper-level management.
  • Level 2: A couple of executives advocate for your ideas in higher-level meetings. You successfully implement department-level initiatives.
  • Level 3: You are guiding the direction of your company, igniting bold changes that bring surprising new growth. Company leaders reach out to ask for your input consistently, inviting you to the table for all major conversations.
  • Level 4: In addition to guiding your company’s growth trajectory using both your own ideas and great ideas from others, you are guiding the direction of your entire industry. You leverage a robust social media following to get your ideas into the broader world in a powerful way.

ACTION POINT: Want to grow your influence? Start finding reasons to chat up the influencers in your organisation. Make yourself a regular part of their lives, and your influence with them will grow.

Growth Area 3: Cultivating and sharing long-term vision

You may have a strong understanding of your company’s vision and use it to inform your team’s initiatives. However, you probably still have a long way to go in terms of becoming a visionary leader.

Take the example of Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, whose vision has radiated not only through the tech sector but throughout the world. Rolling Stone has called him “the architect of tomorrow.”

Musk’s wildly visionary ideas like creating a world with carbon-free energy and enabling human beings to live on Mars, don’t always come to fruition immediately. Rather, he’s a master of the long-game, working to achieve revolutionary--perhaps seemingly impossible--ideas step by step.

Every Monday, his staff holds a brainstorming session on "Mars colonial transport architecture," and Space X has been steadily improving cutting-edge rocket technology for years.

In comparison to Musk’s example, where would you place yourself on the re-calibrated visionary leadership scale?

Visionary Scale

  • Level 1: You refer to your company’s vision periodically in team meetings, connecting new initiatives to the big picture. You maintain a focus on long-term goals and strategy.
  • Level 2: You refer to the big picture habitually, which teaches employees to think in this way. You’ve implemented a strategy to ensure your team achieves the vision for the year.
  • Level 3: You play a strong role in crafting long-term vision and adapting it to the changing world. The executives in your company know that no one understands and communicates the vision better than you.
  • Level 4: Other leaders in your industry are looking to your visionary ideas for inspiration. You see them emulating your ideas as they observe how your vision is driving results for your company.

ACTION POINT: Make a point to refer to your company’s vision in team meetings on a regular basis, tying team performance, strategy, and goals into it. Make time each week to brainstorm on visionary ideas so you’ll always have something in your back pocket when you run into that executive in the elevator.

Check out these three ways to kick start your personal growth---influence, inspiring leadership in others, and visionary leadership.

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The power of re-calibrating your leadership goals

As you re-calibrate your leadership goals, you might be realizing you’re only 20% of the way on a much longer journey than you realised. But whether you work at a large company in the tech sector or a small advertising agency, hone these areas of growth to unleash your true potential.

You’ll be on your way to becoming the leader you aspire to be, and team performance will skyrocket as a result.

PLUS, whenever you're ready, why not hit the accelerator on your journey of exponential impact by working with us, or by picking up a copy of Making TIME For Strategy?

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