Getting our leadership message across to the team can be a challenge. But as leaders, we can forget that by virtue of our position, we are up on a stage.
And like the stage occupied by actors and musicians, there are some great tools available to us, if we’re smart about how we use them.
All that became clear after a brief encounter with a singer a while ago, who showed me that you don’t need to be big to get your leadership message across clear and strong.
The church I attended last year has a great musical program, with a lot of amazing volunteer talent. Up on the stage, the musicians do a great job of inspiring us with their skillful playing and beautiful voices.
One singer in particular had a wonderful, clear voice, a radiant smile, and a twinkle in her eye when she sang. I had never met her, but each morning when I saw that she would be one of the singers, it made me happy.
A few months after she began to sing with the band, the church put on their annual youth retreat at an old lodge in the mountains. I was helping out as a volunteer in the snack bar.
One afternoon, while on break, I decided to wander around the old building to explore. Half way down the narrow main hall, I encountered “the singer,” who was going in the other direction.
We said hello, and spoke briefly. I told her that I enjoyed listening to her singing every week.
It was fun to finally meet her, and she was every bit as nice as she seemed to be up on stage. But do you know what was going through my head as we talked?
“Wow, she’s not nearly as tall as I thought she was.”
The Magic of the Stage
There’s a kind of magic involved here. The stage elevates people above ground level. The spotlights make them prominent against the background. Microphones amplify their voices. The performers seem to become larger than life.
It works much the same way for those in a position of leadership.
Our stage may be the physical location of our office or our position at the head of the table.
Our spotlights may be come from our role in the decision-making process or the daily functions we perform.
Our voices may be amplified through email and letterhead, the agendas we set, and the people we’re connected to.
The Leadership Stage can make us seem larger than life, too. Here’s how we can use that fact to amplify our leadership message.
The Leadership Stage
The Stage. By virtue of the physical setup, you seem larger and more imposing than you may feel. Your every move is scrutinized.
• Speak with your actions. The strongest message you can send is through what you do. Start by modeling the actions you want others to take, whether it’s being respectful to others, coming prepared, or being organized and disciplined. Ultimately, teams reflect the character of the leader, so be as you want them to be.
• Mind the gap. People have a very sensitive hypocritometer, and will quickly be able to tell if you aren’t backing up your words with your actions. To build and sustain trust, you have to narrow the gap between say and do down to zero, and keep it there.
The Spotlight. It’s easy for everyone to focus on you. But they are out there in the dark. The brighter the lights, the harder it is for you to see what’s really happening.
• Connect intentionally. You risk becoming isolated and disconnected from reality up on the stage. Make the extra effort to get connected, both with other leaders, and also with the people on your team.
• Recognize the deserving. Think of the spotlight as a tool you can use to strengthen your team. When someone does a good job, shine a positive light on them. A little recognition can go a long way towards keeping your teammates motivated and engaged. This is doubly true for those doing low-visibility but essential support jobs.
The Sound System. Your voice is louder than you think. What you say carries farther and is heard by more people.
• Talk about the vision. Constantly describe the vision that you are all trying to achieve together. Help them keep it uppermost in their minds so that every action leads in some way towards making it a reality.
• Reinforce the values. Look for opportunities to talk about your team’s values. Find examples of people doing the right thing, describe what they did, and how it makes you feel about the team.
• Listen. Leadership is not characterized by a one way conversation via loudspeaker. It is easy and tempting to drown out differing opinions or things that make you uncomfortable, but it’s these moments of dissent and discomfort when it’s the most important to pause and really listen.
Amplify the Leadership Message – The Takeaway
The leadership stage amplifies and magnifies our words and actions. To lead effectively, take advantage of what it offers.
• Use the stage to build trust through your actions
• Use the spotlight to recognize the good in others.
• Use the microphone to reinforce the vision and values.
• And remember to listen.
When you amplify your leadership message in this way, your influence can grow far beyond what you may have imagined, and you’ll find an audience ready to stand and clap.
It doesn’t matter how tall you are.