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This is the One Thing That High Impact Leaders Have in Common

By amandaalexander | Leadership

Yesterday I facilitated a leadership session for women in STEM on becoming high impact leaders, and I began by asking the participants –

“What is impact, to you?”

The answers almost universally, were that impact is the effect you have on other people and people remembering something you did.

But what do we remember about impactful people?

The quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind:

“People will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel”

In her article in Inc.com, Robin Camarote argues that high impact leaders all have 3 qualities: passion, persistence and kindness. Whilst passion and persistence are high up on the desirable qualities scale, I think it’s the third quality – kindness – that defines high impact leadership the most.

Camarote says:

“Kind leaders understand that kindness is both critical and universal. It’s not just about being polite in front of clients or drafting e-mail messages with heart. Kindness permeates high-impact leaders’ every relationship and every interaction. They leave every conversation with someone feeling heard and in a better place than before–even when delivering bad news. Kind leaders skip the cheap or easy opportunities to make someone feel bad for making a mistake and instead give words of faith and encouragement.”

Kind leaders leave conversations making people FEEL heard and in a better place – back to that Angelou quote!

I asked the participants in the leadership webinar:

“Who comes to mind when I ask you about a person who has had a (positive!) impact on you?”

I left the interpretation loose – I told them they could choose anyone – from work or personal life.

They ALL came back with examples of previous managers who had wanted them to succeed, who had supported them practically or emotionally and who had believed in them.

Here are a few of their responses about high impact leaders:

  • “A former manager who believed in me and gave me a chance”
  • “Previous manager – allowed me the freedom to use my initiative but always there to guide”
  • “Previous manager – believed I was capable and backed me up”
  • “A manager who was supportive and wanted to develop me not himself”
  • “One of my Directors who valued my contribution to the business – I felt that my work was wanted, appreciated and I enjoyed my work”
  • “Previous Manager – believed in me”

None of this is surprising, really, is it? We remember that one teacher who believed in us, acknowledged our strengths and encouraged us to reach higher. We probably don’t remember what that teacher said to us, but we remember how they made us feel. They made us feel that we could fly – so valuable because sometimes we don’t believe we can fly ourselves: Often other’s belief in our ability can work miracles for kick-starting our own self-belief.

Just like that one special teacher, you NEVER forget the manager who believes in you, who gives you a chance, who backs you up and who supports you.

I have my own – his name was Tony Cleary. He was my manager when I was a Project Manager in Tech. He believed in me enough to almost double my salary when he hired me. He held me to high standards and he stood up for me when I was threatened with redundancy when I was pregnant. Tragically, Tony died of cancer last year. I hadn’t seen him for many years, but I still grieved his passing. He may be gone, but I will always remember the impact he had on me.

  • Who has had a positive impact on you in your career? How did they make you feel?
  • What did they enable you to do?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a high impact leader?

Check in on yourself – who are you encouraging and supporting? No special management qualifications needed – only kindness and a genuine desire to see others succeed.

If you’re doing that, then it’s likely that you too are a high impact leader!

The Power of Acknowledgement

By amandaalexander | Leadership

I’ve been tuned in to the enormous power of acknowledgment ever since I left university and started work. Like most people, my general experience of acknowledgement has been from lack of it rather than abundance.

During my career as a Project Manager, I worked within a high pressure company culture where people were generally NOT routinely acknowledged for their work: it seemed that the only time someone noticed the work people did was when something went WRONG on a project. I recall submitting reports and the focus was always on the red and amber flags – very little time was spent acknowledging people’s hard work or positive results.

When I trained as a Coach, I learned about the importance of getting our needs met. In a personal development context, this means the needs above the basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Here’s a very quick and dirty introduction to why getting your personal needs met is so important: When human beings don’t identify their own personal needs and put processes in place to get them met, these needs tend to drive our behaviour. In turn, this propagates an unhealthy vicious cycle where we sub-consciously try to get our needs met. This ultimately holds us back from achieving our biggest dreams and goals.

A good analogy might be this: Imagine you want to get from A to B in a car. You’re determined to get to your destination and you keep putting your foot down on the accelerator. But you’re not getting anywhere because you’re also pressing the brake pedal at the same time. Getting your needs met is like taking your foot off the brake pedal so that the accelerator pedal can do it’s job and you can drive to your desired destination.

One of the core needs that almost EVERY person I’ve ever coached is the need for acknowledgement.

Back in 2006, I felt so strongly about the power of acknowledgement, that I submitted a proposal to a major high street bank for a workshop on acknowledging skills for managers. I wrote this proposal in response to so many of my clients expressing their unmet need for being acknowledged at work.

Acknowledgement in this context is about recognising something that someone has done; it’s the action of showing that we have noticed someone or something. And the power of acknowledgement in the workplace is the power to help people to flourish, to enhance their performance, to grow their confidence and create a virtuous circle of high performing, happy and fulfilled employees.

Let’s go back to my car journey analogy: If a company or organisation is like the car, then the unmet need for acknowledgement is the brake on the car stopping it from reaching its desired destination. When you build genuine acknowledgement into your company culture, not only are you taking your foot off the brake, you’re filling the car with turbo fuel to enhance the acceleration!

Professional athletes know that ongoing acknowledgement and celebration as well as cheers from their fans and encouragement from their team mates improves their performance. The power of acknowledgement is as useful to high performance in the office and raising confident kids as much as it is on the playing field.

It is an unfortunate fact that most company cultures constantly put the focus on what’s not working, on what needs to be fixed and what still needs to be completed. Whilst it’s important to fix and finish, I believe that taking the time to recognise and acknowledge people for the work they have done would act as a preventive measure and reduce the number of problems that get all of the focus.

Acknowledging is a powerful catalyst for action, but when it is absent, it leads to inaction, resentment and demotivation. Talented women and men who don’t feel valued vote with their feet. I know this because, during my years as a professional Coach, I’ve helped a fair few of them to walk elsewhere.

The power of acknowledgement is one of the most underrated and most important elements of leadership and of unleashing human potential. Whether I am coaching personal clients or corporate clients or whether I’m just going about my day-to-day life, acknowledgment is something that’s always been at the forefront of my mind. My radar is almost always switched on to spot opportunities to acknowledge people, whether it’s one of my boys at home, one of my clients or a waiter in a restaurant. It can be anywhere – close family member, colleague or stranger.

Last weekend I was in my beloved Lake District and I felt moved to talk about the power of acknowledgement at the top of Orrest Head in Windermere! I shot a Facebook Live which I’ve uploaded to my blog.

Click here to watch the video – You’ll hear hear me tell the story of the train conductor who seemed to grow a few inches taller after I acknowledged him, or my own recent story about being on the receiving end of acknowledgement for my own performance at work. And even better, you’ll also get to take in some of the finest views in England whilst you’re watching! 🙂

Click here to watch my Vlog on “The Power of Acknowledgement”

 I’d love to hear from you below in the comments.

  • Do you feel acknowledged at work?
  • Do you look out for opportunities to acknowledge your team or colleagues?
  • Are you better at acknowledging your family than your colleagues? Or vice versa?
  • And how about strangers? Do you go out of your way to acknowledge people you notice doing a great job, even if you feel a bit awkward doing so?

20 Gems on Women in Leadership

By amandaalexander | Leadership

On Thursday, 15th September I attended the Women in Business and Leadership Round Table at the House of Lords, chaired by the Rt. Hon Baroness Warsi PC. The event was one of a series of Round Table discussions.

Women have a significant contribution to make in leading cultural change and driving a model of collaborative leadership. The Round Table event focused on the key qualities of leadership, strategies to increase diversity in businesses and harnessing technology to support a blended work life balance for all.

The panel members  were Clare Barclay General Manager SMS&P, Microsoft UK, Griselda Tobogo Managing Director Forward Ladies, James Cliffe Head of Business Banking UK HSBC Commercial Banking, Margaret Totten, Managing Director, IA Cubed (IA3) and James Maunder, Director of Information and Digital Services, Institute of Directors.

Here are my own “top 20” gems of wisdom, wit and wonderment that I drew from the discussion on women in leadership: 

1. We very quickly limit ourselves because of what other people tell us what we should be doing, particularly when we are children (you have to ignore this!)

2. Bring your emotional intelligence to work, not your emotions to work

3. Don’t underestimate the power of a sponsor in your career. A sponsor who has identified you as emerging talent can be highly influential in you securing your new role.

4. Don’t just focus on getting female representation on interview shortlists. Invite women on the interview shortlist panels, as well. We all have unconscious bias and this gets injected into the recruitment process. This is why you need women in the interviewing loop.

5. You can’t bridge the achievement gap if you don’t bridge the ambition gap. As a leader, you need to nurture – create – the ambition in emerging female leaders

6. Females have no fewer aspirations than males, but they do tend to have less confidence.

7. However… young men share similar anxieties to young women. But they usually cover it up with bravado.

8. But generally, men ask for pay rises. Women don’t. BIG CLUE to the gender pay gap!

9. How do leaders juggle work with family? There’s no panacea.. There are no more hours in the day when you’re more senior! You simply get better at figuring it out!

10. Have the courage to be yourself, but also build on other people’s experiences.

11. We will have progressed a long way with gender equality when we STOP treating women having babies as an exceptional event.

12. The only way we’re really going to crack the work-life balance nut is by leaders REALLY walking the talk.

Lead by example: Work from home one day a week, for instance. By doing this, you give the best kind of permission to your team to do the same.

13. Here’s a novel idea to actively lead from the top with work-life blend and employee well-being. Tried, tested and achieved 100% success when implemented by one of our panelists for his staff: Tell your staff that they will score poorly on their performance evaluation if they haven’t booked annual leave by the next review meeting!

14. Bring your whole self to work, not just your half self – i.e. you with your work hat on. Let your colleagues get to know who YOU are (see point 10 … it’s all about true authenticity, not pseudo authenticity!)

15. Work is an activity, not a place. Think about this one in the context of agile working and work life balance/blend!

16. There is an urgent need for the UK government to review the support (or lack of) for self-employed women when they have a baby.

17. Ultimately, women have to take control of their own career – nobody is going to do it for them.

18. We need to start asking ourselves WHY we’re not asking men the same kind of questions as we ask women, such as: “How do you balance work with family?”

19. On asking a group of school children the question: “What do you want to be when you’re grown up?” the no. 1 answer for boys was: “Footballer”.


The no. 1 answer for girls was:

“Footballer’s wife”

Infinitely more depressing.

Moral of this story: We have a lot of work to do!

20. And finally, albeit somewhat in contradiction to point 19.. “The next generation will be much better at this than we are!”

Here’s hoping! 🙂

8 Questions To Determine Your Leadership EQ

By amandaalexander | Leadership

Leadership ain’t what it used to be! And the challenges of a business leader in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World aren’t those that you read in your job specification!

Never more so in industry have people needed to feel safe and to have a sense of belonging. Our brains are on full alert throughout most of our working week (if not our weekends as we struggle to find a good work/life balance). We vacillate from fight, flight, freeze, and survive to inertia mode. Of course it’s not all bad – we sometimes thrive along the way too. And, if we’re smart leaders, we check into recovery on a regular basis and have a self-actualization strategy to prevent anxiety and burnout.

With the Internet technology revolution and cyclical economic recessions human capital struggles to keep up. Child and business psychologists observe that empathy, the glue that binds us, is on the decline. Teams are working less well together. Leaders aren’t leading with emotional competence. And people are walking out of the workplace in swathes to become self-employed, because they won’t subscribe to the old ways of being managed.

Enter the emotionally intelligent business leader.Continue reading