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.
“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.