7 Secrets to Increasing Leadership Impact

A major concern for senior executives is “bench strength”—the quantity and quality of up-and-coming, potential leaders who are in the pipeline. The problem is that too often these would-be leaders “hold back, shrink, and play small.” In today’s climate of unprecedented change, intense competition, and more demanding customers, leaders can’t hold back or shrink. Team members need leadership to model the way because all they see in this modern-day complexity is uncertainty, which leads to anxiety. Team members are looking to leadership for certainty, definitive guidance, vision, and a solid commitment. This is an opportunity for leadership impact.


Brian Braudis

The following are seven secrets to increasing your leadership impact:

1. Shift the energy of your team
With composure, increase and elevate your communications. Share your higher perspective and calm the anxiety with your increased presence and obvious commitment. Neutralize the teardown effect of uncertainty and anxiety. Shift the energy of your team toward purpose. You can’t just remove the deconstructive nature of negativity without replacing it with something. Use purpose to drive the conversation. Strategically use each day to keep your organizational purpose in front of your team members. Talk about your mission. Get them excited about growing and serving your clients, customers and stakeholders. Share the growth you see and the future you envision. When your team has a growth mindset it’s only natural that your organization will grow.

There will always be uncertainty. But when you demonstrate resolute certainty in your commitment to your team, anxiety drops, morale increases, and team members take note and follow your lead.

2. Collaborate
Bigger results come from bigger efforts. Instill collaboration within divisions and across programs. Use your leadership presence to convert dissonance to connectedness, silos into solidarity, problems into innovations, risk into reward, and daily efforts into a dramatically improved future. Set the behavioral norm by becoming known as the leader who values organizational success over individual success. When you execute on a higher and larger perspective, you instantly increase leadership impact.

3. Cultivate creativity
Open the floodgates of creativity by asking more questions. The days of one leader with all the answers are past. In all likelihood, your team is bursting with new ideas. Be patient and ask powerful questions— innovation will come pouring out in the discussions. Team members are intimately familiar with problems. They simply need you to provide them the space to contemplate how today’s problems can become tomorrow’s innovations.

4. Use influence, not power
No one likes a pompous leader. Rather than relying on the shortsighted and limiting power of position, reap the long-term benefits that come from building trust and influence. If you use power, good people will leave you.

When you rely on the external power of your leadership position you not only expose weakness in yourself, you also build weakness in others by forcing them to acquiesce, stifling their growth and the potential for their unique contributions. Ultimately, the entire relationship is weakened. Defensiveness ensues, low trust follows, and potential for cooperation is lost—smothered by negative emotion. Fight the imprudent impulse to command; instead, direct and invest in the higher, more refined skills of finesse, influence, and persuasion. Along with patience, these are the building blocks of increased impact.

5. Promote daily progress
Leaders are only deemed successful when they achieve results—results that come from working with people. The only way people do great things is by focusing on their strengths and possibilities. Leaders set the stage for this focus.

On any given day, your team’s efforts will be influenced by a mix of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that can either pull them to higher performance or drag them down. Setbacks can send team spirit spiraling downward to the point where frustration and disgust take over.

Leaders have tremendous influence in promoting daily progress by ensuring team members are in an environment that enables them to make steady progress and maintain momentum. Avoid the toxicity of high pressure, punitive, and judgmental measures that constrain momentum. Rather, set clear goals for meaningful work. Provide autonomy and promote ownership of the outcomes. Nourish your team’s efforts through affiliation, respect, encouragement, and minimizing daily hassles.

6. Build a body of behavior
Be more of a model than a critic. Negativity will rob you of energy, initiative, and impact. Avoid engaging in the following all-too-common “Killer Cs:”

  • criticizing
  • complaining
  • competing
  • comparing
  • colluding
  • contending

Instead of criticizing, talk about what went well. Show your team what is possible. Add energy to the context. Be consistent. Your team is faced with being productive in spite of problems and hassles. When they know that they can consistently count on you for support and direction, momentum skyrockets.

7. Focus on what is right, not who is right
Team members rely on leaders to create an environment that is impartial, where everyone has the same opportunities that are based on merit. Don’t take sides. Use conflict to demonstrate your commitment to organizational success.

Model a higher perspective that lifts others from their petty preoccupations and carries them above the fray. Be a trailblazer who guides the upward purpose of your team.

The unique and distinct actions of a leader create ripples that increase and spread, delivering ever-increasing impact that can be felt within and among teams.

The greatest impact, however, is felt industry-wide as a unique and distinct competitive advantage that is difficult, if not impossible, for others to duplicate. When you employ these seven secrets and increase your leadership impact, you set your entire team up for success.

Brian Braudis is a human potential expert, certified coach, speaker, and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. For more information on Mr. Braudis, visit www.TheBraudisGroup.com.

Clear Communication and a Defined Purpose Drive Success Within Orthopaedics
Brian G. Donley, MD

There is no question that today’s tumultuous healthcare environment calls for strong and effective leaders. I have been fortunate to hold a series of leadership positions at Cleveland Clinic—vice-chair of orthopaedic surgery, president of one of our regional hospitals, and chief of staff. In February, I was appointed CEO of Cleveland Clinic London. In these positions, I have found that clarity in the way I communicate with others is the most important attribute for a leader.


Brian G. Donley, MD

But to be an effective communicator, you must have a clearly defined purpose. Cleveland Clinic’s mission, vision, and values are shared broadly and regularly with both leaders and front-line staff. We also rely on the same strategic agenda management tool across the enterprise, which removes ambiguity in terms of our priorities and future direction and allows for better alignment and accountability.

Finally, we have established the following expected leadership behaviors to which we hold our leaders accountable:

  • lead through change
  • develop self and others
  • demonstrate character and integrity
  • foster teamwork

These specific goals and expectations help keep everyone rowing in the same direction and prepared to seize the opportunities that lay ahead in health care.

Mr. Braudis wrote, “The days of one leader with all of the answers are past.” I certainly have found that to be true at every phase of my career. The strength of our organization has been, and always will be the team. Although Cleveland Clinic has been physician-led since its founding more than 95 year ago, it has not relied on individual physicians to drive success. Instead, it has nurtured a culture of teamwork that removes the burden from each of us as individuals and spreads it across teams.

When you shift your mindset from managing people to fostering teamwork and developing others, you have the privilege of energizing continuous improvement. That culture appeals to innovators, who value collaboration over ego. And it is this spirit of innovation that is pushing us to transform medicine.

As Mr. Braudis says, effective leaders nourish their team’s efforts through affiliation. We train and develop servant leaders who are expected to encourage all team members to unleash their unique talents and take well thought-out chances, even at the risk of failing. I agree with him that when teams know they can consistently count on you for support and direction, momentum skyrockets.

I have found that those who are supported as they continually seek opportunities to improve are more likely to find meaning and purpose in their careers. I see that as the ultimate measure of a successful leader.

Brian G. Donley, MD, is CEO of Cleveland Clinic London.

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