3 Key Elements to Being a Memorable Leader

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By Jean Kelley

If you look back over your career, chances are you can identify one or two people who stand out as memorable leaders. Even if these people didn’t hold an official leadership role, their actions and words rallied people together to achieve a common goal. Whether that goal was large or small, far-reaching or contained, you remember these leaders for a long time.

While there are many great leaders in the world, not all of them are truly memorable. That is, they don’t leave an impression that lasts beyond their current accomplishment or focus. But being memorable is essential if you want long-term success. So what makes one leader memorable and puts another in the “out of sight, out of mind” category? It comes down to three key elements. Develop these characteristics in yourself and you, too, can be a memorable leader.

Know Who You Are

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While that’s a little harsh, it does make the point that everyone must examine their life. Why? To pinpoint your moral compass, your true values. Memorable leaders know their values, why those values are important, and how those values play out in life.

Realize that you can’t have one set of values in your work life and a different set in your personal life. You take your set of values with you everywhere, and a mess up in one area of life can easily affect another. For example, it was a seemingly personal value that distracted and somewhat derailed former president Bill Clinton’s career, not a business value, which shows that values are not compartmentalized. If you don’t examine your life and know what you stand for, you can easily get sidetracked.

Getting to know yourself starts with honesty—with others and yourself. While most people have “cash register” honesty, meaning they’d never steal money from their employer, they aren’t always honest in other ways. Perhaps they tell the world they value one thing, yet display something else.

For example, some people will tout the value of hard work and claim they work harder than anyone else. Yet when you really look at their work behaviors, you find they’re spending most of the day on long conversations that have little to do with work or surfing the Internet—things that don’t advance the company. That’s not personal honesty or personal awareness.

If you’re having trouble knowing who you are and what you stand for, ask a trusted colleague or family member to give you feedback. You can also opt to do a formal 360-degree feedback assessment, which enables others to give objective insight on how they view you.

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