3 Key Elements to Being a Memorable Leader

While there are many great leaders in the world, not all of them are truly memorable. 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.

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 didnt 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 dont 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 thats 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 cant 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 Clintons career, not a business value, which shows that values are not compartmentalized. If you dont examine your life and know what you stand for, you can easily get sidetracked.

Getting to know yourself starts with honestywith others and yourself. While most people have cash register honesty, meaning theyd never steal money from their employer, they arent 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 theyre spending most of the day on long conversations that have little to do with work or surfing the Internetthings that dont advance the company. Thats not personal honesty or personal awareness.

If youre 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.

Know Your Vision, Communicate It and Live It

A Harvard Business School professor once said, The only thing a CEO needs to do is communicate his vision, communicate his vision, and then communicate his vision. Why is communicating the vision so important? Because if you dont know where youre going and tell others where youre going, then you and everyone around you are going to lose the way.

With all the things employees have going on in their lives, theyre distracted during some of the week, so its easy for them to get off track. Memorable leaders keep communicating the vision so everyone is always on the same page.

Living your vision and your companys core values means everyonethose you report to and those who report to youknows the vision as well. If you dont understand your companys vision or core values, have a conversation with your boss about them. Without vision and values, both companies and people lose their way. People are floundering, no one knows what they should be doing and people hide their potential talent. Not a good situation for sure!

For example, in a manufacturing company, getting the product out on time isnt a core value and has nothing to do with the companys vision. To have a healthy and synergistic team, people need to connect to something bigger than a goal of moving product. Vision and values make the difference.

Also, realize that communicating a vision doesnt mean the leader needs to be talkative. Many memorable leaders are quiet and reserved, such as presidents Truman and Eisenhower. People follow memorable leaders because they exemplify their vision, not just tout it.

Be Teachable

Being open to learning new things and admitting your limitations and struggles gives you power; its not a weakness. Realize that people dont want to think theyre following a robot. They want to know that the person theyre following is real.

Memorable leaders teach other leaders and are interested in the development of people beneath them. Thats why you need to be in touch with your direct reports and learn their dreams, goals and career aspirations. As the old quote says, People dont care how much you know until they know how much you care. So the teachable part goes in two directions: You have to be willing to learn yourself and willing to teach others.

Finally, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said, Leaders are readers. That means its important you know whats going on in all industries, not just your own. Staying too focused on one viewpoint of issues makes you one-dimensional. Creativity comes from combining what you know with what other leaders know and then adapting it to your own industry to improve or innovate. Thats why overview publications like Harvard Business Review, Forbes and Inc. are favorites of memorable leaders.

While few people are natural born leaders, you can learn to be a memorable leader and have people lining up, asking to work for you. All it takes is a commitment to lead others in a way that reflects your deepest held values, embraces your vision and encourages lifelong learning. The more you commit to practicing and living these three keys, the more memorable youll be.

Jean Kelley, author and entrepreneur, is the managing director of Jean Kelley Leadership Alliance, whose faculty and trainers have helped more than 750,000 leaders and high potentials up their game at work in the United States and in Canada. For information on keynotes, in-house programs or customized training, e-mail [email protected]; visit www.jeankelley.com.

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