Research shows that Americans are most likely to trust and support someone who exhibits strong listening and inclusion skills. These traits matter even more than charisma. Those sought-after people – the major nodes on the invisible organizational chart that reflects the real centers of influence – are different than the leaders of just a decade ago.
“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
In this Age of Engagement, the trait they are most likely to share is the capacity to speak to the sweet spot of mutual interest. In most conversations they begin, not by talking about themselves but by addressing the other person’s specific need or opportunity. Then they move on to describe how there’s a shared interest or way of accomplishing something together that cannot be done alone.
Two research studies, (one by the U.S. Air Force and another from M.I.T.) show that people are more likely to seek out and support people who exhibited at least three of seven behavioral traits of what I’ve dubbed the “Synthesizer-Style Leader”. They wind up becoming sought-after Opportunity Makers, with and for others.
Remarkably, these traits mattered more than ethnicity, sex, ethnicity, apparent wealth, physical size, education or even appearance.
“A true leader is not one you look up to because they are the best. A true leader is one that draws the best out in you.” ~ Anne Warfield
These leaders succeed because they bring out the most productive side of their colleagues. While this new style of most valuable player (MVP) does make her presence felt in her organization, she is much less likely than old-style leaders to take center stage, voice an opinion early in a situation or take charge of projects. Instead she sets a single goal and a goal for each team and each person, leaving it to them to propose the smartest path forward Thus these leaders do not need total quality management programs because they set a goal for and reward self-organized teams.
“All value resides in individuals. Value is distributed in individual space. Relationship economics is the framework for wealth creation. Deep support is the new metaproduct.” ~ Shoshanna Zuboff
The Synthesizer-Style Leaders’ behavioral traits are described here as rules by which to live, work and play. I admit that, despite practice, I sometimes forget about them. Looking back at those times I regret the missed opportunities to use my best talents with others on meaningful activities because I didn’t support a conversational path towards discovering a sweet spot of mutual interest
Go Slow to Go Fast
At the beginning of every task or interaction, do everything lower, slower less – in moving and speaking – so that you get “in sync” and can then establish a common direction and involvement so that when you pick up speed later on, everybody is eager to be on board.
Vividly characterize the direct benefit to the listener up front, for providing support, even if it is a part of his job anyway. Then characterize how the expected support directly relates to one of the top goals of your organization, the upside and down side of doing the work.
Announce the rules upfront – penalties and rewards for participation in a team activity or project or job – and don’t change them mid-stream without a compelling reason.
Play it Back
Seek and reward candid feedback on an ongoing basis, and respond specifically and soon to what you’ve been told, including the rational about the action you will or will not take, based upon that feedback.
Listen, ask, ask more, then synthesize others’ ideas as a way of proposing collective action.
Give Third Party Endorsements
Offer specific, genuine praise for others’ contributions from anywhere in the company; praise them to those who are important to them and in ways that reflect their highest self-image and values.
Walk Your Talk
Demonstrate clear congruency in all that you do; make and keep agreements; reflect a clear set of core personal values that people believe that you’ll keep, regardless of whether they share those values.
“In everybody’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner fire.” ~ Albert Schweitzer