Leadership is a performance. How good is your act?

“Leadership is a Performance:
So be conscious of your behaviour because everyone else will be.” — Andrew McMillan

I’m sure, like me, you can think of many famous leaders where you have formed a view about their qualities, whether you admire them or not, and would follow them, or not. But this isn’t based on actual knowledge of who they are, or what they do, just their public persona, their “performance” on the world stage.

Which of these leaders do you admire? Why? Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Jean Luc Picard, Hilary Clinton, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Alex Ferguson, Bill Gates, Jim Lovell, Mahatma Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Winston Churchill, Malala Yousafzai… who else?

Behavioural models of leadership emphasise that it is not so much what you do (that’s just management!), but HOW you do it, and go on to describe various admirable leadership qualities, such as:

Honesty, fairness, integrity, inspiration, intelligence, vision, determination, courage, success…

It’s hard to disagree with any of these, but do our greatest leaders exhibit all of these qualities? All of the time? And what about your run-of-the-mill leader in the workplace?

Your colleagues will take their cues from your appearance, energy and positivity; how you talk to people, what you show interest in, whether you work long hours, and, how you respond to failure. We’re only human and we can get tired, busy, stressed, upset, annoyed – which might leave us distant, abrupt, even inconsiderate. This makes it so important that we are conscious of, and vigilant about, our behaviour and the impact it can have on those around us.

The effect may seem obvious, but if you are ever in doubt of the significant part played by your behaviour as a leader, remember: that Microsoft employees started rocking in meetings in imitation of Bill Gates; that Steve Jobs encouraged the misfits and trouble-makers at Apple; that Mandela and Ghandi overcame violence with peace and forgiveness; and, just how infectious a simple smile or a yawn can be.

Your performance as a leader is not shaped by trying harder, working longer, or being cleverer, but by consistently acting like the sort of leader you would want to follow.

This post first appeared on Kate Farley’s blog, Hearts and Minds

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Kate Farley

A leader with more than 25 years management experience in local government and the voluntary sector in the UK and USA. Kate Farley is currently working as an interim manager, with a particular interest in affordable housing, and is vice-Chair of her local school academy. Kate’s strengths lie in developing people, managing structural and culture change, transforming business processes, systems-thinking, and delivering excellent housing and customer services. Kate aims to make a difference by inspiring people to work effectively together, exceed expectations and take pride in their work. Read Kate’s blog at katefarleyblog.wordpress.com and follow @katefcondev on Twitter.

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