There are some people who have a special ability to help others flourish. Think back to someone in your life who helped you grow in a specific way. Whether it’s a coach, a supervisor, a teacher, a mentor, a parent, or a friend, each of us can probably picture a person or two who made a world of difference.
How Leadership Posture Helps Others Flourish
What is it that separates these particularly influential people from the rest? It’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Over the past eight years, I’ve been able to observe lots of different leaders because of my job; I help coordinate small group communities at my church, which means I get the privilege to work with a bunch of leaders and see them in action.
Seeing the big picture of leadership is interesting because there are all types of leaders. Some lead by expressing a bold vision, and others are quiet yet determined. Leaders come from all nine of the Enneagram personalities, though each number leads differently. Effective leadership isn’t restricted to one style or type.
And yet, despite these differences, there is something the most inspiring leaders have in common: their posture. They approach people, new ideas, and different opinions in similar ways. It’s this posture that makes them particularly powerful at cultivating respect, cooperation and influence.
To get more specific about how posture is expressed, I think it shows up in three ways:
1. A Humble Spirit
Effective leaders don’t mind admitting they are wrong. In fact, they’re eager to do it! They know it makes them relatable to other people because we all know deep down we’re not perfect either.
On top of that, effective leaders are willing to admit that something they once thought was right (an opinion or perspective) turned out to be wrong, which means they might be wrong about something they think is right today. That’s demonstrating a humble posture.
Humility is incredibly contagious. The know-it-all leader is a lonely one. They’re unapproachable. Leaders who admit their shortcomings, ask forgiveness when they’re wrong, and are open to feedback have staying power through their posture.
2. A Servant’s Heart
Most organizations have a leadership pyramid, where the CEO or board of directors is at the top, followed by senior VPs, department managers, and the workers (aka “minions”) at the bottom.
Even if that’s the way the “org chart” looked, the most effective leaders don’t lead that way. Instead of leading top-down, they lead bottom-up, knowing that they are in their position of influence to serve rather than be served.
Influential people look for opportunities to give up their preferences and comfort for the sake of other people or the bigger mission.
It also means giving up a sense of being owed something because of the role a person occupies. The best leaders don’t have a defensive posture where they’re trying to hold onto something that others are after. They have an open-handed posture, looking to use whatever influence they’ve been given generously.
3. A “For You” Attitude
We intrinsically know when someone is in our corner. Most of us can sense it. It’s not based on whether a person only gives us good feedback. We don’t want people in our lives who only sugarcoat things. But, we do want people who cheer us on, even when they give tough feedback.
How does someone communicate a “for you” attitude? For starters, they actually are for people. They don’t assume the worst about others. They don’t think people are out to get them. They don’t stereotype others. They get to know people’s stories. And, instead of first focusing on what’s broken, they look to see where a person has momentum and how they can pour fuel on that fire.
When I ran cross country, I had two different coaches. One rode his bike behind us as we ran on the roads. He’d yell about what was wrong about our technique, criticize our effort, and then speed off ahead. My other coach ran with us. He critiqued us too, but only at strategic points (often after we finished a run). On the road, he was all encouragement. He would make a point to remind me of my potential as he pressed me to move forward. Needless to say, one of my coaches helped me immensely. I think you can guess which one.
Posture Multiplies Our Impact
Almost everyone wants to be influential. And yet, often we wind up limiting our impact because of our posture. We can get defensive, or we close ourselves off to other people who think differently.
What I learned from observing these different leaders is that there isn’t one style to great leadership, but there is a consistent posture. That posture is a choice – a daily one at that. It’s a choice I need to make more. But, based on what I’ve seen from great leaders in my life, it’s a decision to be influential and to make a lasting impact.