What Events Shaped You as a Leader?

Guest post by Great Leadership monthly contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

I recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with
the president of a privately held company as part of research for a book I am
writing on talent management and development within small to mid-size
companies. During our conversation he shared an event he had early on in his
career that intrigued me.

He was clearly a high potential early on and was tapped by
his CFO to create and lead the new internal audit group for a public company.
One day the CFO asked him to attend a board meeting so that he could answer any
questions that might arise regarding the internal audit group. His directive:
answer those questions asked of him only. Otherwise he was to remain silent and
observe. He dutifully sat quietly and after about 90 minutes realized that the people
in the room had no earthly idea what was actually going on at this company.
There were so many layers of management that what was going on down at “ground
force” was not visible. And if these executives didn’t have all the
information, how could they be making sound decisions for the company?

So when he was named President of the current company he
leads, he remembered this event and instituted Monthly Meetings with Dan. These
meetings are comprised of only individual contributors and are confidential. It
took several months for employees to trust that the conversations were
confidential. Employees did come to realize that Dan genuinely wanted to
understand and that their opinions were valued. During these meetings “Dan”
gains valuable information that helps him and his executive team make better
decisions for the company.

What has helped to shape you as a leader? It may be a series
of events both positive and negative. Start the process by thinking back before
your career. What events happened at school and at home that have influenced
you as a leader? Then think about historical events that might have impacted
you as well…9/11, man walking the moon, the Challenger disaster, Boston Red Sox
World Series win 2004, or whatever it may be. What changed for you with these
events? How are you different as a leader?

And when you self-reflect and become clear about what has
influenced you as a leader, it is my belief your leadership becomes more
purposeful.  Not only do you connect past
learnings with future decisions and actions, you have stories you can share
with those you lead. Stories bring context, meaning and understanding to others
around you. Suddenly others understand the “why” of your actions; you become
more transparent. The more you share about yourself as a person as well as a
leader the more real you are to your employees.

 
As you reveal yourself to others, your modeling will make
many feel comfortable in sharing the events that helped shape them as leaders
and employees. And, with more insight into those you lead, the better you can
lead them! So set aside an hour to increase your leadership effectiveness:

1. Identify those events that were meaningful to you

2. Develop the stories to reveal your “why”, and…

3. Start sharing. 

Then encourage and watch for others to share their stories.
 
Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit http://www.executive-velocity.com/ or http://executivevelocityblog.com/ or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.