Years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a young woman who was smart, funny, hard-working, and capable. For some reason, however, her projects were consistently ineffective—some were downright failures. When I started poking into the reasons for this, I noticed something strange: she had surrounded herself with low-confidence, ineffectual, mediocre people. She habitually hired people who were not of her caliber.
Fast forward a few months, and I was having lunch with a colleague. He said something that made my ears perk up. He said, “Great people—I call them “A” players—always want to work with other “A” players because they want to do exceptional work. But “B” players always want to work with “C” players because their goal isn’t to do great work, it’s to make themselves look better.”
Later I was able to connect the dots: the young woman in my first scenario was a “B” player. She lacked self-esteem and confidence in herself, making her undesirable to “A” players. So instead of challenging herself to work with people who might push her, she chose to work with people she could easily outshine.
I reconnected with her a few years later and discovered that she had gotten promoted and was tackling some imposing challenges at her new company—and she was succeeding. When I asked her what changed, she said she’d attended a leadership conference. That conference had given her tools to brace herself for success. Additionally, the skills she acquired were attractive to top talent–great people wanted to be around her. She became magnetic.
“Leadership,” as it turns out, isn’t necessarily about being a manager or an authority. In the workplace, it’s also the abilities to attract people to you and to take charge of your position, power, and progress.
So what does magnetic leadership look like?
Connecting with and Supporting Others
You’ve probably heard the old proverb, “If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is true in business as well. I talk a lot about the importance of relationships and networking on this blog and in the newsletter because I believe that success in business comes down to working with good people. The right people will lift you up, support you, and give you a reality check when you need it. The right people will have ideas you didn’t, strengths you lack, and an extra laptop power supply you can borrow when you left yours at home.
However, to reap the benefits of these relationships, you first have to cultivate them. And you cultivate right relationships by helping others achieve their potential.
One of the most powerful questions in your toolkit is, “How can I help?” Perhaps a colleague offhandedly mentions a promotion she’d like. Or a manager grumbles about a project that has gone off track. Or a direct report isn’t hitting her deadlines or meeting her obligations. You don’t need to have solutions for these people. They may not need advice. They may just need you to ask how to help.
Offer help and guidance when needed. Be delicate in your approach. Find ways to help that are encouraging and supportive rather than overpowering. Help others shine their own light.
The Right Attitude to Get Things Done
I attended a conference recently where the speaker, Brian Biro, said there are three kinds of people: The “Oh yeah!” folks, the “Okay” folks and the “Oh no” folks.
The first group is always excited. These are the folks you want to work with—and this is the kind of energy you want to bring to your job and your career. Positivity and passion are infectious. They get the job done.
The second group isn’t excited, but they’re not negative, either. They’re just along for the ride. Typically, these are people who will do what’s required of them—and just that. They won’t go above and beyond. These are not folks who get ahead. These folks tread water to stay afloat. If this is you, you can expect to remain stagnant in your career and position.
The last group is actively toxic. They don’t want to do the work; they procrastinate, they infect others with their poor attitude. Nobody wants to work with these folks. A good manager recognizes these people as “cancer” and will remove them from the team at their earliest convenience.
Bring “Oh yeah!” energy to your teams. Infuse your work with it. Be known as the person who brings excitement to the project.
It takes a person of integrity to own their mistakes. It’s also a sign of respect for others. Because if you’re not to blame for your errors, then who is? Accountability is the tendency to show up for your work, stand behind it, and own it—for better or for worse. It’s the ability to hear and accept criticism that you can then use to power your next more-successful venture. It’s the willingness to grow, to discover, to acknowledge shortcomings, and to be humble.
Moreover, it’s a brilliant quality in the workplace. Imagine if all your colleagues took responsibility for their words, actions, projects, deadlines, etc. What a wonderful world this would be!
Leadership in the workplace can take many forms, and its benefits are myriad. These three qualities can help you in interviews, in personal relationships, team meetings, and over the course of your career.