Look back over your career and chances are you'll be able to identify one or two people who stand out as memorable leaders. Even if these people didn't hold an official leadership role, their actions and words rallied people together to achieve a common goal. And whether that goal was large or small, far-reaching or contained, you remember these leaders for a long time.
While there are many great leaders in the world, not all of them are truly memorable—that is, they don't all leave an impression that lasts beyond their current accomplishment or focus. But being memorable is essential if you want long-term success.
What makes one leader memorable and puts another in the "out of sight, out of mind" category? It comes down to three key elements. Develop these characteristics in yourself and you, too, can be a memorable leader.
1. Know Who You Are
Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." While that may sound a little harsh, it does make a powerful point. So if we should all be examining our lives, what should we be looking for? We should be looking to pinpoint our moral compass—our true values. Memorable leaders know their values, why those values are important, and how those values play out in life.
Your values are your values. You cannot have one set of values in your work life and a different set in your personal life. You take your values with you everywhere, and a mess-up in one area of life can easily affect another. For example, it was a seemingly personal value that distracted and somewhat derailed John Edwards's career, not a business value, which shows that values are not compartmentalized. If you don't examine your life and know what you stand for, you can easily get sidetracked and sabotage your leadership.
Getting to know yourself starts with honesty—with others and with yourself. While most people are honest in the sense that they would never steal money from their friends, they aren't always honest in other ways. Perhaps they tell the world they value one thing, yet their behavior tells a different story. For example, some people will tout the value of hard work and claim they work harder than anyone else, yet when you look at their work behaviors, you find they're spending most of the day in conversations or other activities that have little to do with furthering their goals. This indicates a lack of personal honesty or personal awareness.
If you're having trouble knowing who you are and what you stand for, ask a trusted colleague or family member for feedback.
2. Know Your Vision, Com-municate It, and Live It
Why is communicating the vision so important? If you don't know and tell others where you're going, then you and everyone around you are going to lose the way. With everything your team members have going on in their lives, they're often distracted, so it's easy for them to get off track. Memorable leaders keep communicating the vision so everyone is always on the same page.
Living your vision and your team's core values means everyone—those above you on the tree and below you—knows the vision as well. If you don't understand your team's vision or core values, have a conversation with your team leaders about them. Without vision and values, people lose their way. They start floundering, no one knows what they should be doing, and people hide their potential talent. In order to have a healthy and synergistic team, people need to connect to something bigger than a goal of moving product. Vision and values make the difference.
Also realize that communicating a vision does not mean the leader needs to be talkative. Many memorable leaders are quiet and reserved, such as presidents Truman and Eisenhower. People follow memorable leaders because they exemplify their vision, not just because they tout it.
3. Be Teachable
Being open to learning new things and admitting your limitations and struggles is not a weakness. On the contrary, it gives you power. People don't want to think they're following a robot. They want to know that the person they're following is a real human being, with both gifts and challenges.
Memorable leaders teach other leaders and are interested in the development of the people who work with them. That's why you need to be in touch with your direct recruits and learn their dreams, goals, and career aspirations. The "teachable" part goes in two directions: you have to be willing to learn yourself and to teach others.
Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said, "Leaders are readers." It's important to know what's going on in your profession, across industries and in other areas of the world. Staying too focused on one viewpoint or perspective makes you one-dimensional. Creativity comes from combining what you know with what other leaders know and then adapting it to your own team in order to improve or innovate. That's why "overview" publications like Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc., and Networking Times are favorites of memorable leaders.
A Leader for the Ages
While few people are born leaders, you can learn to be a memorable leader and have others lining up, asking to work with you. All it takes is a commitment to lead people in a way that reflects your deepest values, embraces your vision, and encourages lifelong learning. The more you commit to practicing and living these three keys, the more memorable you'll be.
JEAN KELLEY, author and entrepreneur,
is the managing director of Jean Kelley Leadership
Alliance whose faculty and trainers have helped
more than 750,00 leaders and winners up
their game at work in the U.S. and in Canada.