Reduce Your Leadership Footprint

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How Principles of "Green" Living Can Help You Have Leadership Impact

Often as leaders move up on the corporate ranks they are asked to "add value," "drive results" and create the "top talent." Since most leaders rely on functional expertise as they grow their careers, they rarely gain the competencies to maximize their employees’ talent. These competencies, such as influencing others and developing and creating human potential, are the key leadership elements that determine success at higher levels.

Organizations now understand that the true mark of effective leaders is how they can impact their team and ultimately the business results over their individual functional contributions. This is done by using creative relational skills that provide coaching direction, as opposed to direction only. The difference is guiding and supporting your employees in their work over telling them what to do. Coaching used as a tool for guidance and direction is a positive yet smaller "leadership footprint" because the leader’s impact is of less importance than the employee succeeding and finding his or her own way.

Here are some thoughts to reflect on your own "leadership footprint."


Exceptional leadership is primarily dependent on a leader’s level of attention to a person, a situation or a business challenge. So many leaders are stretched thin, mostly because they cannot let go of responsibilities and tasks they once owned themselves. They cannot create a level of good attention or awareness that exceptional leadership requires. Exceptional leadership is a high degree of attention and awareness on a consistent moment-to-moment basis. A competitive business requires the ability to balance awareness of the details and also an aerial view of the business landscape.

Watch Waste

Many leaders work so hard themselves that they unknowingly drive their teams in a similar fashion. Much like we are unaware of what we use and how this can accumulate over time in a landfill, the waste of talent that a "driven" leader can leave behind is often an unaccounted loss in organizations. A leader who reduces his or her footprint is driven to unlock the talent’s potential, allowing individual growth and development. Talent is not easy to find, so wasted talent is an enormous financial liability.

Conserve Energy

Most of the time we use energy, electricity, gas and other resources with little thought until those resources become limited or highly priced. It’s at this point that we consider conserving, reducing and managing our consumption. Leaders who lead at 150 percent assume employee energy is constantly available and an unending resource. These types of leadership behaviors are directly related to turnover, lower performance and higher stress levels within organizations. Leaders who learn how to conserve their own energy and model this "energy conservation" strategy with their employees allow their teams to have the right amount of energy at the right times while always maintaining a solid balance within their business. This amounts to conserving and producing at the same time!

Downsize Expectations

Leaders frequently have lofty expectations of their employees that often are not suited for their employees’ skill levels. Effective leadership requires thinking about an employee’s capabilities and development opportunities and matching appropriate assignments and tasks. This helps maintain expectations that are realistic, achievable and support success for the employee, their leader and the organization. You can get to the same place, just as quickly, with achievable, well-planned expectations with less energy and waste expended in the process.

Plant a Garden of Talent

A leader who truly understands his or her role as a guide and coach intuitively understands that leadership is about planting seeds of talent that grow and develop over time. Although we often want people to be developed now, most times employees need time to unlock their strengths and capabilities. Much like a garden that provides food with optimal nutrition over time, talent can be cultivated for long-term harvesting within an organization. This ultimately is a long-term human capital strategy that addresses current and ongoing talent needs for organizations.

So, as you think about your "leadership footprint" recall someone who impacted you in your life—was it a significant impact? Do you, as a leader, want to leave a significant mark with your teams and employees? Your answer is in the size of your footprint. …

First published on Human Resources IQ.