It’s not the seat at the table, it’s what you do with it


You often hear leaders say they need a seat at the main leadership table. But if you succeed and get a seat at the table, you need to know what to do with it.

I am sure you have seen leadership teams where some people speak and everybody listens. On the other hand you have seen the opposite. I know I have.

I presented to a leadership group on one occasion and whilst they were engaged in Q&A, there was little sign of any great commitment. One member of the leadership team, who had been very quiet, suddenly spoke in support of my call for action. When he spoke everyone listened.  He advocated that they get behind the proposal and the whole mood of the meeting changed to positive support.  

His ability to influence those around the table was clearly evident.

How do we build the kind of influence that warrants a seat at the table.  Clearly this is not a simple matter of following someone else’s formula.  In fact, quite the opposite.

In the book, Authentic Leadership, Bill George says, “Authentic leaders …. lead with purpose, meaning and values. They build enduring relationships with people. Others follow them because they know where they stand.”

One way to capture where you stand and build your influence is to enshrine your values in a personal charter. This is an exercise that can help give you clarity about what’s important to you.  Some questions to consider are:

  • What do I stand for?
  • What can I be counted on for?
  • What are the values that are important to me?

Of course writing a charter and making it visible for yourself is not the end of the story. We need to put it into practice. It is easy to forget your values and what you stand for when times are stressful.  

But a personal charter can remind you who you really are so that you warrant a seat at the table.

Best regards, Brian

PS: Are you looking to accelerate your career objectives this year?  

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How to inspire others to change the game

It is over a decade ago and I am joining about sixteen hundred people to give former US President Bill Clinton a standing ovation. He has just delivered a spine tingling speech at the World IT Congress in Australia about the role technology could play in the developing world.

It’s a big deal to get a standing ovation from an Australian audience. I had gone to the event somewhat sceptically. Yet to my surprise, he understood and shared our passion for the difference that technology could make. He put himself in our shoes and tapped into our commitment to build a better world. He inspired us to see that it was possible.

Zenger Folkman research with 14,500 leaders confirms that being “inspiring and motivating” is the single most important leadership competency. It is also the leadership competency on which leaders overall receive the lowest scores from their manager, peers and those who report to them.

So what is the secret to being an inspiring leader who can motivate others to change the game? We can’t all be as charismatic as Bill Clinton or leaders like him?

But what can we learn from the great examples that we have seen?

One thing seems to be clear and that is that the value of listening.

Bill Clinton was ‘listening’ even though he appeared to be just speaking. He had obviously spent time preparing for the presentation. He was listening, in the sense of understanding what would motivate us to come along with him.

On the other hand, how many times have we been underwhelmed by the latest corporate strategy or vision. What’s missing that we are not inspired? Well one thing that could be missing is ‘listening.’ Listening for what’s in it for the audience to buy into the strategy or vision.

Having a game-changing vision is inspiring, no doubt about it. But inspiring others to take on your vision as though it is theirs requires the ability to see the world through their eyes.

How could you listen to others around you and inspire and motivate them to share your vision and change the game?

Best regards, Brian