What’s Your Leadership Impact?

Newtons Cradle Happy Drawing on Chalkboard

The benefits of leadership impact on organizational performance cannot be overstated

Focus on the ways in which your words and actions affect your people. Create a positive impact — and they’ll move mountains to help you achieve a shared dream.

High-impact leadership — the kind that can fire people up, and inspire them to pull together to achieve a common vision — is something exceptional and rare. It’s the kind that motivates your employees to say, “I would work for her anywhere. I’d follow her over any mountain.”

Far more usual today, as we all know, is power by positional authority — where people simply do their jobs… instead of give their all.

So what separates a true leader from a garden-variety boss? What’s the secret sauce?

That question is a central thread in all the coaching work I do with my executive clients. If I had to answer it with one word, that word would be impact.

Great leaders have impact — the kind that inspires people to do their best

So how do you go about optimizing the impact you have on your people? It’s actually quite straightforward:

Ask, say, and do things that mobilize others to be at their best… and avoid asking, saying and doing things that make them react negatively, or that kill their drive.

Sounds simple, right?

It’s simple to understand. Still, in my experience, making this kind of shift requires practice — and a heightened set of skills around observing yourself with others. That takes effort and vigilance.

The “mental dashboard”: How effective leaders monitor, manage, and self-correct

The key is to monitor and manage your progress by keeping an eye on two things — what you’re saying and doing, and how others are responding to that — in real time. You need to spend, say, 10% of your attention continuously noticing the impact your words and actions are having on those around you. And revising your approach as you do.

That kind of ongoing observation/recalibration of employee engagement is how leaders make their impact felt, in a positive way.

For example, let’s say you want to motivate your people to be more collaborative, more disruptive, more results-focused. You would keep a “mental dashboard” of these three items — a conceptual structure that gives you an effective way to monitor your impact on them relative to those three goals.

When you observe that you are causing others to be more on track — or conversely, to go off course — you adjust your actions and words until you get to the sweet spot that aligns with those goals. That’s the foundation of high-impact leadership.

Get strategic, and realize your true leadership impact: It’s worth it!

Non-leaders are all about the me-zone: I think… I feel… I want. The “me” point of view is fine, of course — if your focus is on forging your life’s journeys as an individual, as opposed to focusing on how you may be impacting the world as you go along.

But if you adopt this kind of stance while in a position of authority over others, employee engagement will suffer, and you’ll miss the opportunity to truly lead. Instead of creating the circumstances for others to be at their best — for that shared dream to be realized — you’ll do the opposite, and people will “perform” despite your oversight, rather than because they’re fired up by your leadership.

Be strategic in your leadership. Wake up to how you are impacting your people, your customers, and the world in general. Monitor that impact in real time. Do this and you can solve any problem and achieve virtually any goal.

The mark of a true leader is one who owns their impact on everyone. Ultimately, that kind of strategic leadership is the X-factor: the difference between achieving a soaring vision and driving it into the ground.


David Peck is a Partner and US Lead for Executive Coaching at Heidrick Consulting. He’s been published extensively and is the author of Beyond Effective. Twitter: @coachdavidpeck

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