Leadership is the Sum of Hundreds of Daily Interactions

We love big stories about exciting, game-changing leadership moments. But when you’re asked about the best leader you ever worked with, you probably don’t respond with a story or example of their biggest project or resume-builder.

Instead, you talk about the way they made you feel.

Years from now, people will forget the little things you did, but they’ll always remember the way you made them feel. And, yet, this isn’t about feelings, it’s about occurrences. Behavior.

I went through a pretty negative patch as a leader. There was a time I complimented someone on a specific task well-done, and I overheard someone else say, “Take that to heart – he almost never gives praise like that.” When I heard that, it only made me more smug and stingy with feedback, really making my positive moments count to have impact.

Looking back, those times were my worst in terms of engagement, loyalty, and accomplishment. Most occurrences, most behaviors from me, were negative, neutral, and dismissive.

Do you stay present and in-the-moment with people?

Do you give frequent, specific feedback?

Do you check on dietary concerns before you order the party food?

Do people know that when you ask “how are you?” that you are looking for a real answer?

Do your actions match your values in little ways, like showing up early no-matter-what because you preach punctuality?

Paying attention to your little interactions is arguably a better use of focus than timing your grand gestures. This isn’t overthinking every little thing,

it’s giving every little thing some thought. And that’s something the best leaders do.

When you look back on those people who have influenced you most, wouldn’t you agree?

A note about next week, and the weeks following:

Next week, I will start a series based on the Work of Leaders process. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.

For positive examples, however, we’ll look at one specific case study:

The Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership that we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more.

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