By Tania Yuki (Founder, wimlink)
How are you doing as a leader?

Whether you manage hundreds of people or you want to get promoted to a leadership role, merely being terrific at your job will not cut it. Yes, even if you’re terrific.

Too many options compete for everyone’s attention, and they continue to expand daily. Therefore, it is critical to ensure you are rising above the noise and focusing on what matters, so you can support, impress and hold the attention of those who matter to you, and the success of your career or business.

Principle #1 – Learn the language and currency of leadership

Laura Agostini, Global Chief Talent Officer for JWT, began on the topic of leadership by debunking any myth about the meritocracy.

“Leadership is not about the work. Being great at the work gives you the right to get to leadership, but it does not give you leadership”.

Being very, very good at what you do – perhaps even the best – has been something that drove Laura from childhood. Nevertheless, being the best from a competence or a technical excellence standpoint does not cut it.

Laura also urges that you need to proactively learn leadership and understand “how important it is to have excellent relationships”.

Nell Merlino, Founder and President of Count Me In also declared the importance of communicating well, specifically in regards to what people will get if they allow themselves to be led by you. You have to communicate the “what’s in it for me” question – your skills, vision and competence must resonate for your audience, or it does no good.

Principle #2 – Balance and Authenticity

For Francine Della Badia, SVP Retail of North America for Coach, balance is about living your whole life and staying out of the “warped fishbowl” of overwork, and the isolation that can sometimes come with managing and leading many people.

Ask yourself questions like – Am I stretching myself in different directions, taking risks and enjoying myself? Am I having fun? This is less about the standard work/life balance argument, and more about ensuring that you keep yourself relatable, human and authentic. If you are only about the work, Francine urges you will not be a well-rounded leader – “balanced leaders are the best leaders”.

Principle #3 – Manage your state

The higher up you go, the more likely you will need to learn how to change your state in an instant – coming from one very grueling or troubling call in one minute, and the next minute providing a rallying call to one hundred people that inspires, rewards and supports. Francine calls this “behavior”.

Behavior is about leading situationally, and being conscious of how you show up each day. As a leader it is you who sets the culture, in a trickle down effect, so managing your behavior and your state is critical.

Having trouble managing yourself, or if you find yourself in a funk, Nell suggests going back to the source. Why are you doing this in the first place? If you can connect back to the purpose of it all, this can help ground and re-inspire you.

Principle #4 – Energy

Energy is about keeping enough in your reserves at all times, no exceptions. It means your endurance, your immune system, how well you’re sleeping. Are you prioritizing your wellness and your own needs? If not, that’s something to look at.

One way of doing a quick check is to see how you feel when you get home on a Friday night. If you’re completely obliterated, something needs to change. For many of us, it is a cycle of overwork, not enough sleep, coffee, overwork. Sound familiar? Francine stresses that you have to recover and avoid any bad cycles: “Health is a competitive advantage”.

Principle #5 – Do the unexpected

Finally, remember that nothing is a dial-by-numbers exercise. Laura recalls one difficult situation in which she decided to do something that no one expected of her – “if you do the unexpected, unexpected things happen”. If you find yourself painted into a corner, ask yourself: what if I did something completely different and changed the conversation? Being comfortable is bad, so if you’re doing what everyone expects you to do… it’s time to change it up.

As a useful exercise on her own path to leadership, Laura suggests the following task:

“Draw a portrait of yourself as a leader”.

In drawing her own portrait, she learned that her “safe place” was in a support role, where she was focusing just on the work. This has spurred her on to challenge herself to be more on the stage – because from the stage, “I can get more people to come on stage with me. I went from ‘safe’ to ‘exciting’, and I haven’t looked back”.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Tania Yuki is Founder of wimlink, an organization that holds regular events and seminars promoting entrepreneurship, leadership and the professional development of women. She is a digital media marketing professional who specializes in helping business succeed with social, after having spent much of her career measuring the effectiveness of digital advertising with comScore. Tania began her career as a filmmaker and digital media attorney. Follow her on Twitter at @taniayuki.