Here is an excerpt from an article written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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Getting ideas off the ground can require a power surge. In years of detailed observation of successful leaders across sectors and fields, I’ve seen that getting the credibility to reach important goals comes from uplifting actions that increase five personal and organizational powers.
Showing up: the power of presence. There’s a well-known saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Digital and other remote communications are efficient and helpful, but there’s much to be said for being there, face-to-face with others. I coined the term Management by Flying Around to reflect the work of CEOs of the vanguard companies in my book SuperCorp. Instead of ruling from headquarters, they go out to the field, meet major customers, and press the flesh with government officials.
Speaking up: the power of voice. It doesn’t matter who runs the meeting; the de facto leader is the one who frames the debate and articulates the consensus. The power of voice is not mere noise; it comes from the ability to put into words what might be only embryonic, thus shaping the direction for action. Memorable themes provide meaning out of a mass of verbiage. They echo and are repeated, providing a guidance system for companies or countries. Great speeches make great leaders. That’s why every schoolchild should be given opportunities and encouragement to stand up in front of peers and parents to make speeches
Teaming up: the power of partnering. Most things worth achieving can’t be done alone. Entrepreneurs need a founding team. Innovators in established companies need a coalition of backers and supporters. Sports teams perform better when athletes help one another hone skills. Physicians seem to get better results for patients when part of a team that shares information and advice. U.S. foreign policy now stresses building regional alliances to promote peace and prosperity. Partnership invites reciprocity — giving as well as getting. Helping a partner can increase individual self-confidence, as my former student Kathy Korman Frey is showing in her new “sisterhood of success” program for women entrepreneurs.
Looking up: the power of values. Higher principles help people transcend the conflicts and concerns of the moment. Standing for something larger than mere self-interest gives leaders moral grounding and provides a basis for inspiring and motivating the work. Those who are honored as great leaders are not merely good at getting results efficiently, they are able to find grander goals that help people look up to see the big picture and set their sights higher. NASA chief Charles Bolden, a retired Marine general and former Harvard Advanced Leadership Fellow who is African-American, has spoken eloquently of the role his parents’ values played in his success. They helped him achieve in school and, later, lift himself and others to high places — which he did literally, as an astronaut.
Not giving up: the power of persistence. Remember Kanter’s Law and repeat often: Everything can look like a failure in the middle. CEOs and elected officials in the middle of controversial changes have told me that they feel comforted by this idea — if it’s still the middle, there’s always hope. Keep at it, make mid-course adjustments, and surprise the naysayers. Change agents in companies sometimes get approval after repeated turndowns just because they wear out their critics, who run out of arguments. Turnaround leaders certainly know the truth of this. General Motors’ interim CEO Edward Whitacre or New York City school chancellor Joel Klein, from two wildly different sectors, are among those who faced a barrage of criticism when they took office, yet succeeded in silencing the critics by persevering in pursuit of results.
Achieving goals is always a matter of hard work, and success is never guaranteed. Still, cultivating these 5 powers can shift the odds in your favor.
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Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Connect with her on Facebook or at Twitter.com/RosabethKanter.