- You’re already a leader, regardless of what your title indicates. The question is: What will you do with your position of power?
- Values are your leadership anchor, says the founder of executive coaching firm Group Sixty, Darren Reinke. Set an intention to identify your values, reflect on how they’re showing up in your life, and let them inspire your everyday actions.
- Leaders don’t live in comfort zones. Doing things that scare you — regularly — is a requisite trait of a true leader.
When you’re in an entry-level position, it’s common to look up the ladder and assume the people at the top know some kind of secret. If they’re good at what they do, they probably act like leadership comes naturally.
Trust me, it doesn’t.
Poise in a leadership role emerges out of years of jumping into the deep end and doing the things that once scared you. And no sales coach or corporate training can teach you that.
To adopt the skills of the leaders around you, you have to start thinking of yourself as a leader now — not when you get that coveted position in ten years. Who better to teach us how to think from the end than someone who wrote a book called “The Savage Leader?”
Darren believes “every day presents an opportunity to get better in every way.” On the podcast, he shared how to get in the habit of incremental improvement by starting with intention and letting it roll into your actions.
Aim for more than just ‘living out your job description’
In our culture, fancy titles are coveted, but they don’t always represent the character of the people who hold them.
“We assume that leadership is based on title,” says Darren.
And we assume wrongly.
Some of the greatest leaders in the world are people we all interact with every day: the genius support tech who solves a major computer issue at just the right moment, the compassionate teacher instilling confidence in our kids, or the savvy sales rep who helps us get a great deal on the software that will transform our business (to name a few).
These “frontline folks,” as Darren calls them, make daily life work for so many people. They know pain points like nobody else.
If you’re a BDR or SDR, you’re one of them. You know your customers inside and out — way better than the person perched in a corner office making big decisions for the company.
This is what makes you a leader already, even if you don’t think you have the clout to say so.
It’s time to do more than just live out your job description, and Darren says it all starts with your inner journey.
Throw out your values-based anchor
What are those guideposts you come back to over and over again when you’re making big decisions? If you don’t quite know, Darren recommends going through a personal discovery process to figure it out.
He says real values should be “crystallized” in a why statement, à la Simon Sinek.
Darren’s version of this is the acronym I R A:
- Intention: What are you aiming to achieve? What matters most to you? A lot of people are aimlessly showing up for work every day with no real desire to move forward in life. Darren says it’s because they haven’t done this kind of internal interrogation. He admits to getting out of alignment himself sometimes because he’s “chasing his professional why.”
- Reflection: Do you regularly self-assess and observe your thoughts, words, and actions? You might have a lot of inspirational posters up in your office or love sharing meaningful quotes on LinkedIn, but Darren would challenge you to be honest with yourself about how many of them you embody.
- Action: Do your personal and professional decisions represent your values? This comes down to the nitty-gritty of the calls and interactions you have every day. If you don’t treat the people around you according to the principles you want to live by, you certainly won’t radiate the qualities that get you recognized — or promoted.
Let these three steps anchor you to the values that matter to you, Darren says, not to your peers, your family, or the people you grew up with.
Be authentic — It’s corny but true!
After you’ve done this internal IRA work, you have to be OK with letting the results come through to your outer self.
Start by showing more of your real self to your team, scary as that may sound.
Darren learned the value of vulnerability in the process of writing his book.
In his earlier days, he’d only been concerned with maintaining a persona: the guy people knew for his impressive resume. When he started courageously sharing some of his own stories, he found himself growing more confident.
“I’m not trying to be somebody else, or a projection, or a 3-D hologram of myself,” he says.
That’s the magic of connecting to your IRA. It’s easier to find real self-assurance when you drop your guard — and vice versa.
Both confidence and authenticity (the foundations of strong leadership) are derived from knowing yourself well.
Darren’s a fan of positive psychology and the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment from Gallup, which delineates what you’re good at and not so good at. Humbly accepting the things you don’t do well makes you more accessible to the people around you, whether you’re their hierarchical equal or not.
Bonus: Finding your authentic voice will send your sales through the roof!
Chase discomfort if you want to grow
All good leaders understand the value of pain — at least, the kind that makes you better at something once it’s over.
If you shy away from everything you’re afraid of, you’ll never enjoy the triumph that results when you get through it.
Darren quotes former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty: “Growth and comfort don’t coexist.”
He’s so passionate about the need for leaders like you to get cozy with discomfort, that he and the executive coaching team at Group Sixty created the Growth & Discomfort Index. Use this helpful tool to see how gracefully you handle a bit of pain in your everyday life.
Lead from where you are
Assessments aside, the most important element of being a savage leader is showing up with empathy no matter the task before you.
The leaders we recognize at VanillaSoft are the people who demonstrate basic human kindness in addition to perseverance in the face of difficulty.
If you knew leadership wasn’t about waiting for a new title, what would you do differently today?