3 Ways to Become a Better Leader

By being “intentionally unimpressive,” great leaders make others feel they can do anything. But how can leaders learn to master this skill? (Hint: It’s the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall.)

In his excellent blog, Jay Pullins makes an important distinction between leaders who project themselves as the most competent person in the room versus those who make everyone in the room feel competent. He maintains—and I agree—that the latter is what makes a great leader.

This quality Pullins calls being intentionally unimpressive. “Great leaders are coaches,” he says, “seizing opportunities to multiply their character and competencies in others. They seek to make others better, not to be seen as better than others.”

A coaching approach is essential, not only in learning this particular “soft skill” for oneself, but also in teaching others to become better leaders themselves.

As championed by Richard Boyatzis of Case Western, Doug Silsbee, and many others, coaching has achieved some well deserved national attention as a business strategy. However, coaching success is usually achieved in a live setting, where coaches and learners can interact in real time.

The problem is: many businesses consist of teams separated by distance, time zones, and impossible schedules. Taking time out of one’s territory or routine is costly, making leadership coaching a luxury. Phone or video chat sessions can help, but the tyranny of schedules and time zones make it difficult.

So, how can great leadership and other soft skills training be accomplished remotely? Here are some techniques to consider:

Learn to be Present—Even When You’re Not There

In coaching, presence is a cultivated state of awareness that allows you to connect with the values and aspirations of those you coach—enabling you to inspire them toward desired outcomes. This is possible when meeting face-to-face, or even over the phone, but much more challenging over an asynchronous connection, like video.

Coaching presence is still possible over video, however. Using webcam recording or mobile uploads is the starting point—allowing coaches and clients to initiate or respond to a challenge. (It also helps to use your webcam wisely, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog.)

Recorded video is only the start, however. Both coach and learner need to practice “being in the other’s shoes” when watching a coaching challenge or practice session. It’s also important to have the means of asking questions in the moment, at any point in the video. This is where Viddler’s timeline commenting can help the soft skills trainer and trainee make the most out of each session.

Imitate the Best

Emulating a good leader is one of the best ways to improve your own game. When that person is not working directly with you, video can become an important supplement. Watching the team leader or a skilled management trainer go through a scenario, and then role-playing the possible responses, are important steps to better leadership. Using interactive video can keep the team together, giving each member ways to emulate best practices of great leaders and peers, even when distance and schedules keep them physically apart.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As with all forms of training, leadership techniques and other soft skills usually evaporate quickly if they are not reinforced in everyday life. The solution is to practice—preferably with consistent feedback from the trainer and/or fellow team members. This is probably the greatest Achilles heel of live training: the difficulty of sustainable, measurable practice sessions after everyone has flown back to their busy schedules.

Fortunately, the Viddler Learning Suite is a great answer to this persistent question: how to retain well-taught skills. Whether used as a supplement to live training or as a self-contained program, using video to practice, supply feedback, and measure performance is an important part of any leadership trainer’s repertoire to coach great leaders.