Too little leadership material actually gives important tips for actually doing subtle things. So here are a few vital tips:
Leaders are not on their phones. We all know it happens. But stop it. Bad human. Pay attention. I am guilty and so are you if you have a smartphone. None of the subtle work of leadership is ever going to get done inside you when you are on the phone. Grow up. The lack of discipline in public and private settings around computers and phones and tablets is horrendous. People who would never pull out a novel in a meeting are playing games, checking social media, and emailing in the middle of meetings. I have heard stories of pastors posting to Facebook while with dying parishioners and have watched people play games during a family member’s funeral.
Now that you are not on your phone, pay attention to who is watching whom in a meeting. One of the biggest techniques to using (and building) credibility, trust, and authority in your work place or home is presence. Mental and emotional presence is shown in the eyes. Are you watching the person talking? Are you watching the person in power to see how they react when others are talking? We give authority with our eyes.
Attention and presence are active. They are done things. We say you “are present” or “not present,” but what we really mean is you are “actively present” or not. Actively indicates that we are talking about the expenditure of energy or being, one of the most precious things on earth. To actually be present to a meeting is work that requires discipline, focus, and defense against distractions inside and out.
Everyone knows this at a gut level, so when we see someone that we give authority by placing their attention on someone else and being attentive to them, we move up the ladder with them, giving authority to the person they are attentive too. But the sum authority is not additive, it multiplies. Attention ups the amount of authority in the room. Capable leaders know that and work to raise, maintain, and give attention to others carefully.
The eyes give authority or take it away. Yes, people are watching. I lecture my teenage daughters that everyone is not looking at them. They can relax. The lecture for adults is the opposite. People are watching, but they don’t care about your jeggings as much as your eyes. Set aside enough self-care and down time to not need to take it when you are with people who matter. And if they don’t matter, don’t show up and pretend. You have only added offense to offense.
Public statements of support are a vital technique to loan someone authority, but they have to be followed up on. Otherwise they become destructive. Go to meetings, grant permissions, find the money, follow through. Everyone in a hierarchy has had a boss who would verbally support in the office and then kill projects in practice, all while smiling. The euphoria of the smile passes, and what is left is poisonous.
Finally giving authority to someone else sometimes demands and almost always needs closure. In a meeting it may be looking around after an important statement you agree with and nodding to show support or acknowledge a valid point. In a larger communal setting it may demand that you stand up in front of the community and recount the deeds done and celebrate the person who actually did them. Do NOT point out your support. You are doing that by giving them the credit. Pointing it out should only be done when public acknowledgement of failure is necessary. This is almost never the case, but it does come up. In that case, take the blame, take the authority back, and take responsibility for doing whatever is necessary to correct and move forward. You are the leader.
In yesterday’s post we placed these considerations of authority under the considerations of values that lead us to use our authority for goals and objectives. We return here to say that our values are what actually give us meaning and purpose. For Christians understanding our values is one of the primary steps in translating love of God and others into goals and objectives that actually change things and give flesh (incarnate) to our theology. Love is meaningless until the hungry person is fed.
So look up, speak up, and give away freely.