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Designing Leadership


What does it mean to lead? Is it inspiring others to become their best selves and to accomplish their best work toward a common goal?

Is it more than that? Is it asking lots of questions or, is it asking the right questions at the right time in the right way? What if leadership starts by rethinking how we approach our world and our interactions? What if we took a whiteboard, creative design approach to our interactions and our questions?

I recently heard Lisa Solomon on a podcast speaking about one of the keys to running effective meetings and an incredible team is thinking of ourselves as designers. Each day, we consciously choose how to interact with people, we design an experience for the person who encounters us in order to make them feel what we want them to feel about us. This is how we ensure the building up of our personal social capital.

This is often unconscious, yet as leaders who desire to be better, we must approach each conversation and each interaction with an intentional design mindset. We need to move off of autopilot during every interaction and actively engage in designing our questions and conversations to create value for all parties involved in the discussion. In essence, shift our mindset about utilizing out social interactions to increase the other person’s social capital as opposed to ours. This speaks to one of the key aspects of leadership, otherness and being invested in making those around us better.

So, how then do we engage each other in this way without, you know, sounding like a robot? (For a tactical guide to do this in a meeting, read this)

A great place to start could be to intentionally listen and ask follow-up questions that dig deeper into the details or the “why” of what someone is telling us. Our default mechanism here is to ask a question or make a comment that begins to shift the conversation back to us or to something we want to talk about. We must fight that intuition and stay interested in what is already being discussed without interjecting our own thoughts, opinions or stories.

Many of the greatest leaders in our world do this naturally, whether they spent years mastering it or it came naturally.

The trick for those of us who struggle with self-promotion or selective listening is to remember to disengage the autopilot at the beginning of every human interaction. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.


Personally, I could lead seminars on how to fail at this, so I feel your pain at the thought of changing your knowledge, behavior and actions on this one.

So, if great leadership is measured by the feedback of those you lead, which I believe it is, every interaction you have with your teammates should be about making them better. In order to get to that end goal, you need a strategy. Becoming a better leader is about making small changes in our every day actions. In order to change our actions, we must first change our behaviors. In order to change our behaviors, we must first change our knowledge.

Give it a shot, like I did, and as the awkwardness wears off with practice, see what kind of results you get.

Question or doubt? Comment away! I’m always open to being wrong. It typically is the fastest way for me to learn and become better. Let’s have an intentional conversation!


1 comment

  1. […] We know this to be true, so why do we as leaders assume that once we get to a certain point, our “culture” is built and self-sustaining? The trap that we always want to fall into is that it is something that can be checked off a To-Do list. These lies can be fed by not utilizing design thinking for your leadership approach. […]

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