Have you met someone in a professional context who’s effortlessly likeable, and yet you find yourself questioning their credibility? Conversely, there are those whose expertise is undeniable, yet they seem hard to relate to. Striking the right balance between these aspects is a crucial leadership skill.
Anneli Blundell* exemplifies this balance. Her presentations radiate warmth and approachability, underpinned by clear expertise. An intriguing insight arose from a recent conversation with her: “I know people can connect with me easily, so I’ve had to work on the credibility aspect of my presentation.”
In essence, Anneli recognized her strength, explored its shadows, and proactively developed her presentation approach.
Anneli’s story resonated for Ezra, a seasoned finance executive I coach.
While celebrated for his analytical prowess, Ezra sensed a disconnect and this was verified by 360 feedback. People felt they didn’t know ‘the real person’, and so weren’t sure how far they could trust him.
Ezra’s journey to amplify his leadership impact involved three transformative steps:
- Showing vulnerability: He openly expressed uncertainty and asked for help. (That takes confidence.) This authenticity not only yielded innovative solutions but also fostered collaboration and greater buy to the plan.
- Inviting Others In: He shared his thoughts things outside work and asked questions (and listened) to understand more about his team and deepen connections.
- Expanding beyond the numbers: He initiated coffee meetings with his peers and learned more about what they were trying to achieve. With his diverse knowledge across the business, he was able to actively support them to identify challenges and maximise opportunities.
Human first. Finance executive second. By prioritising human connections and reframing his role, Ezra’s influence grew exponentially. His enhanced leadership also led to greater personal fulfillment – a win-win scenario.
If you are interested in the theory and research behind this, check out the ‘Harvard Business Review’ article ‘Connect, Then Lead’ by Amy J.C. Cuddy et al (July-August 2013). The article’s premise is that when we judge leaders, we first look at two characteristics: 1) how lovable they are (their warmth, communion, trustworthiness) and 2) how fearsome they are (their strength, agency, competence). They conclude that the best way to gain influence by combining both.
As you reflect on your own leadership journey, consider: What do you need to emphasise for greater impact? Is it bolstering your credibility or strengthening your connections? Perhaps, like Anneli and Ezra, your path lies in harmonizing both.
Go Fearlessly – Corrinne
*To learn more about Anneli you can visit her at https://anneliblundell.com