In-the-Moment Leadership

Recently, the Vice-President I work for asked me to complete a somewhat mundane task, modify a PowerPoint presentation. As a mid-level professional when you get these types of assignments (compile a list, coordinate a meeting, etc.) it can often feel demeaning. It is easy to immediately ask yourself, “Doesn’t she realize I can do more than this?” You start to question the leader’s motives and effectiveness. “Is she on a power trip?” “Doesn’t she know what my talents and capabilities are?” Resentment can creep in and you can find yourself in the management vs. employee camp. An employee’s energy and thought process can be sidetracked, absorbed on judging their leader and feeling de-motivated as a result of a brief interaction. Hallway conversations about leaders spread like wildfire. All of this could happen because a leader made a simple request. As the late leadership expert Stephen Covey emphasized, great leaders realize every interaction every request, is an opportunity to either make a deposit or withdraw into an employee's emotional bank account. The key is not what request was made but how was it made. When my Vice-President asked me to modify the presentation, she did it in a manner that made me eager to help versus adopt the thought process and actions described above. Her simple but overt behavior demonstrated in-the-moment leadership. It provides a powerful example of how everyday actions and requests can offer an opportunity to effectively or ineffectively lead others. What did she do to engage me instead of provoke me into a downward spiral of self-doubt and frustration? First, she walked into my cubical and made her request. Many senior leaders conduct business exclusively in their office only. It makes you feel important when the leader comes to you. Second, she asked how I was doing on a personal level. Her demeanor suggested she was sincerely interested and at the same time wanted to keep the conversation brief. I couldn’t help but respect her for authentically caring about me while maintaining her demanding schedule. Third, her request was simple and clear. “I need you to modify pages 3 through 7 and include examples of our performance metrics; can you have that done by Thursday at 5:00 pm?” She then waited for my reply (“Yes”) and asked if I had any questions. She emphasized the importance of modifying the presentation to reflect current business condition. The following week she would be delivering the presentation to 80 employees. What could have been interpreted as a mundane task of revising one part of a presentation now took on the significance of impacting 80 employees. Fourth, she expressed confidence in my ability to make the changes accurately and let me know she appreciated my help. In addition, she quickly shared a story into how the operation was handling a difficult issue. This made me feel confident, in-the-know, and part of her team. There it is, four simple steps a leader can take to delegate tasks so employee’s feel they are adding value. True leaders are aware of and provide effective leadership in-the-moment. Each and every interaction is an opportunity to lead. How will you handle you next leadership moment? Dale Halm

Back to Articles