Tag: Pinnacle

Founder’s Corner

Reaching the pinnacle of excellence is not an end game. It’s a journey we begin with the hope of becoming better today than we were yesterday. It’s how we build our relationships with one another. It’s how we improve our approach, processes, and procedures. It’s also how we look at the choices we make that refreshes our memory to choose more wisely over time.

Hi, I’m Byron Darden and I welcome you to yet another edition of Leading with Purpose On Purpose. A dear friend of mine often reminds me how fortunate we all are to wake up each morning allowing us another day to get it right. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the late Bob Saget, an American stand-up comedian, actor, and television host of the Today show who said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life. And if that doesn’t work out for you, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.” This quote reflects that the past is gone, unchangeable, and inaccessible, leaving this present moment the most significant moment in our lives when we get to choose how much better we will be than we were a moment ago. It is this belief that allows us the opportunity to strive for what could be even more beneficial when we choose to lift whatever it is, to higher levels of excellence.

Excellence is not a quality we settle for. It is what great leaders continue to seek in working toward the pinnacle. Whether it is the pinnacle of your own leadership or the pinnacle of developing new leaders as Jack Welch, former CEO of GE believed, is one of the most important jobs of a leader.

My Leadership challenge to you; when it comes to leading others and developing other leaders, is to focus on something you do really well and strive to do it better.

Reaching the Pinnacle of Leadership Presence

Many leaders strive to be at the top of their organization. They may think, “Once I reach the top, I’ll be a success.” Often, this is accompanied by a sense of complacency or asking themselves, “Now what? What else is there?”

I experienced this firsthand when I achieved my first master’s rating as a figure skating coach. I remember receiving the news upon completing my oral exam in front of three master-rated coaches, one of whom was a friend, now deceased. “Congratulations, Byron! You’ve now accomplished your first master rating.” I recall being somewhat petrified at the news, wondering when everyone would figure out that I had no idea how I’d become a master of my craft. I spent the next several years trying to live up to the new title. It took that long for me to settle into the fact that I truly had mastered the ability to teach skaters at the pinnacle of excellence in skating and mentor other coaches to the same degree.

How do you define reaching the pinnacle of success?  Is it when you reach the CEO position or is it an intangible feeling? 

Possessing a title does not make you an effective leader.  The ability to connect, engage and inspire those you lead along your visionary path is achieved through leadership presence. 

Leadership presence refers to the ability of a leader to project a sense of confidence, authenticity, and authority when interacting with those they lead.  It’s a leader’s impression and impact on their team, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Leadership presence goes beyond having a title or position of authority; it’s about how a leader carries themselves and influences those around them.

In the past months, we’ve explored unique characteristics that lead to leadership presence, including intentionality, your speaking voice, how open you are, how you engage with your teams, and how consistent you are. 

We will explore what it means to reach the pinnacle of leadership presence and how you can strive to get there.

The Unpaved Path

Like climbing a mountain, the path to the top is neither straight nor free of obstacles.  It takes hard work, the ability to change and adapt, and the right mindset.  There are measurable markers along the way.

According to John Maxwell, in his book by the same name, there are five basic levels of leadership:

  1. Position – A person has been asked to manage a team.  This person might be considered a boss. They have the title and the subordinates. They can enforce rules and regulations. Yet, they may not have developed the leadership skills that cause them to be effective.
  2. Permission – This person begins to develop trust and respect from their team.  This is the start of leadership, where you build relationships and connections and start to develop influence.
  3. Production – This leader builds a cohesive team that gets things done.  They produce results for the organization while handling challenging situations.  At this point, true leaders start to emerge.
  4. People Development – This leader nurtures and mentors their team members, developing them into future leaders through observation, feedback loops and coaching.
  5. Pinnacle – Leaders at this level have mastered skills at the lower levels and are crucial figures in the entire organization’s success and even the industry.  They create opportunities for others and leave a legacy.  “Pinnacle leaders stand out from everyone else. They are a cut above, and they seem to bring success with them wherever they go.”

The pinnacle of leadership presence is the most successful point. Who you are and what it represents commands the respect of others.  You have the opportunity for fulfillment as you successfully establish a vision, live as an example that inspires others, and serve to achieve goals.

Reaching the pinnacle level requires much more than an MBA and hard skills; it involves taking risks and setting yourself apart through any number of ways.

Value and Worth

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the fourth point on the pyramid is the need to be recognized.  Here’s where becoming a leader may play a part in fulfilling this need.  After all, when someone becomes a leader, they expect others to hold them in a higher esteem. 

When a person rises through the ranks at a rapid pace or fails to develop the right mindset, those who are supposed to look up to them may not respond in the way the leader expects. The leader has not earned their place and has a greater challenge to earn their respect.  The development of mindset happens way before the pinnacle of success. 

Here’s a typical example I often hear:  Employees expressing their displeasure at being asked to do something outside their job description.  They say things such as, “That’s not my job. I’m not working for free and doing their dirty work, just because they think they can get away with it! I won’t allow myself to be abused.”  We must take care of ourselves and not allow the boss to abuse us with unpaid work, unappreciated effort, and unfair responsibilities that can sabotage the quality of the work we produce. That said, playing it safe does not earn promotions.

Waiting for the promotion before you demonstrate you can succeed at the role is working backward. That mindset will not move you forward.

By contrast, to earn a promotion, you must demonstrate your value to the organization before you apply.  Work to stand apart from the pack by demonstrating your leadership ability and mastery.  Instead of waiting for a job opening and trying to convince management that you are the best candidate, exhibit behaviors showing management they do not need to post a job unless that is an established protocol within the organization.

When we work to stand out from the pack by demonstrating our ability and mastery in leading, we are more apt to gain the promotion associated with those skills. Be the likely choice, and you’ll become the likely candidate.

Change Your Mindset

Progressing from “position to pinnacle” is no easy task.  Even born leaders need to become fully aware of their mindset and actions.  Looking honestly at where you are and where you wish to be often uncovers traits to improve.  Instead of looking at an activity beyond your job description, consider how performing the task could benefit your perception.  Turn a mundane task into an opportunity to showcase your talents.

Move Away FromMove Toward
Death by PowerPointMasterful Platform Skills
Telling People What to DoInspiring People to Do
Autocratic Leadership StyleCoaching Leadership Style
Being GuardedBeing Vulnerable
  • Think about how you respond and are perceived by your leaders.  When you are asked to make a presentation, use the opportunity to practice your platform skills instead of reading and flipping through a mundane PowerPoint presentation.
  • When your team is assigned a project, structure the tasks in an inspiring way rather than just telling your team what to do.
  • Act as a coach instead of just the boss.
  • Be your authentic self with your team; demonstrate your vulnerable side through stories with a teachable point of view.

Reaching the leadership pinnacle is not just about your actions, it is also about your mindset. How you see situations based on your core values, consciously or subconsciously, affects the outcome. Many leaders use what Roger Schwartz calls a “unilateral control” mindset, trying to achieve goals by trying to control the situation. 

When you use this type of thinking, you assume you are correct, and those who disagree with you are incorrect.  When they disagree with your approach or decisions, they may not understand the variables. Problems are inevitable because of the actions of others. Not yours! 

There are perceived benefits in unilateral thinking, including the fact that you often win while acting rationally and keeping unpleasant feelings out of the conversation.  These may come at a risk to the process.  You risk alienating team members and creating an environment where there is less enthusiasm for the project.  You may not hear valuable feedback your team has to offer.

A better approach is called Mutual Learning, whereby you are curious, transparent, accountable, make informed choices, and use compassion.  Leaders work with their teams to achieve results by listening to and incorporating feedback.

The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a three to four-sentence summary that you can use to get someone interested in an idea, product, company, or what you have to offer. It can garner attention and open the doors to possibilities.

When I first began developing my elevator pitch back in 2015, when someone would ask: What do you do? My response went something like this…

“You know how someone who wants to go into business, might begin by earning an MBA? They would master creating and administering some type of business. Yet, not every MBA is as focused on the people side of a business. I help business leaders master the people side of an organization. It is the most underdeveloped, least attended to, and by far the most challenging aspect of a business.”

Evidence of that is the advent of artificial intelligence. Who needs to deal with people with AI at their fingertips? The thing about AI is it physically only requires your fingertips, jamming away on that keyboard, cranking out code to get what looks like a person, sounds like a person, seemingly responds like a person, and isn’t a person at all.

A slightly different and to-the-point elevator pitch I developed painted a picture of great necessity:

“While a business-minded person may go to college to earn an MBA to learn how to start a successful business, they come to me to learn how to keep the lights on in that business.”

Set Yourself Apart

Leadership Presence is the factor that sets a great leader apart from their peers.  According to a study by the think-tank Coqual, executive presence accounts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted into leadership positions.  Furthermore, 67% of senior executives feel that executive presence is a top factor when evaluating high-potential employees for advancement.

Two candidates working at the same company with MBAs from top schools, equal years of experience, and an impressive track record of results.  The difference comes down to leadership presence. 

  • Which candidate takes command of the room or a meeting just by showing up?
  • Which candidate listens, learns, and then makes informed, thoughtful, confident choices?
  • Which candidate has earned the respect of their colleagues and the public?
  • Which candidate strives to better themselves?

Everything else being equal, the platform skills make a difference.

When choosing someone for a leadership position, the words confident, decisive, and commanding come to mind.  When you want to exude these qualities, here’s one bit of insight:

Consider the avoidance of following up a statement with the word “but…” It negates whatever was said prior and tends to create a sensation of withdrawal and a sense of dread. No matter what the grammar rules may lead us to believe that the word is absolutely appropriate in some settings, the impact of the word can feel like a punch in the gut for the listener.

Develop Your Presence

“I had to adapt my presence and develop it in a way that really exuded leadership.”
Muriel Maignan Wilkins

Leadership presence comes naturally to very few.  You might be surprised to learn that 98% of leaders must take steps to develop executive presence.  Persistent work, often with the help of an executive presence coach, can bring noticeable results within weeks and a significant transformation in as little as a few months.  An individual approach emphasizes your strengths and pinpoints areas for improvement.  Continuous fine-tuning of executive-presence qualities keeps you sharp and able to meet challenges head-on.  Want to learn more?  Book a one-on-one session to find out how.