E•Connections

For exhibit and event professionals  

How to Become the Leader Your Staff and Your Company Deserve

July 11, 2017 By Ellen DeRosa

Have you ever met someone and had the immediate sense you were in the presence of a leader? What characteristics did this person have to make you feel that way?

When you think about it, some might have been obvious while others were more subtle, perhaps imperceptible. But you can count on two things: First, all great leaders have certain qualities in common. And second, with some practice on your part, you can become a great leader yourself. Here are pointers on what you need to do.

Build credibility

Before anyone — your staff, co-workers, superiors, clients and others — will take you seriously — you must have credibility. That means you must know your job inside and out.

If you’re unsure of your abilities, take classes to shore up what you consider to be your weak points. You don’t even need to leave your office – there is a plethora of Web – based offerings!  Read journal articles, white papers, blogs. Join organizations where you can interact with other exhibit professionals and learn from shared experiences. Engage actively and seriously on LinkedIn – network, join groups, participate!

Be involved in continuous learning continue to grow.

The more knowledge you have, more extensive your resources the greater your confidence and credibility — and the fewer people will question you and your decisions.

Demonstrate commitment

Being an effective leader means working long hours with enthusiasm, not complaints. It also means demonstrating reliability. Show everyone you can be trusted to do what’s expected of you or what you’ve promised to do — properly, completely and on time. Seek out additional responsibilities, and make yourself the go-to person.

Keep your cool

In your job, you can encounter some pretty difficult and demanding people, from senior management to product managers to outside vendors and of course customers. Bring your best to the table every day. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and reach out for help when you need it. (Being a leader doesn’t mean you do everything yourself; it means getting the job done.)

If you’re in a truly contentious or possibly volatile situation, don’t react emotionally. When the shouting begins, turn down the volume. By speaking in a low voice, you can actually get people to listen more closely. Resist the urge to jump into the fray.

If this doesn’t work, know when to walk away and regroup. Then, come back once you’ve regained your composure. Like Queen Elizabeth I, keep your head while the others around you are losing theirs.

Build a personal presence

We all know people who can take over a room without speaking a word. How do they do it? With their personal presence. You can make yourself one of these people, too.

Buck the trend toward the more casual workplace style of dress. We live in a visual world, and throwing on any old thing or going around half-dressed may get you invited to a party, but it’s not going to help your career.

“Thrown-together” attire leads many people to think you don’t know how to put yourself together, and if that’s the case, you may not be able to put anything else (work related) together either.  Neat, coordinated and professional is what you should rely on.

Also, keep in mind, first impressions are important, and perhaps even critical but, remember too, every encounter is important, so you can’t rest on your laurels with your first impression. Instead, make sure good first impressions stay intact. Always be “paparazzi-ready.”

Speak other people’s “languages”

You could be the smartest, most informed and best all-around experiential marketing professional in the world, and still be an utter failure at your job. Unless you know how to communicate properly, all of your great characteristics won’t save you.

Effective communication involves being heard and understood, as well as listening and learning. In your interactions with others, you must be accurate, respectful, non-judgmental and non-emotional. The idea of “I am who I am” has to be left at the door, and you have to tailor your style according to the person (people) you’re engaged with. For example, watch those, “likes” and “you knows” and ums.

When you come across a mumbler, or someone says something you don’t understand, don’t just say, “Uh-huh,” which could get you in big trouble later on. Instead, ask for clarification — in a nice way.

Reiterate key points you want to make to ensure the other person has heard and understands them. Never “dump and run,” saying something and rushing away without waiting for a response. And improve your in-person conversations by cutting off one of your other lines of communication — your cell phone.

When you interrupt a face-to-face discussion to answer a call on your cell, you tell the person in front of you “This  is more important than you.” On top of that, you make the person uncomfortable as he or she tries not to eavesdrop, which is virtually impossible to do. So, turn off the cell phone, and check for messages later, when you’re alone.

The realities of leadership

Being handed a job title doesn’t make you an effective leader. You must prove to everyone around you that you are honorable, trustworthy and knowledgeable. You must set the example for those working with you and give the respect you want them to give you. You must be a communicator who is open, accessible and professional. With some hard work and conscious effort on your part, you can stop being just “the boss;” you can become a true leader in every sense of the word.


Ellen DeRosa joined MC² as the corporate director of human resources in 2005 bringing with her more than 20 years of experience and training as a human resource professional, focusing on the areas of leadership development, performance management, policy design and implementation, as well as employee training and executive coaching.

While employed by Sony Electronics, Inc., she was chosen to participate in “Women Unlimited,” a national program geared to the cultivation of “excellence in leadership.” As a participant in that program, she partnered with other female executives from Fortune 500 organizations to explore leadership techniques and skills development.








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