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How Sia Can Teach You to Be a Better Leader



Starting off in a career, many people have aspirations to move up the ranks – manager, director, VP, CEO, owner. How one goes about acquiring these roles makes all the difference with regard to the leader and leadership you become known for – essentially your brand in the business world.

My friend and Performance I Create colleague, Janine Truitt, published an article last week entitled Leadership Karma. Janine discusses hers and her past colleagues’ dealings with immature, power-hungry, assholes and the unfortunate path many leaders take when gaining power to begin making decisions and drive influence. In the case of Janine’s, the many people she references have met their demise and the house of cards came tumbling down, with their nasty, demoralizing leadership eventually removing them from their throne.

What Janine speaks of is more of the truth in today’s everyday organization regardless of office bookshelves lined with the “modern” takes on leadership theories. To put it bluntly, many leadership tactics haven’t updated themselves from the 80s, where intimidation, fear, and do what I say because I am the manager rained king. And can we expect any different when many organizations have a more “tenured” workforce leading them and this is what they grew up with?

While the answer to that question from most people in HR would be yes, can we say others within the organization would also answer the same way? I feel if you asked many leaders “off the record” this question, the answer would be no. My belief is derived from seeing too many leaders getting caught up with assimilating career progression on being known and seen versus allowing their leadership and results from that leadership making them known (know I am not speaking of the beat people up or yelling leadership to get results). Good leaders are recognized by developing and coaching their teams to get impactful results and not stepping up to be the one taking credit.

This philosophy I recognized recently with an interview I watched between Chris Connelly and Sia. If you are not familiar with who Sia is, she is a singer and songwriter who has shaken up the Top 40 world with her talents. Her most recent singles, Chandelier and Elastic Heart, have rocked the airwaves. But there is a funny thing with this singer, she has no desire to show her face when performing or conducting interviews with media. The interview she did with Chris Connelly was with her back faced to him; the same can be seen with performances on EllenJimmy Kimmel, and SNL.

Now, I have talked with several friends about Sia and many have told me she is crazy for using the antic of not showing her face when performing. However, I am not in the same camp. Listening to her interview she conducted with Chris Connelly, she explains she doesn’t want to be famous. Yes, many of us know what she looks like, but with her recent work her face hasn’t been the focus. Instead, it is music she wants us to know her for. Not the big hair, how big or little she is, what jewelry or clothes she has on, etc.

This is the same concept many leaders need to evaluate and take practice.

If you want to be famous, then continue to be the conniving, cold-hearted, leader and eventually you will be taken down just as Janine spoke about. However, if you want to progress your career through effective leadership which people respect, I suggest taking some of these thoughts into consideration:

  • Provide opportunities to conduct true self-reflection. Does your leadership style portray who you really or or what you want to achieve? If you are not sure about perceptions or feedback on what your are doing or how you are leading, sit back to understand why you don’t know. If needed, solicit “true” feedback from colleagues, peers, and employees with an open ear – don’t get defensive or deny, but rather acknowledge, reflect, and set out a plan to be and do different.
  • Give to your employees. Employees all want to continue their development. Understand how you can give to your employees – knowledge, experience, project work, advice, etc. And when they perform, recognize that performance. Remember the old adage, it is better to give than receive. But keep in mind giving doesn’t mean beating them up.
  • Challenge the norm. Challenging the norm can be difficult; especially if you are in an organization where no one wants to do things differently. But know how and where to build allies to create a movement (professionally). Challenging the norm can help create quality, unique outcomes that build everyone in the organization up versus just creating tons of untimely, fall flat initiatives.
  • Know when to take a step back. Many times when an opportunity presents itself, we immediately jump on it. I get it, we have seen and lived too much where we didn’t take an opportunity and then we spend endless amounts of time reflecting on the “what if”. But have you ever sat back and thought, would it be different or would I be happier if I hadn’t made this move? While I understand decisions have to be made quickly in today’s fast-paced world. reflection should always take priority. Don’t put yourself in a situation to fail, be miserable, or change who you are to win the game….this is where it might be wise to take the step back.
  • Seek out a mentor. Mentors can help keep us grounded and face reality directly. They provide a different viewpoint we may not be able or want to see.
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