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Intangibles of Leadership

December 1, 2020

I recently came back into work after being away for paternity leave, and our chief of staff caught me up on some things the team needed.

As she was talking, I realized that our team of high caliber individuals had everything under control. They do excellent work and, for the most part, don’t need my help in delivering exceptional value for our clients. 

But there was something else I noticed. There were a few unique areas where my help was most needed, and these areas really had nothing to do with the kind of skill set you might find in a typical job description. They didn’t require a certain level of expertise or experience that I brought to the table. 

The things our team most needed from me were intangible, things like enthusiasm and commitment to fulfill our mission, even in the toughest of times.

For any of you in leadership, those intangibles matter as much, if not more, than the areas of your work you can easily quantify and measure. Here are the two things our team needed from me. As you read them, I’d challenge you to think about what others (your co-workers, your teammates, your family) need from you. 

1. Enthusiasm
Perhaps the most underrated but important thing a leader brings to the team is their enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the vision and an enthusiastic approach to achieve it. In busy times, anyone working to accomplish something can get bogged down in their own role, so they are looking to the leader to be a source of energy. When you feel neck-deep in deadlines, it’s helpful to have someone remind you that the work you are doing matters! 

We need to remind ourselves that our teams need the energy we bring. I often forget that everything I do speaks, and how enthusiastic I am about our work has an overflow effect on others. 

2. Commitment
The second intangible that I need to provide for my team is commitment. It’s important to know that the leader is all-in, especially when things are tough. A lot of times, the best leaders are not smarter or more skillful than others, but they are the ones who are willing to stick with something when everyone else feels like giving up. They remind the rest of the team to persist in the face of opposition and to trust that the work they are doing will be worth it in the long run. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”

The same is true for the leader.

Whenever I leave the office for an extended period of time—for paternity leave, a vacation, or a holiday—I’m always encouraged by the effectiveness of our team. They are committed to excellence and that doesn’t waver in my absence. They don’t always need my skills and experience, but they need to know they can count on me for these intangibles of leadership—simply because of my position. By the way, others on our team can certainly provide enthusiasm and commitment (and most of them do!), but it has the greatest impact on the success of the team when it comes from the senior-most leader.

What are the intangibles you bring to your team, your organization, or even your family? 

Make sure you’re providing the things they need from you most.


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