IPREX 2019 GLC Recap: Emerging Leadership
April 4, 2019
I recently represented Grisko at the 2019 IPREX Global Leadership Conference (GLC) in Dublin, Ireland (yes, I know, it was a rough assignment, but someone had to go!). The annual global conference brings together emerging leaders from IPREX-partner agencies to discuss leadership development, business growth and global communications trends (you can learn more about Grisko’s IPREX membership here).
Now that I’m back in the office it would be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and fail to act on what I learned so the agency and ultimately our clients would benefit from my international professional development.
To hold myself accountable, I’ll use this post to highlight some key conference takeaways and three action items to implement in the coming months.
Recognizing Leadership Traits
Self-awareness is an essential trait of all leaders. This trait allows us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses — even our own crazy tendencies — which helps us carve a place in an organization. Whether you see yourself as a natural leader or not, think of leadership as a skill that can be refined. Great leaders understand that, like a muscle, you need to work on it consistently to get stronger.
To continue the analogy, you need spotters along the way. As cliché as it sounds, perfection isn’t achievable, and leadership doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. The most successful leaders can and do ask for help, frequently. Leadership goes beyond delegating tasks and encourages new ideas. That’s another trait that makes a good leader, having a vision for the future that supports working towards the bigger picture.
One of the exercises we participated in at the conference was a “reciprocity circle.” Gathering in a circle, we had the freedom to ask for help, work-related or otherwise. Other members of the circle could then respond with help, but it was the responsibility of the help-seeker to follow up afterwards. This willingness to ask for help in a controlled environment also encourages relationship building beyond the conference.
Action item one: Implement a reciprocity circle with my team.
In order to truly embrace leadership, you need to recognize that it comes with constant growing pains and hard work. This is where resilience comes in.
I think about resilience in relation to yoga practice — you’ll understand what I mean if you’ve ever held a chair pose in a 102-degree room. What I tend to forget, and maybe you do also, it’s okay to fall out of a pose. What matters most is how quickly you can get back into it. This is what resilience is all about. It’s the ability to bounce back, to take another approach and push through the challenges with grace even if we fall along the way.
Another reason to develop resilience is that for most leaders, career progression means you’ll need to put yourself in increasingly uncomfortable situations. The good thing about this: It is in these uncomfortable situations that true growth happens.
But that growth won’t always be linear. Working in an industry that is constantly changing, leaders need to take initiative to be proactive problem solvers who jump at things they’ve never done before. This requires getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
Action item two: Seek out opportunities in an unfamiliar environment to cultivate growth.
Beyond talking about recognizing leadership traits in ourselves and those around us, we looked at what leadership in an agency or organization means. This was summed up nicely in one sentence: A leader thinks about working on the business, not in the business. Leaders help with “sensemaking,” or to provide a larger context about the why behind the work.
When we think about what we want our agencies to accomplish, it should be big ideas. It’s innovation that helps creatively solve our clients’ problems. A way to achieve this is to establish a safe space that allows for failure, risk taking and vulnerability. Part of this can be accomplished in the way we give and accept feedback. What’s the right way to do this when you’re also trying to create a space that allows for vulnerability? Praise loudly and blame softly. You might also approach delivering feedback as an “if” statement, or simply ask if you can give feedback. This establishes an open environment for feedback to be freely exchanged.
Action item three: Deliver more constructive feedback and ask for feedback proactively.
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader and that’s okay. Knowing where your strengths lie and where you need to fill the gaps are the first steps. I would encourage you to think about how you define leadership so you can chart your own course to make it happen.
April 4, 2019