Barefoot Leadership

Earlier this month we learned to talk like a leader; now we’ll walk like one. Barefoot Leadership is described in the internationally renowned book of the same name. The book chronicles real-life ‘barefoot leaders,’ how they overcame adversity and led their ‘followers’ to success. In a nutshell, barefoot leaders are those who are not afraid to go against the grain to do what’s right. I think the following characteristics exemplify a true barefoot leader:

Doing the right thing is oftentimes not the most popular course of action. Whether you’re facing a boardroom of superiors or a crowd of influential people – it’s scary to speak up. Regardless of the setting, letting go of your reservations and rolling the dice on the outcome is empowering. This can mean accepting responsibility for your actions and avoiding the blame game or making a move that seems unorthodox.

Lead by example. What better way to build trust among your followers than by showing them that you are not afraid to back down. This is how socio-political movements are born. Just remember that you are leading, not dictating, so leave your iron fist at the door. One of the core principles of barefoot leadership is that everyone is important; so don’t take a cheap shot, even against your adversaries. That builds respect.

Barefoot Leadership author, Alvin Ung, states that if leaders don’t possess the “5 C’s: conviction, character, capacity, compass and a (higher) consciousness…we don’t find them inspiring.” David Sivers’ TED Talk puts these ideas into context, albeit in a humorous way. He profiles a dancing, shirtless and, yes, barefoot guy who inspires others to join him in his groove. The lesson here is that anyone, not only CEOs and politicians, can be influential, effective leaders.

What do you think about barefoot leadership? Do you think it’s an effective leadership style? Share your thoughts with me below.


Talk Like a Leader

I recently stumbled upon a wonderful little book that challenged me to take a look at the way I communicate. The Leader Phrase Book contains thousands of phrases and provides great communication tips, written in a way that is relatable and adaptable to any business situation. From what to say during a negotiation to how to ask for a raise, this book is a terrific resource for professionals. Here are the takeaways I found to be most insightful:

Use a professional, non-confrontational tone.
Be confident, but don’t let that confidence come across as arrogant, aggressive or dismissive. When you’ve made a decision, be resolute but be open to others’ opinions. Even when you don’t heed to your colleagues’ requests, you will remain a respectable figure if you are diplomatic and emotionally even-keeled. No one likes to feel threatened.

Speak clearly and briefly, but know when to keep quiet.
We’ve all been there. Stuck in a meeting with someone who seems to love the sound of his or her own voice. Don’t be that person. If you tend to be long-winded, recognize that you are engaged in a two-way conversation and allow your colleagues an opportunity to engage. Silence can work to your advantage. Don’t interrupt. Wait until after someone has completed their thought before interjecting with questions.

Be personable, not exclusive.
Everyone likes to feel like they have some decision-making power. Making sure everyone feels like they have a stake in the overall outcome builds alliances. This is especially important when working with cross-disciplinary teams. A true leader knows he or she can’t accomplish their goals alone.

What communication tactics do you find effective? What qualities do you look for in a leader? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below.