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No topic grabbed me this week and said “Write about me!” So, I searched online for inspiration. I googled “leadership” and got a plethora of lists and how-tos. I even have my own comprehensive leadership list that you can read about here.

They all felt overwhelming and complicated. Charisma isn’t on my list, but it was on some of the others. How do you become charismatic? “Translate vision into reality” includes a bunch of moving pieces that I could list off the top of my head. I began to ponder, “What is one thing that everyone could do right away to become a better leader?”

The first thing that popped into my head was Be Present Now. I know, the “now” isn’t really necessary, but it’s a reminder to pay attention to the things and people that are with you now. And now. It’s an all-the-time thing.

One of the greatest gifts that you can give someone is your time and undivided attention. I have one friend who calls and then doesn’t listen to what I say. She is talking to baristas or unpacking her briefcase. Her mind is not on our conversation. It feels demeaning – like I am not important enough to deserve her undivided attention.

In workshops, when we discuss good and bad leadership qualities, someone always complains about a boss who won’t look up from a computer to have a conversation. I get the same complaint year after year. People want to be listened to, understood, and respected. When we aren’t present in the moment, we aren’t doing any of those things. We are not creating the positive relationships that are the hallmark of exceptional leadership.

We want to lead with personal influence rather than positional authority. People follow us when we are in the room when we use positional authority, but not so much when they can’t see us. When we cultivate personal influence by actively listening to people, we create positive relationships that motivate people even when we aren’t in the room.

So the one simple thing that everyone can do right now, both at work and at home, is to Be Present Now.

Now, if you asked me, “Kathy, what is just one other thing that I could do to become a better leader?”, I would answer, “Be Kind.” Kindness goes a long way when creating personal influence and positive relationships. Exceptional leaders are kind.

Being kind does not mean being soft or wishy-washy. I can still maintain boundaries and hold people accountable while being kind. It just means that I treat them the way I would want to be treated. If I mess up, I don’t want someone to yell at me. I want someone to point it out and help me figure out how not to do it again. As long as I feel it’s fair, I can live with consequences, and all of us can dole them out and be kind.

Inevitably, someone mentions Steve Jobs. He was a genius who led Apple to success twice, but he wasn’t a nice person. People did not like working for him. Success depends on the ruler that you use to measure it.

In my book, exceptional leaders create a positive work environment and make people feel valuable. Yes, we want to create success for our organizations, but one of the reasons that we are here on the planet is to help each other. As leaders we are in a powerful position to influence the quality of people’s everyday lives. I say we use that power for good and create places where people want to work through positive relationships that we create by being present and being kind.