As much as business and politics are sometimes at odds with one another, they really go hand in hand. Whether we like it or not, what happens in the global political arena effects the markets. And very often, what happens with the economy effects policy. We saw this most recently in the real estate industry in October when transactions slowed due to the elections. Business and politics overlap. That’s just a fact.
I’m not here to talk about politics. That could be bad for business. But, what I do want to talk about is political capital and how in the business world, that equates to leadership capital – one of the most critical resources for any leader.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the term political capital. Here’s a quick refresher: political capital is the accumulation of resources and power built through relationships, trust, goodwill, and influence between politicians or parties and other stakeholders, such as constituents. Political capital is the “currency” used to influence policy reform and voters, and accomplish other political goals. Just like any other form of capital, political capital is a resource that can be banked, spent or misspent, invested, lost, or saved. The same is true for leadership capital. Leadership capital is not infinite (though it can be renewed). Use it wisely.
Political capital can have a negative connotation, but the bottom line is, political capital, just like leadership capital can be summed up in one word: influence. Influence is the most powerful form of leadership. Just look at our world right now. Instagram, YouTube, and other social media influencers are paid thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars, simply to share a product or service with their followers. Why? Because their followers listen. And why do they listen? Because these influencers have established leadership capital over time.
Influential leaders show up every day. They exhibit integrity. They walk the walk and talk the talk. They are inspirational, aspirational, authentic, and vulnerable all at the same time. Influential leaders attract loyal followers on Instagram and in the boardroom. Influential leaders have figured out how to grow, and maintain, leadership capital. You can too.
Here are the five ways to grow your leadership capital:
- Create a cadence of communication. As a leader, your team needs to know when they will hear from you. And it shouldn’t only be when shit is hitting the fan. Your company is nothing without your employees and team members, so whether it’s daily or weekly check-ins, emails, or texts, your team needs to hear from you. They need to know what to focus on that week, and why it’s important. They need to know when things aren’t going quite as planned – before it gets to a critical tipping point. They need to understand what to execute on and what can wait. This level of regular transparency creates trust, loyalty, and grows your leadership capital.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. This should go without saying. Unfortunately, for some business leaders it’s too easy to get caught up in playing politics and paying lip service instead of delivering. The fastest way to lose leadership capital is to say one thing and do another. Actions truly do speak louder than words. But your words carry wait. Back it up by doing what you say you’re going to do to grow your leadership capital.
- Share the vision and how you’re going to get there. Having a rhythm to your communication is the first step. Take it up a notch by sharing the vision regularly. Yes, the big vision. The 30 year out vision. But how about that 3 month vision? You might see the end game perfectly, but you’ve got to paint the picture for the rest of the team. The big vision inspires but the weekly and monthly vision is what inspires action. Charisma only gets you so far. Without clear direction, it’s meaningless. Show your team how you’re going to get there and what part they are going to play. That grows your leadership capital.
- Build relationships. Your people are the business. Investing into them and cultivating relationships beyond their job title and responsibilities is critical for long term success. One caveat, your team members have to earn the right to the personal conversation. At first it is going to be about whether or not they can perform their job functions. There is a lot of training in those first few months and little time for much else. Once they have moved past their first 90 days or so, it’s time to start cultivating that relationship beyond the day to day job tasks. It’s also important to build relationships with other key stakeholders in the business, investors, key vendors, clients, etc. We are fully immersed in the technology age and business can easily be done via email, which makes the person behind computer screen, and the relationship, becomes integral to ultimate success. It’s really never to early to start building relationships with employees and stakeholders in order to grow your leadership capital.
- Protect the culture. I’m assuming here that you have a great company culture. If you don’t, that’s your first step. If you do have a culture of teamwork, high performers, grit, hunger, humility, and insert whatever is important to you and your company, then you must protect it! As a leader, that means standing up for your employees, ensuring your philanthropic work aligns with the company mission, and ensuring your employees have the resources (and yes leadership from you) that they need to succeed. Sometimes protecting the culture means letting go of an employee who doesn’t align with your company’s beliefs. Not only is that protecting the culture, but taking action to keep your company in line with what you say your believe in. Your culture is what attracts and keeps talented team members. Protect your culture and grow your leadership capital.
Leadership capital is a renewable resource, but only if you actually invest the time and energy in renewing it! Otherwise, it will run out and you will no longer be able to inspire your employees to follow. Your leadership capital must not be abused. You have to understand the subtlety between knowing when to hold the line and when to put consequences in place, when to push your team hard and when to hold back and let things ride.
Leadership capital is all about influence and inspiring others to follow. How are you growing your leadership capital each day?