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Leadership Behaviors

27 September 2022

Janie reflected on what she learned during a recent keynote session with Dr. Mo Gaffney at the Charlottesville SHRM Conference. 

Tags: janie listened, janie read, leadership, listening

The Annual Charlottesville SHRM Conference was earlier this month and since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and the kind of leader I want to be. I’ve talked about the conference before; I’ve been attending since I joined the Allison Partners team and it’s always a great opportunity to network with HR colleagues, get some professional development, and learn new ideas.

This year’s opening speaker, Dr. Mo Gaffney, really got my attention and made me think. She challenged us to think about a great leader we’ve known and some of their traits and then to consider a bad leader we’ve known, and some of theirs. We discussed in small groups, and as I talked with mine, I was struck by the realization that the difference between good and bad leadership often comes down to subtle differences in behavior that can make a huge difference in how people perceive you.

I wrote the following on an index card during Dr. Gaffney’s session, and I have found myself referring to it repeatedly since then.   

  • Assume positive intent (At Allison Partners, we call this generous interpretation)
  • Give your whole self to every conversation and really listen to what the other person has to say
  • Lead by example

I think these recommendations are extremely transferrable regardless of what kind of work you do and whether or not you are in a leadership position. They resonated with me not because this was brand new information, but because they were timely reminders that helped me reframe my thinking and adjust my behavior.

If you’ve been to our office at Allison Partners, you know we have words and phrases on our walls. The lessons I’ve shared above are all referenced in some fashion in the words I see on our walls every day at the office. However, when I’m busy, I walk quickly down the hallway and don’t necessarily pay any attention to the words as I pass them. In the same way that I don’t see the words that are all around me, I think it’s very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day slog of work and life and lose sight of the bigger picture. I keep referring to my notecard to help me remember not to lose sight of the type of leader (and person) that I want to be when I’m focused on executing my day-to-day tasks.  

What helps you refocus on the bigger picture when you find yourself getting bogged down by the day-to-day?


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