L is for Leadership

I have written a lot about the essential tools, work habits, and attitudes for growing a vibrant web presence. Now that this series is reaching its midpoint, I want to write about the moment when all your hard work pays off and you actually start achieving success.

Strange as it may seem, success catches many people off-guard. If you have been striving for years to build your business or brand and attain influence, it can feel very odd to realize that things really are taking off. I have seen many people unable to slow down from their constant striving, and thus project insecurity when they need to transmit confidence. For others, the first whiff of success makes them lose focus and become overconfident, risking all their hard-won momentum just when they need it most.

Why is it important to adjust your outlook when you start to experience success? Because being an influencer, and ultimately a leader, calls for a different set of qualities than just being a successful business owner. Leadership is a long-term play for people interested in shaping the field rather than just winning a game. Making the shift from striver to leader is not difficult, but it does take practice, mindfulness, and a reaffirmation of your core values. Here’s how to get there.

Growing a business often feels like pushing against a strong headwind. Anyone engaged in online marketing knows that even great strategies can take years of consistent effort before they yield results. But when your efforts do succeed, it’s like the wind is now at your back, helping you to move forward with less effort. This is not the time to slacken your pace as there is still a ways to go, but you do need to acknowledge the shift and let that wind work for you.

Sometimes it helps to actually visualize a breeze supporting you from behind, because so often we end up literally hunched forward from all the years of striving. It takes mindfulness to straighten up again, but this is crucial if you want to become a leader. The first rule of leadership is to trust what you know. If you know that things are coming together for you, show it by correcting that posture and standing up straight. The more relaxed you seem, the more confidence you project.

That’s an important behavioral change, but the real shift happens far below the surface. People aren’t leaders just because they are successful, but because of who they are and what they stand for. If you want to be a leader in your space, you must ensure that your messaging and manner absolutely reflect and reiterate your core values.

So when you feel that wind beginning to gather at your back, when the accolades and recognition you have worked hard for start coming in, take a weekend off to review and revise your core mission statement. What principles did you build your company on? What personal and social values are central to your identity?

More than anything, the transition to leadership is about staying true to those values. Over that long weekend, make sure that every tweet, post, and webpage put out in your name communicates them in some way. If you have public speaking or media events planned, include in your notes some mention of the reasons you went into business in the first place, and the mission that continues to guide you as you achieve greater success.

I started this series with a piece on authenticity, and in many ways leadership can be seen as scaled authenticity. It is not enough to recite a list of values, you have to embody them as your influence expands, telling your story in a voice that remains true to who you were at the outset. In that sense, leadership also imparts the responsibility of holding your vision even as it becomes more tempting to disengage and simply enjoy the fruits of success.

Being recognized as a leader is a huge honor, and also the point at which the fundamentals of a vibrant web presence come full circle. Though that day may be far in your future, if it is where you are headed then take time now to build a strong foundation. Make sure you have the fundamentals in place, then play the game as well as you can. When that day comes and you feel the wind gather at your back, you will be ready, and will know just what to do.

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