There’s no denying that agency leadership can be tough. The fast pace of agency life can throw any number of challenges at those in leadership roles. In the space of just one day, agency board directors, MDs and CEOs might be required to empower their team, present to clients, sell in a creative idea, negotiate with suppliers, liaise with the chairman, massage a bruised creative ego, iron out an account management issue, propose a plan to increase margins – the list could go on.
So it’s no surprise that agency leaders often feel pulled in different directions and sometimes don’t feel fully equipped to deal with the diverse challenges that agency life throws their way. As an agency CEO recently said,
“I feel I have to be someone’s best friend one minute, then give clear, authoritative direction the next.”
Understanding how to switch from being friendly and accommodating to projecting status, credibility and authority is key to becoming a truly effective agency leader. Get it right and your team will respect AND like you. Get it wrong and you risk losing all respect and the like-ability factor.
However, as Caroline Goyder says in her excellent book “Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority”, there are a number of physical tips and tricks that can help you quickly boost your status or demonstrate compassion and understanding, according to the agency scenario you find yourself facing.
Here we run through 7 tips for quickly boosting your status when your agency team are looking to you to give clear, authoritative direction:
1. Power pose
Although the science behind the ‘power pose’ has now been discredited (turns out power posing doesn’t increase testosterone levels – associated with dominance and assertiveness – after all), if it works for you, then use it.
Before heading into a situation where you need to project status and authority, go somewhere private, stand with your legs apart, both feet firmly on the floor, raise your hands above your head (rock star style – think Mick Jagger on stage), stand tall and take up as much space as you can. Stay in that power pose for at least 30 seconds. Be aware of how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel more powerful, then use it – whether it raises your testosterone levels or not.
2. Focus on the task, not the relationship
Focus on the job to be done and get straight to the point. Make your messages simple, clear and easy to remember. It helps to use short sentences and simple language. Above all, don’t try to be someone’s friend when you’re looking to project credibility and authority. Try to avoid lots of social smiling, only smile if it happens naturally and try not to keep raising your eyebrows in a ‘please like me’ way.
3. Minimise nodding
Where authority and credibility matter, try to replace nods with stillness. The aim is to achieve a graceful, attentive stillness where your head is still but relaxed. A stiff, forced stillness won’t be effective and will seem disingenuous.
4. Cut fillers
Be aware of when you umm, errr and ahhh and train yourself to cut them out of your speech. These clunky fillers immediately lower your status and show that you’re not comfortable with a pause. Work to get comfortable with a pause. Breathe in and out, give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts and only then continue speaking.
5. Learn from newsreaders
You can learn a lot from newsreaders who have to work hard every night to achieve the perfect balance between ‘take me seriously’ and ‘compassionate human being.’
For status, channel a newsreader’s voice. At the end of the line, drop the pitch: ‘Here is the [drop the note] news’.
Train yourself to stop the dreaded ‘uptalking’ where every sentence ends on a higher note, as if posing a question. So many of us fall into this style of speaking which immediately detracts from our status.
6. Scrutinize how you look
Of course it’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion, but if wearing high heels or a smart jacket makes you feel more authoritative then go for it. Wear what works for you.
7. Don’t overdo it
Try not to go overboard with these status boosting tips and tricks. Go all out and that impression of authority can quickly become authoritarian. Use each one sparingly, work to understand which ones work best for you and try to keep your natural warmth running through all you do. That way you’ll gain the respect that’s required, while still retaining the like-ability that’s so important for effective agency leadership.