The Leadership Amplification Factor can be Harnessed

Leadership amplification is when the comments of a leader are amplified and the actions of a leader are magnified, by nothing more than position. The leadership amplification factor is something I have found difficult to get used to. Because you are the leader the people in your team or organisation are watching you and listening to you more attentively than they would if you did not hold a leadership responsibility. There are many potential positives from this. The negative I have become aware of is, sometimes, comments I make have unintended consequences.

Leadership Amplification © Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

Leadership Amplification
© Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

Leadership amplification is when the comments of a leader are amplified and the actions of a leader are often magnified by nothing more than position.

In one Executive meeting, out of frustration with government policy, I made an exasperated comment. Months later I became aware of significant changes which had been made to the priorities of some teams as a direct consequence of that comment. A comment made in frustration, one I forgot almost immediately, impacted on the direction of the whole organisation. This is the leadership amplification factor. I have never really got used to the reality that, as a leaders, my words and actions are magnified by my position.

There is a lot of truth in the statement – we never really see ourselves the way others see us. Perhaps the best way to capture this idea is to think about the last time you listened to a recording of your own voice. It sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it? It never really sounds like you – to you. Your own voice is not heard by you in the same way it is heard by others. The soundwaves created do not reach your ears cleanly. When you hear your own natural voice it is also received by your ears through the structure and bones of your face and head. When others hear your voice its qualities have not been affected by any interference. It simply sounds different to them than it does to you.

We never really see ourselves the way others see us. The way others see us is affected by leadership amplification.

Daniel Goleman, in Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,  explains that members of your team are always conscious of what you are doing and saying. When someone else is speaking in a meeting the others will be watching and taking note of your responses. They probably will not actually glance at you. They will be observing you in their peripheral vision. They may not even be conscious they are watching you, but they will be. If you roll your eyes, look concerned or perplexed, or your attention drifts, others will be observing. They will add the information of your nonverbal responses to the data they are collecting to help them evaluate what is being said. This is the leadership amplification factor.

Another way to understand the leadership amplification factor is to recognise that leadership often silhouettes you against the horizon. Imagine the image of someone caught on the horizon in front of the setting or rising sun. In that position your outline is clearly visible and defined. The leadership amplification factor has that kind of effect. It silhouettes you against the horizon.

Stop and Clear the View When you are Silhouetted Against the Horizon Photo © Catherine Petersen

Stop and Clear the View When you are Silhouetted Against the Horizon
Photo © Catherine Petersen

I like the imagery of this metaphor as it positions the leader in front, leading. It illustrates the idea of a leader’s role in pointing the way, helping others to catch, own and understand the vision and direction of the organisation. It is this part of the role of a leader which contributes most to the leadership amplification factor. Team members are looking to leaders largely to be reassured they are heading in the right direction.

Take the time to stop and clear your vision of the mess left by pot shots

It is because leaders find themselves silhouetted against the horizon they can expect their actions and words to come under greater scrutiny than those of others. Don’t silhouette yourself against the horizon if you are not prepared for people to take pot shots at you. I remember a politician, commenting about an attack being experienced by a fellow parliamentarian, saying that you shouldn’t go into politics if you are too sensitive to the criticism of others. Leadership is like that too. The pot shots people take at you can be like the bugs and insects which hit the windscreen of your car when you drive at night time. They leave smudge marks and deposits of bits of themselves behind on the windscreen. Leaders need to take the time to stop and clean the windscreen every now and then to make sure their vision is not impaired by the mess left behind by pot shots.

The leadership amplification factor is not a bad thing. When a leader understands the leadership amplification factor it can be harnessed and put to work to benefit everyone in the organisation. Like many things in leadership, it is the degree of conscious, deliberate and strategic awareness of the leadership amplification factor which may make the difference between it having positive or negative outcomes.

Can you think of examples where you have experienced the leadership amplification factor in your leadership journey?

Does knowing about the leadership amplification factor help you think through those experiences?

I don’t think I will ever get used to the fact that others see and hear me differently as a result of my position. Yet I acknowledge it is true and it helps me in leading others to be the best they can be.

Takeaways

Leadership amplification is the amplification of comments and actions by nothing more than position.

The leadership amplification factor can be harnessed.

Fourth Question leaders harness the leadership amplification factor to help others be all they can be

Take the time to stop and clear your vision of the mess left by pot shots

 

Additional Resources

When it Comes to Leadership Everything Communicates

17 Things Every Successful Leader Says Every Day

10 Things the Best Leaders Never Say

3 Common Communication Mistakes Leaders Make