There are several words that are thrown around casually. It makes the speaker or writer look cool. Words like “collaboration”, “out-of-the-box”, “empower” convey everything and convey nothing.
Another such word is “leadership”. You can’t go wrong using this word or quoting someone. Everyone wants to jump on the leadership bandwagon because of FOMO. Words, words, words.
But we need to finally bell the cat.
What does “leadership” mean in the Bid & Proposal space? Is it enforceable from the top?
Leadership cannot be mandated. It must come from within. You must be sufficiently driven to push forward and take complete responsibility for getting something done. Sending emails marked “Urgent” or “ASAP” won’t cut it. So, let’s look at five things that do work.
First, your team must sense that spark in you and defer to your judgment and initiative. How would that happen? You need to speak up at meetings and ask at least three questions that get answers. This small act creates a space that is uniquely yours. Your presence will be noted. Sitting quietly in meetings and taking notes or doodling won’t work.
As a precondition, create a fitness regime. Sounds odd? Not really. Exercise creates energy and presence. This will help upgrade your image. Your eyes will flash with confidence and your voice will have authority.
Second, develop a reputation for listening, paraphrasing and summarizing. This helps in creating an impression of being alert and sensitive. Everyone likes to be listened to. Asking questions to draw out someone is always a good tactic. Your graphic expert, your estimator – all like to be asked why they think the way they do. This pushes up your “leadership acceptability” quotient.
Third, use definitive language. Don’t say “May I speak to the client to get some clarifications about the RFP?” Instead say, “I need to speak to the client.” This firmness is necessary. It may be misunderstood initially but will be respected later. It may be difficult for you to say this but unless you try, you won’t conquer this fear.
Fourth, learn the art of saying “No”. Your job is not to please. Your job is to help your organization win business. Saying No to unreasonable demands made of your team (“we need the proposal in 2 days”) will enhance your reputation and open the doors to leadership opportunities through the organization. Leadership is not a popularity contest.
Fifth, develop networking skills outside your team. You cannot mandate collaboration. It is a uniquely personal chemistry that gets people to want to work with each other. Your SME, your Finance head – they want to work with you because you smile and make them look good. This is a skill you need to acquire. This is another unique leadership feather in your cap.
Ignore the motivating leadership quotes on LinkedIn that everyone raves about. Develop your leadership persona by dirtying your hands, making others look good and learn to have uncomfortable conversations.
Vasudev Murthy, CP-APMP, is the Chair of the APMP India Governing Board