Noun. the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another; a marked effect or influence.
Verb. come into forcible contact with another object; have a strong effect on someone or something.
When I think of impact I reflect on the gap between the intent and the reality. A lot of people want to make an impact, to have an impact, to create a legacy of impact, but many fall short. We need to reflect on why this is. Throughout my career I have learned as much from impactful leaders as I have from leaders who have little or no impact. Observing leaders who fail to have impact can be uncomfortable to observe and experience, but we can also ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes.
Who or what comes to mind when you reflect on:
- The impact of great leadership and positive role models?
- The impact of poor leadership and negative role models?
My reflection: I have had had some brilliant line managers in my career who have shaped me as a leader: Pam my HOD when I was a NQT, Rob my VP when I was AP and Andy my EHT all had a lasting effect on my and I have absorbed some of their ways of being and ways of doing into my leadership repertoire. I won’t name the poor leaders I have experienced but that list is a lot longer! Line managers who have taught me how I don’t want to lead and how I don’t want to be led. The leaders who were not impactful in their roles, had a negative impact on my wellbeing and job satisfaction, but they still made me a better leader as they made me more resilient, more robust, more determined.
When I consider why this is, I go back to leadership change theory and strategic thinking. Impact needs to be intentional, deliberate and by design; instead of being by luck or by chance. The desired impact of a policy, practice or project needs to be built into the plan, the impact needs to be evaluated throughout to inform the course of action. To have lasting impact we need to think and behave in the macro/ think in the long term to ensure that what is initiated, is implemented and institutionalised to become embedded, to form legacy.
Firstly we need to be clear on:
Who or what do we want to impact? And more importantly, why the impact is desired?
- Impact on self
- Impact on others
- Impact on our environment
My reflection: I have spent a lot of time in the last few years, ensuring that I feature on my radar as well as others. As a servant leader, my previous roles have become all-consuming as I have been focused on the impact on others, but I have not observed/ or I have chosen to ignore the impact it has had on me. Heightening our sense of self-awareness enables us to be reflective and to rebalance when things become pressurised and stressful; considering how we impact others enables us to modify our behaviours and temper our language to be intentional about how things land; being aware of our environment enables us to leverage the processes and the people around us to both frame and contextualise our impact.
As Leaders How Do We Make an Impact?
Our individual and collective impact can be broken down into 3 categories of behaviour:
- What I/we say
- What I/we do
- What I/we pay attention to
My reflection: I am a direct person and my candour can sometimes seem abrasive, I have been working on intentionally filtering and softening my messaging when considering my audience and how they need to hear what I want to say. I am a confident, empowered and assertive person and this can often intimidate others, and I sometimes bring out the worse in others as I trigger their insecurities; I have become resilient to disrupting the status quo and making myself unpopular in the process. I have a strong sense of my ethical code and my values guide my focus and where I invest my time, energy and resource. I am tenacious in what I commit to and I know this can be wearing for others at times.
As Leaders How Do We Increase Our Impact?
I read an article recently about the ‘Circle of Impact’ and it broke it down into 3 pillars, with 3 connectors:
- Vision, Values, Purpose
- Structures, Ideas, Relationships
My reflection: creating a strategy for our impact is key. As a school leader my vision was often shaped by the organisation I was working for and the role I was being paid to do, but the values I brought to that role individualised it and that is where I humanised the impact I had as an individual. I am a purposeful and passionate person who has impact through my hard work and my drive for success, but I have also had impact through influencing others. Pioneering ideas, nurturing relationships and harnessing the structural mechanisms of the organisation have enabled me to maximise my impact. Stepping out of the system and leading in the grassroots space and now independently has made me consider the impact I want to have and how I will strategise it, communicate it and evaluate it from a different leverage point.
Many leaders have the intent to have impact, but they do not have the clarity of direction, the strategic vision, the leadership presence to realise this intent. When considering the impact we have, we have had and we want to have, we can distill down the behaviours and actions that have served us as leaders and enabled us to have impact. We are often quick to judge others and can see the gaps in leaders around us, but by self-scrutinising we can learn from previous successes and failures to maximise our impact moving forwards.
My final thoughts on impact are how we articulate it. In my #IamRemarkable sessions I emphasise how we evidence our successes and demonstrate our impact. We need to consider the qualitative and quantitative ways we can substantiate and exemplify the impact we have as a leader and gather the evidence as we go so we weave it into our leadership narratives and the story we share with others about the leaders we are and the impact we have.