In a recent post (March 26), I wrote about effective communication as one of the 12 behaviors of exceptional leaders identified by Travis Bradberry, president of TalentSmart & co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Today’s topic is another of the 12: infectiousness.
Infectiousness isn’t a trait that usually is cited as a key leadership skill, but I suspect it’s because that trait is often described differently. It could fall under the oft-mentioned “charisma,” “charm” or “engaging personality,” or a number of other descriptors. Infectiousness also could be encompassed in other characteristics, particularly passion, which is another of the 12 behaviors on Bradberry’s list. But I like the fact that he calls out infectiousness to stand on its own because unless the leader’s passion is expressed in a way that employees “catch the bug,” it won’t have a lasting effect.
As Bradberry explains, “Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.”
Starbucks’ Howard Schultz is a great example of infectiousness. First, he looks for employees who share his customer-centered values, including a desire to contribute to their community. Building on his belief that “people want to be part of something larger than themselves,” new employees, or “partners,” as Starbucks calls them, undergo 24 hours of classroom training. The company also pays for additional workshops and classes that partners choose to take.
New senior leaders are put through a four-month “immersion in the Starbucks culture” to ensure that everyone understands the coffee business from start to finish. And Schultz emphasizes the values that comprise the culture by sharing his “unbridled enthusiasm and love” for the company at regularly-held district meetings.
Quoting the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”