The ROI of Leadership – 3 Steps to Measuring Your Worth as a Leader

Success flow chart on a blackboardHow do you measure your worth as a leader?

I coach a lot of leaders who express concerns that they don’t know how to measure their contributions to the organization and their people.

They worry they’ve become one of “those” people at the top of the food chain who doesn’t really do anything, one of those people they may even have been judging and criticizing as ineffective and worthless to the company because they create work for others, but don’t actually DO anything.

In fact, it can be challenging as a leader to actually point to something and say, “I did that, I produced that, I made that happen.”

A leader’s job is to help others make things happen, help others be successful, help mentor and coach others to their potential.

This business of helping others achieve success can be hard on the ego.

The ego wants results, acknowledgement, PROOF that all the hard work was worthwhile. Proof that this or that success is thanks to ME. But when others are doing the work, how can your ego obtain such certainty? It can’t.

It’s hard to measure the ROI of leadership and feel fulfilled like at the end of the day you did a good job, and sometimes even more challenging to assess at the end of the year when it comes around to performance appraisal time.

Here are three steps to measuring your impact as a leader:

1. Identify exactly what it is you do. Define your role, what is expected of you and what this job of leadership looks like. For example, instead of getting xyz project done, your new role could be “mentor and develop my team,” or “help develop and implement the division’s strategy down into my organization.” These are not always easy things to measure, but the clearer you are on the deliverables, the more you can measure progress, for example, you could create specific agreed-upon goals so you know if you’ve reached them at the end of the year.

2. Look for Value in the intangibles. One executive I coach was brought in to run an organization for which she felt technically under-qualified. She thought she didn’t have enough business experience in the arena to be successful. But she wasn’t hired for her technical expertise. They hired her because she had a very good reputation for building alignment across organizations and getting people to collaborate. A year and a half into the role, although she felt she’d made little progress on the technical front, one of her peers complimented her on the fact that her team was collaborating more effectively with others and that people seemed to be working more effectively. Hard to measure, but these things have a huge impact on the bottom line.

3. It’s not about you. The hardest part about becoming a leader is it’s no longer about you and your accomplishments — proving how wonderful you are. The challenge is that most of us spent a big chunk of our lives, in school and at work, proving ourselves, performing, jumping through hoops and competing against others for promotions and accolades. And now we are suddenly expected to help others be successful. It’s hard to shift gears, it’s hard to say “OK now I am going to take care of everyone else and help them be successful.” We almost need to re-wire our brain to adjust to this new way of operating. Trust me, I have seen it time and time again, when you can let go of needing to make your own mark and in turn support others, you WILL be successful.

  1. Laura,
    Great article! I really enjoyed reading it. Aint it the truth. I, too, believe that if our ‘noble’ goal is to support others in helping them succeed, in whatever way they define what success is and means for them, and we can let go of the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) mindset that’s ego-driven and more attached to making your own mark than making others successful, than that would inevitably be a win-win situation. N’est-ce pas?
    Hope you’re well. And I hope things are going well with LaL. Happy 2012!
    ~ Val

  2. John Quast says:

    Hi Laura,
    It’s been a long time since I have participated in the Lal seminars. Your blog reminds me of quite a few things we touched upon during that time; currently working with a virtual team (again), with all it’s challenges; your blog is helpfull in that respect as wel, rgds,

  3. Very interesting article, Laura, particularly the piece about rewiring our brain to help others be successful when we have spent so much of our lives proving OURSELVES. Very thought provoking. To me, it speaks of a shift in perspective that breathes a little more spaciousness into my world. Thank you.

  4. Kimby says:

    Laura, I can see the value in this post to folks asking those questions… and even to those who aren’t. (You have to know what to ask!) Leadership isn’t always about what you “do” — sometimes it’s about how and where you “are,” as you pointed out.

    I’ve often felt that my role (in life and business) was to be a catalyst — an encourager. Your post made me feel right on track. Thanks!

  5. Juanita Lanier says:

    I am an educational administrator and I make it a point to find the intangibles. Getting collaboration from teachers is often difficult as most of them prefer to act as hermits at school. My main focus is on them and helping them do their job better.

  6. Milton Prince says:

    Oh, how I wish there was a simple helmet we could use (like in that old movie Total Recall) to re-wire people’s brains. So many leaders,and I see it all the time, are only in it for themselves. They feel threatened by staff. I have always felt that if I can help someone achieve my job, then I accomplished mine.

  7. Lois Holden says:

    It’s always nice to search and find something written about how to help others in the workplace. I see the value of leaders helping others and getting things to happen. Leaders need to be great mentors as well.

  8. Lou says:

    As with anything, I think a leader needs to create short and long term goals for themselves. The long term goal gets met by achieving the smaller ones and this can help in identifying how well they are doing.

  9. Evan Hu says:

    I read the blog 3 times and I still don’t know what ROI stands for. Did I miss it in a previous blog?

  10. Nico says:

    It’s not re-wiring of the brain, it’s just being aware of others and yourself. I do think that some leaders are natural, and others are trained. I just don’t know which is better. Training can improve a leaders abiltiy, but to what extent? Thanks for the article!

  11. Melinda Phillips says:

    There have been many times in my career when I wondered why certain people are leaders. I think business often sends the wrong message to young hires and aspiring leaders as the the true reward of being a leader. Money isn’t it. Looking back at the end of the day and looking at what you accomplished, whether it with others or alone, is why I chose this career.

  12. Rachel Williams says:

    My thought as well -“A leader’s job is to help others make things happen, help others be successful, help mentor and coach others to their potential.” This is how I have tried to lead my administrative career and it is how I measure my success.

  13. John says:

    Laura, have you ever asked any of the people you coach – who don’t know how to measure their contibutions – how they even became a leader? Why they think they are in their position in the first place? Maybe it came natural to me, or maybe I learned it early on, but as long as I can remember I have always included self reflection in whatever I do. I know that I can’t be happy as leader if I don’t know how well I am leading.

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