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The Best Leaders Make Unforgettable

First Impressions
Leaders that try too hard to win people over are the ones that end up losing the respect of their
employees especially when its not genuine. The most memorable leaders know how to
naturally make a good first impression. They are mindful of what most employees do and dont
expect of them and want to create for them a safe environment that enables engagement.
Leadership success is all about people and when leaders forget this fact, they are headed down a
path of self-destruction.
First impressions are earned quickly, but it takes time for employees to figure out the impact you
are attempting to create in your leadership role. Ive seen many leaders attempt to use their
power and influence to impress their employees only to find this strategy backfiring because they
were too aggressive rather than taking a more steady approach that invites other ideas and
ideals into the fold.
Leadership is not about acting the part, but rather being your most authentic self to
serve the organization and advance others, while avoiding the traps of selfpromotion along the way. As such, first impressions should never be forced; they are
opportunities to reveal who you are and what you represent as a leader.

After being hired to assume a senior executive role at the age of 30, making a first impression
was important for me to begin to earn the trust and respect of employees (many of whom were
20+ years my senior). My hope was that the employees would give me a chance to work closely
with them to turn around the organizations performance and rebuild their brands reputation.
Instead of walking directly into my office (the first day of work), I began to greet people at their
desks. I spent a good percentage of my time the first month on the job meeting with employees
and asking them about their opinions regarding the state of the company, morale of the
workplace, and their other concerns and recommendations. This was a company whose
employees were loyal and that had never hired a senior executive from the outside. Prior to
assuming my role, I obtained a diagram of the building with the seating designations of the
employees, along with their job descriptions and personal information they had shared. I
genuinely wanted the employees to know that I valued them, cared about their interests and
wanted to immediately contribute to their professional goals and objectives. I encouraged them
to ask questions, challenge my opinions and established an open-door policy. I didnt want
anyone to feel at-risk for speaking up, but rather give everyone an opportunity to showcase their
talents, skills-sets and capabilities. This would be a difficult task if they were unclear of my style
and approach and my intentions for the business.

You can never go at leadership alone. Making a strong first impression as a leader is about how
people initially perceive you, but respect is earned through the consistent actions you take and
the decisions you make that tend to the needs of the employees and support the goals and
objectives of the business. Without an inspired and focused workforce enabled to unleash
their passionate pursuits of excellence and clear about leaderships expectations and intentions
the business becomes vulnerable, at risk of losing its top-talent, and productivity begins to wane.
As you continue your leadership journey, become more mindful of the first impressions you are
leaving behind for your employees, clients, shareholders and the industry that you serve. How
does your first impression begin to impact performance, morale, attitude, trust and innovation?
What can you do to leave a genuine first impression at a time when employees expect more from
their leaders?
Here are 14 things every leader should consider if they want to make an
unforgettable first impression. Read them carefully and ask yourself which ones you
are doing and which ones you still need to introduce.

1. Warm Greeting
Being nice, attentive and making good eye contact is what is expected. A leaders ability to find
areas of commonality with their employees by telling stories that humanize their persona
increases their likeability factor. Employees want to know that you relate to them, regardless of
your hierarchy or rank.
2. Polished
Employees respect a leader that projects strong executive presence. Beyond presence, they want
body language that is non-threatening and a polished demeanor (everything from manner of
speaking and actions towards others to dress code and grooming). When you are respectful
towards others, employees are proud to be associated with you whether in front of clients or
family and friends.
On the other hand, leaders with an ostentatious attitude will be quick to lose the support of those
they are attempting to lead.
3. Friendly; Engaging
Not every leader comes across as friendly. In fact, they may be so focused on work to the point
of social awkwardness. Leaders that genuinely care about their employees and make an effort to
engage with them starting with a powerful first impression will go a long way.
4. Represents Their Authentic Self

Leaders are not always their authentic selves; this is why many are challenged to develop and
live their personal brand as a leader. Being authentic is about consistently representing who you
are and what you stand for in everything you do and how you do it. Leaders must be
courageous enough to let others inside their domain, where they can help elevate the talent
around them and accelerate the implementation of the business strategy. When leaders can be
themselves, others feel free to do the same without the pretense of asking permission.
5. Good Listeners
The best leaders listen to their employees because they want to learn about them and from them.
Employees that genuinely believe that their opinions and points of view matter to their leaders
are the ones that fully engage. Leaders that roll-up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and
collaborate are the ones that value the importance of listening and translate this genuine effort
into an ROI opportunity for both the relationship and the business.
6. Are Interested In What Matters to Employees
Beyond listening, leaders that encourage employees to ask them the tough questions will quickly
begin to build camaraderie and trust with their employees. Open-minded leaders that are
interested in what matters to employees and make them feel safe to express the truth are the ones
that build loyalty with their workforce. These types of leaders hold town hall meetings and
consistently encourage a democratic setting where employees can share their perspectives
regarding the direction of the organization and its future.
7. Embrace Differences and Acknowledge Accomplishments
Leaders that embrace individuality and differences in thought and know how to strategically
apply them to stimulate growth, innovation and new opportunities for the business are widely
accepted by their employees (especially when you consider the growing diversity in the
workplace). These leaders recognize individual achievement and accomplishments and are
creative at finding new ways to enable the full potential of the organization, its business strategy
and talent pool.
8. Knowledgeable
This may seem obvious, but never assume that the leader knows the dynamics of the business as
much as you might think. Respected leaders are students of the business, constantly studying
and looking for ways to improve, adapt and course correct to market conditions. Many leaders
are just figureheads but not those that make an unforgettable first impression. They are the ones
that will touch the business just as much as they lead it. They will keep everyone on their toes to
make the organization and its people stronger

9. Accessibility
Accessibility to leaders has become one of the most important things that employees want to see
from their leaders. Most leaders hide behind the politics, and are too calculated with their
accessibility (what a waste of time!) Leaders that are accessible inspire their employees and
cultivate an entrepreneurial attitude that helps the organization fuel its competitive advantage.
This was the case with the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, featured in a recent USA
Today article, who made a positive first impression throughout the organization when taking
over for Steve Ballmer in February.

10. Sense of Humor

A leader that brings a positive uplifting attitude fuels excitement in the workplace. When a
leader has a sense of humor, it balances the intensity that exists in a high-performance
organization. Leaders that can convert complexity into simplicity with a little humor take the
edge off and make work fun again.
11. Vulnerability
Leaders leave a positive first impression when they dont flaunt their power and influence. By
sharing their personal stories of their own career trials and tribulations they inspire hope in their
employees, which in turn encourages them to unleash their passionate pursuits of endless
possibilities. Vulnerability is a powerful driver of employee engagement that most leaders are
too proud to reveal. We must not forget that everyone has problems, they are just packaged
12. Consistency
A leader with a consistent style and approach towards others and the business is a mature leader
who knows how to work well with others and is effective under pressure and in the trenches. A
consistent leader is also the one that knows herself well enough to invest in the development of
her personal brand and has grown confident enough to live it every day. Consistency is
important in a leaders ability to earn the trust and loyalty of others. Conversely, a lack of
consistency is one reason leaders lose the respect and trust of their employees.
13. Lead By Example
Leading by example is a surefire way to make good on an unforgettable first impression. Too
many leaders observe the game, rather than activate themselves into it. When you lead by
example, you set the tone for the organization and employees will respect you more for your

ability and the energy you bring rather than just your job title. My personal motto: never
advise others of something that you have never done before yourself.
14. Motivational
Leaders today must be motivational and inspire hope. With the uncertainty that seems to never
go away, employees need a leader that will help get them past the finish line. Lets face it, the
workplace has become a more intense, competitive place where we are all required to do more
with less. Employees enjoy working with leaders that know how to activate the best in everyone
and will go above the call of duty for them.
What will make these 14 unforgettable first impressions even more powerful is your
ability to continue applying them consistently and continuously throughout the
first six months of your leadership journey and beyond. If you have already been in
your leadership role for some time, you may have to course correct and start over if
you want to positively change your impact and influence. While technically you
cannot leave a first impression anymore. you will be taking an impressive stance to
improve your leadership approach for the betterment of a healthier whole.

There are three roles of leadership: lead, follow and (or not) get out of
the way, and the key is to know when and how to do each.
In the middle of graduate school, I decided to take a break and became
an instructor with Outward Bound. At the beginning of each four-week
course I gave everyone a supply of Alpine cord (a kind of string for lashing
gear, pitching tarps, etc.) Consistently, if I gave my group plenty of string,
they would run out and need more. But, if I gave them less and told them
they had only two-thirds of what they really needed, they would get
incredibly creative and make that cord last.
Dont be afraid to be bold and dont be afraid to take on the status quo.
Make your plans big and then, in the middle of that, make sure everybody
wins. There has to be balance.
We use a team effort to set all of our major goals and priorities.
Everyone is expected to speak up, make recommendations, and then
explain and defend them. The best ideas get adopted and working into our
plans going forward.
True leadership comes from working with an exceptional team that you
can fully trust to do their jobs as long as they have a clear understanding
of priorities. So the job of the CEO is to be an example of honesty,
thoughtfulness and trust, which everyone appreciates in their roles.

I have three children and have told them time and again to follow their
passion not the dollar. I dont dwell on what issues might keep me awake
at night Im setting goals according to what motivates me to get up in
the morning. Focus on what you are passionate about.
Every single interaction you have with another person leaves that person
a little more energized, or a little less. That's true for all of us, but the
further up the leadership ladder you are, the greater the leverage you
have becomes. Employees notice every single thing you do. Be very
mindful of the messages you're sending.
If I want to expect from people an extra mile, people should trust that I
would be ready to walk that extra mile myself too. Such trust is built up
over the years, and that specific trust is very easy to lose.
You have to create a zone where you can push everything else aside and
clear your mind. Youre not only serving yourself from a mental health
point of view; youre also serving the business. Ive had some of my best
ideas away from the office so I try to plan that down-time into my
"There has to be a balance between near and far-term goals. Too often,
public companies get tied up in meeting financial projections on quarter to
quarter basis, which results in very short-term decisions that dont allow
long-term growth."
By understanding the fundamental contribution of each goal to the big
picture, it's easy to see the relevance of each one and prioritize them
accordingly. It's also important to realize goals are only relevant for a
period of time and should be flexible to re-prioritize.
"Be authentic, real, and honest. Hire the right people ahead of your
current need, so that the business has the foundation, experience, and
depth to grow fast and really scale in performance and impact."
Managers need to understand that people change, as do their interests
and goals. The problem is that most feel that change will come when the
employee grows out of their position and moves on to another company.
But managers who take the time to listen to employees can focus on
cultivating those employees sweet spots, making it easier to retain
The more that everyone buys in and aligns around a common goal and
vision, the better the company performs. Creating an inclusive teambased culture is best. I hate when someone describes me as the boss or in
charge. I describe myself internally as a partner and team member.s