Does your scent work for you?
March 28th, 2017

Most leaders want to ensure getting the best out of those they lead. Many strategies and techniques are used for this – some effective, some less so –  but when trying to bring about great behaviour in others we should not forget the importance of our own – and of our own ‘scent’.

The scent of a leader is what they exude. It’s who they are and what affects the people around them. I often ask questions like, what do you ‘say’ when you’re not speaking? Or what would people say about you having experienced you as their leader for an extended period of time? This gives an indication of a leaders ‘scent’.

If you look at what leads to behaviour shifts, trying to induce more ‘want’ in your people through direct motivation (i.e speeches, quotes, pleas) is fairly low. Conditions created in the environment by the scent of the leader are far more likely to have an impact – and although subconsciously, a more direct effect on people’s psyche and, by extension, their behaviour. The fact that the most commonly cited reason for people leaving jobs is due to a poor relationship with their boss, shows just how important this scent is.

In the recent The Leading Conversation hosted by Headstart Sport, discussion around what’s needed from a leader under pressure brought up authenticity and approachability as two key features. These can manifest in different ways for different people, but the essence is that the leaders scent needs to be consistent and authentic whatever the team’s situation may be.

If one looks at the current Springbok rugby team, it would be interesting to get an accurate read on the scent of that leadership. A new group, comings and goings of captains and coaches, inconclusive administration etc. It doesn’t matter how many marketing campaigns, motivational billboards or world class players you try to bring in, if leadership scent is uncertain or weak the team will not display the desired behaviours.

Leading people requires a) knowing what scent you want to emit and b) getting the balance right so that your scent isn’t contaminated by pressure. Like any good blend, it’s about getting just the right mix so that it’s appealing. The right amount drive, care, vision and wisdom  brings about quality behaviour within a team. Too much drive and passion may be great in the short term, but if under pressure it manifests as dramatic or overly-emotional, the scent may smell a bit off!

This level of thinking around leadership is what’s required to go from good to excellent. Low scent awareness may be the one thing that breaks down a high-potential team or organisation – and there are plenty of examples out there!