Today, I spoke to Debra Benton, who is a speaker, consultant and author of the new book CEO Material: How to Be a Leader in Any Organization. In this interview, Debra talks about how you should view yourself, how to stand out as a leader, what leadership mistakes people make and the possibilities of demonstrating leadership on social networks.

You say how you view yourself is how the world views you. Why is that?

People figure you know yourself better than anyone. If you’re confident acting they think you have reason to be. If you’re timid acting they think you have reason to be. Fact is we aren’t always confident, for example, but a leader has to behave “as if he or she is” to generate confidence in others.

The best “view” to have of yourself is to “expect acceptance”. That doesn’t mean you are owed anything but it does mean you have a right to assume acceptance from everyone, anywhere, at any time for what you bring to the table (if you’re doing good work). If you don’t expect acceptance you won’t get it. If you do, you might. People take you as you present yourself so I recommend you take on a calm, deliberate, pleasant demeanor of a confident, comfortable, and competent individual.

How can you make yourself stand out and, in turn, get noticed as a leader?

“Standing out is not grandstanding, it is being willing to step up and step out and lead.”

First, have your focus be “we” not “me”. Look at decisions based on “how it affects the team” not “how it affects me.”

Plus…have an impeccable reputation…get and use a global network base…get mentors; mentor others…job hop but not too excessively….choose your bosses very carefully…get a foreign or multi-cultural assignment ASAP…get a sponsor with influence who will stand up for you…be very nice to headhunters…avoid career killers…and get balance because “good lovers make good leaders“.

How can we begin to reverse the lessons learned over time about thinking critically and negatively about ourselves?

At this moment in time, catch yourself when you are negative or critical and change your thought, your action, your anything….chose a productive, constructive, positive perspective — it’s just as “true” as the negative one that is destructive. Catch yourself one-hundred times today if necessary, maybe it will be ninety-nine tomorrow as your optimistic, goal-achieving persona kicks in from repeated practice. Maybe ninety-eight the next day. Consistent, improved discipline is how you develop and improve.

What is a common mistake people make that prevents them from becoming a leader?

Thinking, acting, talking, working with an attitude of trying to be a “star” instead of making “stars out of others”. Leaders get pulled up from above as well as pushed up from below.

Is it possible to demonstrate leadership qualities online in social networks?

Absolutely. You have to since social media is so prevalent. Leadership is about communication — giving and receiving — and social networking is about communication. Every aspect of leadership (decision-making, delegating, coaching, integrity, developing successors, getting feedback, taking charge, being visible) can be done through social networking….the only thing missing from other demonstrations of leadership is the face to face — and at least you have photo options!

Debra Benton
is an effective, charismatic and powerful speaker/consultant/author. In 1976, she founded Benton Management Resources, and has since been in business successfully for over 30 years.  Her client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in successful business today.  Benton coaches corporate executives, politicians and business leaders on their organizational impact in every industry imaginable. Every Week Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company feature one of Benton’s previous or current clients.  Benton has written eight books and numerous articles in business publications including the Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal. Her best-selling books have been translated into fourteen languages.  Her latest book is called CEO Material: How to Be a Leader in Any Organization.  Her expertise has afforded her front-page coverage in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.