ATD Blog

Leading Through Your Actions

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

This is the second post in a series on creating leadership identity. 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Indeed, your actions, or self-initiated behaviors, speak to your level of assertiveness, decisiveness, and confidence—all traits of a strong, effective leader. 

Your job in enhancing your leadership identity is to elevate your awareness of your actions with colleagues, direct reports, and the CEO. What are your actions saying about you? Are they saying you have confidence and strong leadership abilities, or are they saying you aren’t quite ready for the next level in your leadership journey? 

Take a few minutes to assess yourself, and consider how these five strategies can help you elevate your leadership identity. 

Make and Own Your Decisions 

Pay attention to the next decision you have to make. If it’s not a life or death situation, just make the decision without eliciting input from anyone else. See what happens. Chances are your decision is perfectly sound, and it will give you even more confidence the next time. If you are in a situation where it’s absolutely vital to have input, select one or two other trusted people, weigh their input, and then make (and own!) your decision. 

Ask Thoughtful Questions That Add Value


This takes practice, but it’s well worth the effort. Many times it’s all in how you phrase the question. In your next meeting, make note of any areas that need further clarification. Begin by saying something like this: “I’d like some clarification on something you said earlier. Can you please revisit section X of the project plan on the budget piece? Specifically the IT budget.” Notice that you don’t start the sentence with “I’m confused,” “I don’t understand,” “You lost me at . . .” or “Maybe it’s just me, but . . .” 

Balance the Personal and the Professional in Your Conversations 

With personal information, it’s a careful balance between too little and too much. Too little, and you look like a robot. Too much, and you look like life is out of control, which it is for all of us at times—we’re human. You just don’t want to broadcast it to the world. Next time you are tempted to share extra details about a parent’s health issue or trouble with your teenager, consider the person you are with—if they’re anyone other than a close, trusted friend, check yourself and hold back. This is especially true if you’re in the presence of those from the C-suite.

Know When to Be a Team Player and When to Delegate 


For all of my helpers out there, you know who you are. In my view, helping falls into three categories: 

  • taking on tasks that help others and help you get to the next level (win-win)
  • doing legwork where everyone pitches in (sometimes necessary and can show you’re a team player)
  • being a doormat (you’re continually asked to do mundane tasks). 

Ask yourself which of these categories you usually fall into, and if it’s the third one, it’s time to make some major adjustments. If you tend to fall more into the second category, you have to start working toward a better balance of the first and second categories. Remember there is absolutely nothing wrong with being seen as a team player, but you have to ask yourself if doing a certain task will make you look like you’re a leader or simply a doer.

Elevate Your Financial Acumen 

If financial expertise is something you’ve put on the back burner, remember this: Leadership involves being financially educated and confident, both personally and professionally. As an example from my own life, I opened a stock trading account. It has taught me not only valuable lessons in personal finance, but also how to follow and invest in financially sound companies. Other ideas include taking a negotiation workshop, or spending time with someone in finance to learn about your company’s P&L.

I encourage you to follow any of these ideas, and you’ll see how your actions will speak volumes, in a positive and effective way, about your abilities as a leader.

The next post in this series will dive deeper into the next building block: leading through visual and verbal presence.

About the Author

Amy Franko is a leader in modern selling. She helps midmarket organizations to grow results through sales strategy, advisory, and skill development programs. Her book, The Modern Seller, is an Amazon bestseller, and she is recognized by LinkedIn as a “Top Sales Voice.”

Franko serves as the immediate past chairperson of the board of directors for Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland, a top 25 nonprofit in the Columbus, Ohio region. Under her leadership, the council launched a $16 million transformational STEM workforce initiative that has received significant support from the business community.

Her book The Modern Seller is an Amazon bestseller and was also named a 2018 top sales book by Top Sales World. Download a free chapter at

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