The Pillars of Effective Leadership
Leadership is one of those interesting topics that everybody, me included, writes and talks and preaches about.
Whether great leaders are born or taught, whether women are inherently better leaders than men, and whether or not there is a meaningful difference between leadership and management.
My answers to those questions are yes, not necessarily, and yes.
On a more serious note I had a chance to read some excellent contributions from four different people that I greatly respect that kind of distilled leadership into some key elements for me so I thought I would figuratively take pen to paper and share my take away’s.
My first contributor is my friend and colleague Geoff Hudson Searle who in his upcoming book, Meaningful Conversations, He differentiates between technical intelligence, the ability to demonstrate competency at disciplines ranging from financial management to science and technology, and emotional intelligence, the ability to inspire trust and commitment by understanding the motivations and behaviors of others.
Unfortunately, most of our “leadership” development pipeline is based on the former rather than the latter. In fact, as I have shared before many candidates seeking “leadership” roles do so in order to continue to see career progression and increased earning potential. They are not drawn to leading people particularly at all.
Much of our leadership development and management modeling are based on Covey’s first two levels of trust, statutory based on power and position, and knowledge based with a foundation based in competency or what Geoff refers to as technical intelligence. The research shows competency is indeed a foundational element, but not enough to create or sustain alignment or engagement.
Emotional Intelligence, the ability to identify different emotions, to understand their effect, and to use that information to guide thinking and behavior, is critically important.
In fact, I recommend to my clients we do not hire or promote individuals into management unless they display a reasonable capability in this area.
The problem is two- fold. First, it still isn’t necessarily well understood and applied; and second, it isn’t enough.
Justin Bariso, Founder of Insight, had a great post today on the seven myths of emotional intelligence or EQ. He identified these –
1. DENIAL- Emotional intelligence doesn't exist.
2. Emotional intelligence is just common sense.
3. You can control your feelings.
4. More emotional people are naturally more emotionally intelligent
5. Sharpening your EQ is easy
6. Once you've got it, you've got it
7. Those with high emotional intelligence always make the best leaders
As somebody who has spent over three decades as a C level executive, HR executive, and consultant I have heard these and more.
Emotional intelligence is indeed real. If it was common sense, we wouldn’t see better than 60% of the working population not engaged or actively disengaged costing our economy billions annually!
We would all like to think can control our emotions, in fact that is what distinguishes us from the “lower” species, but the lizard brain is alive and well. Research has shown that when our rational mind finds itself in conflict with our emotional/feeling mind the emotional mind wins 85% of the time!
That is why Simon Sinek tells that creating a safe environment is the leaders number one role.
Being emotional and emotionally intelligent are two different things and increasing your EQ is both hard and continuous.
People with high emotional intelligence and no conscience are called high functioning sociopaths!
The fact that you are clued into the emotions and motivations of people is no guarantee they will only use their power for good rather than evil, or that they are benevolent or nice. Just ask anybody that worked for Steve Jobs, or for me for that matter!
That is a great intro to the next pillar, what the guru of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman calls Emotional Balance, the ability to keep disruptive emotions in check, to maintain effectiveness under stressful conditions.
His research indicates that this leadership competency is critical because emotions spread from group leaders to group members.
Research done at the Yale School of Management shows when the group leader is in an upbeat mood, people in the group catch that mood and the team does better. Similarly, a leader’s negative mood causes team members to become negative and their performance to plummet.
Does it matter if a boss blows up at an employee? You bet it does. Research shows that employees remember most vividly negative encounters they've had with a boss. They remember it much better than the positive encounters. After that encounter, they felt demoralized and didn't want anything more to do with that boss.
Is there anybody out there that has not experienced this phenomenon?
Steve Jobs and others are famous for being brilliant, but also for having these kinds of outbursts. In my own experience this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome shows up in a bunch of ways, none of them positive including-
· High turnover, great talent won’t put up with it.
· Difficulty recruiting. Your “brand” gets out and people don’t want to work with you.
· Active or passive disengagement. Some quit and stay, others actually actively try to sabotage the organization.
Goleman calls this the crucial competence-
“We did research with over 1,000 executives from around the world, CEOs, Board members, top leaders, about the characteristics of the best leaders. The number one response is the ability to stay calm and collected. In a crisis, being able to manage your own emotions and stay calm, be able to create this island of security and not spread your tension around.”
Once again feeling like you don’t know whether Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde is going to show up from day to day doesn’t contribute to Sinek’s circle of safety or Lencioni’s organizational health.
The last pillar I want to cover is from Andrea Thompson, a retired military officer and now Director of the McChrystal Group, a management consultancy.
I’ve been asked by soldiers around the world, What’s the one thing I should know to be a better leader?” My answer remains the same: Know who you are, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Self-awareness will be that “extra something” that boosts you up the corporate ladder.
As we move up the ranks in our careers, our technical skills are usually the primary reason we get promoted. We closed the most deals or sold the most product. But as we develop as leaders, functional excellence is no longer the main component required to be high-performing and succeed as a senior leader.
Those leaders who soon recognize that their own behaviors and emotions have a domino effect on their team—and adapt accordingly—build stronger teams. Self-awareness is that “combat multiplier” that not only makes you a better leader, but those on your team better leaders, too.
Colonel Thompson spent almost 30 years as a serving officer on the United States Army including roles as the national security advisor to the House Committee on Homeland Security and executive officer and chief of staff to the Undersecretary of the Army so she has some street cred with me at least.
You could say that self-awareness is embedded in emotional intelligence or emotional balance, but I don’t think so.
I have seen leaders who are highly balanced and emotionally intelligent that just flat can’t see themselves in the mirror or worse can only be comfortable selecting and promoting people who are their mirror!
So for me when I look at developing my leadership pipeline technical intelligence or competency is the base threshold for entry into management, as people develop into leadership roles and especially C level roles I want to see them move through the gates of emotional intelligence or EQ, self- awareness, and emotional balance.
Most of these things can be to a large extent taught so no gender of ethnic group has the market cornered.
You can say that these represent high hurdles, but I leave you with this thought –
Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.