Employees, stakeholders and executives alike have high expectations of their leaders. Unfortunately few leaders are born perfect; most have to work hard at getting there. And along the way they may discover some significant gaps.
He/She is Great…but….
As consultants we are often asked to advise on how to improve a leader’s performance. The conversation typically begins with a “great” statement, and shortly thereafter the “but” appears:
- “Our Head of HR is a great person — super social skills and always appropriate, but doesn’t seem to grasp the breadth and complexity of our resource problems or come up with new solutions.”
- “Our Director of Strategy and Innovation is truly brilliant and inspiring, but sometimes overwhelms and confuses people with all her ideas and amazing energy. If only she could manage her energy better, people would find her easier to follow”
- “Our Customer Service Manager is really smart, well-organized and confident, but he seems to struggle with getting others engaged and excited about their work.”
In each case above, the leader has the potential to be outstanding — but something is missing that prevents their potential from turning into actual high performance. What do leaders need to be able to do to be effective over the long-term?
Leadership: Necessary and Sufficient Abilities
In our collective 100 years of developing leaders around the world, we have observed that five ability sets are necessary to create the potential for outstanding and sustainable leadership; and only when all five are met and working together effectively are they sufficient to catalyze great leadership performance. The sets are:
- Thinking Ability: the intellectual ability to collect and and correctly interpret.
- Thinking Styles and Agility: the ability to view data in different ways, see patterns, identify viable themes, generate and evaluate alternatives and decide on a plan.
- Leading Self: the ability to be aware of one’s emotional state, energy and drives, and the discipline to channel and focus this energy purposefully towards an end result.
- Relating to Others: the awareness of what is important to others, and how to connect their needs to a vision that pulls them collectively towards a common goal — be it as an inspirational leader, team member, or through leading one’s boss.
- Leading with Purpose and Action: The will to recognize and own the urgency of a situation and take the lead to resolve it.
Each of these sets are necessary — and when present, create the potential for outstanding performance. But the mere presence of the constituent parts is not sufficient … there is more.
The Energy of Activation: Transforming Leaders through Development
We know from science that a successful chemical reaction requires both the constituent elements and an external catalyst, called the energy of activation. The same is true for transforming leaders. What activates leaders to performance levels beyond the sum of their aptitudes and abilities is a defined environment in which:
- All five ability sets can be learned and applied holistically to real or parallel/simulated business challenges.
- There is an atmosphere of psychological safety.
- There is a guided learning process that includes all four elements of focused and relevant experiences, deep reflections, challenges to, or modifications of mental models and perspectives — and intentional experimentation with alternative approaches.
- There is an agreed and shared learning dynamic driving peer accountability for learning and promoting behavior beyond the norm, independent thinking, and experimentation.
When the ability sets are developed intentionality in an accountable development environment, leaders are transformed.
Three Questions to Ask About Your Leaders
If your leaders are not firing on all cylinders, you should be asking, do they have the:
- Critical thinking skills and intellectual agility necessary for the role?
- Self-awareness to monitor and manage their energy effectively and be purposeful?
- Social intelligence to register concern about what’s in it for others, and to integrate this as a foundation of their leadership message?
Psynet Group custom designs leadership development programs that embrace part or all of the key leadership abilities — and create a safe AND challenging development environment. If your leaders have gaps, or you want to catalyze their performance to the next level, call us for a 15-minute exploratory conversation.
[Note: this is Number 1 in a series of blogs about Psynet Group’s leadership development programs. Our programs are built to provide participants with practical frameworks to be more effective in all aspects of their leadership. They are highly experiential, backed up by the latest science, impactful and fun.]