"character and commitment, a willingness to thrive in change, an ability to learn and develop from feedback, emotional engagement and humility"
We work with executives who are developing their leadership capabilities or are on the cusp of leadership roles.
Brilliant individuals are not necessarily leaders. Leadership requires character and commitment, a willingness to thrive in change, an ability to learn and develop from feedback, emotional engagement, humility and compassion. This can be highly challenging for a successful executive – the beliefs and behaviours which have worked to get you so far may not be the ones to take you further. Not all executives turn positions of authority into effective leadership, and not all executives have the self-confidence and belief to accept an invitation from the ‘system’ to show the leadership that is wanted. But the ability to lead is something that can be developed.
Our approach is guided by a simple model and a set of necessary and visible qualities. Have we successfully managed to distil the totality of previous literature and thinking about leadership? Maybe not. But we do know and can outline what, in our experience, has worked for our clients. The model identifies four key elements that are critical for effective leadership:
- Developing vision and strategy;
- The ability to implement and execute plans;
- Inter-personal skills – communicating, listening and connecting;
- Intra-personal strength.
The qualities that others experience from leaders interrelate with all four of the elements above, especially the inter-personal strength – a way of being, rather than something that is learnt from a book. These are, in no particular order:
- Honesty and authenticity (a basis for trust);
- Clarity of purpose (linked with the vision and strategy);
- Belief (that is visible) in that purpose;
- Robustness, calm resilience and credibility (including appearance);
- Systemic empathy (being able to connect with the broader ‘zeitgeist’ as opposed to empathising with each individual);
- Comfort with change (not for the sake of it but as appropriate to achieve objectives and move with changing circumstances);
- The ability to accept and learn from challenging feedback;
There is a delicate boundary between the confidence and congruence of real leadership and the arrogance of imposed authority. It is the ability to find that edge, and operate on the right side of it, that attracts followers. It isn’t merely self-interest, reason or position that creates trust and persuades those followers to invest their time and effort to meet demanding organisational objectives: it requires an emotional connection with their leaders.