Coaching is a fascinating profession: Weirdly the more people I work with, the more intangible are the so-called ‘keys to success’. Indeed so unsure am I that there isn’t a ‘magic bullet’ or ‘5 sure-fire Tips to Succeed’ – or whatever it is the aspiring author or interviewer is hoping to access from my life’s experience – that I now avoid being interviewed.
We are all aware of the nature-nurture debate and the impact of our genetic inheritance, how we individually experience our upbringing and education, and how we make sense of our unfolding lives in a myriad of complex and interlaced ways, mostly unfathomable. However in order to get started on a new coaching relationship I do utilise Motivational Map technology to identify key motivational drivers, alongside Myers Briggs personality profiling. These coaching tools help to draw a very rudimentary outline for commencing the coaching relationship, eg how to improve self-awareness and ‘other’ awareness, but it’s nowhere near the full picture or profile of an individual.
Each of us – even if we share a similar MBTI profile and Motivational Map (highly unlikely) – is utterly unique and often unfathomable to ourselves, let alone to others. And this is what I find so compelling about the ‘human condition’ – that whilst we are often islands to ourselves and to others, we are also incredibly connected somehow. If we put our minds to it we can develop truly effective ways to connect with those around us (the opposite is also true), be they peers, stakeholders or folks in our teams.
It takes a certain bravery to explore the idea that it’s not just what you do, but how you make people feel that will determine your effectiveness as a leader. This more subtle form of connected leadership intelligence is certainly very contrary to the kinds of leaders we see being mentioned constantly in the national and international news.
I am honoured to be working with a bunch of talented folks who are beginning to understand the power of the idea that functional or technical skills and experience are not – in themselves – enough, and that as fundamentally emotional beings, we resonate subconsciously with another’s energy, their intent toward us, that we can and do make an instinctive assessment of whether or not we are in ‘safe hands’.
To develop a more connected leadership intelligence, we need to be focusing on the following ‘elements’ – sadly often lacking in today’s leaders:
- Trust and respect
- Modesty and empathy
- Ethics and judgement
Trust and Respect: TED presenter and author Amy Cuddy in her new book “Presence” reckons that we size each other up on the basis of whether we can trust and respect the other. She puts these antennae for warmth and trustworthiness, down to an evolutionary instinct for survival that is still very much alive and kicking in the modern world. So this means that a critical part of any interview, board presentation, or crucial negotiation etc, is oddly not just down to displaying a technical competence, ie baldly chucking out all that you know in a “me-as-Kickass-Expert” kind of approach. It comes as a bit of a surprise to some of my clients that if they’ve made if thus far (to the interview, board room or whatever) that their technical track-record pretty much stands for itself. Therefore it’s more important to find a way of connecting at some fundamental level in order to convey the “trust-me-you’re-in-Safe-Hands” energy.
Modesty and Empathy: Listening some months ago to Dachler Keltner, Director of the Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California talking to Mishal Husain about this new book, “Power of Paradox” on BBC Radio 4, reminded me how leadership in the past had more often that not, been focused on the application of directed raw power rather than the application of connected and shared power. Keltner talked about how the current increase in female leaders is having an effect on male forms of leadership and power-brokerage through their higher propensity ‘to be nicer’ and more collaborative. So rather than Machiavellian forms of coercion, intimidation and manipulation, modesty and empathy are slowly gaining ascendancy as crucial leadership ‘faculties’.
Ethics and great judgement: The final group of what I see as connected leadership elements is what I think are absolute requirements for any emergent and actual senior leader – be they execs or non-execs – ie the commitment to a more positive and sustainable set of ethics and professional values, and the development of sound judgement:
- The instinct to sniff out when something’s not right,
- The bravery to challenge ‘group-think, and ‘call-out’ exceptional behaviour – good and bad,
- The ability to make the ‘right call’,
- The awareness of a ‘common good’ that goes beyond plain shareholder value, and short-term gain
- The self-assurance and discipline to balance one’s fast and sometimes, raw emotional responses with one’s slower and more logical intellect, and finally…
- To utilise what Dana Zohar calls “the Soul’s Intelligence” – that deeper part of us that, if we have a mind to acknowledge and explore, has a knack of connecting all of what we know with a deeper and more profound wisdom.
I find there’s an increasing interest in people wanting to become more connected with their own inner selves and purpose as well as those of their colleagues, be they peers, stakeholders or staff, as a way of becoming more effective as leaders, but also as a way of engaging, motivating and connecting with others in the business or organisation in order to raise morale, engagement and productivity through stressful times.
It’s as though what used to be seen as a bit fringe, ie a holistic connection to life itself, is becoming more mainstream. I think one of my favourite authors Maya Angelou had it just about right when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget that you said, people will forget that you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So be warned Dear Reader… or better still, get in touch on 07760 270 392 to chat through what this might mean for you and your leadership effectiveness, and dare I say it, perhaps a more profound, professional purpose.
Go on then…