21st Century Leadership Intelligence
by Magi Graziano, CEO
Conscious Hiring® and Development
Being an effective leader of people in today’s world seems to be much more complicated than in years past. In the previous century, for the vast majority, work was a means for survival. The level of employee engagement did not dictate how long employees stayed in a role. Today’s employees, however, are on the lookout for more stimulating and rewarding work, as well as inspiring work environments where they can make a difference and grow themselves and their careers.
Global workforce surveys report that highly qualified, motivated people chose to work for companies that build a strong, inspiring culture. If recruitment and retention of highly qualified, motivated people are initiatives for your company, leadership intelligence ought to be another. They go hand in hand because today’s leaders need to understand people at their core like never before.
Leadership intelligence relies on your ability to grow, learn and master new ways to lead people, and there are three tenets to consider when boosting it: self-awareness, executive brain function and response agility.
Self-awareness begins with the curiosity and courage to hear what works and does not work about your leadership and the culture that exists in the organization. Once you become aware of your competitive talent advantages and your talent barriers through the eyes of your people, you are equipped to take powerful action. Self-awareness allows you to leverage your talent and intervene when and where it is necessary to remove those personality ticks that are in the way of your leadership potential.
Culture and climate awareness opens the door for you to see what is really going on and intervene in the cultural norms and barriers that are in the way of employee engagement and innovation. When you are curious and courageous you begin to ask the tough questions – and hear the tough answers. When you do this, you begin to see what “blind spots” may be hidden from your view, and you learn what you do that sabotages or impedes your leadership effectiveness.
Self-awareness is the doorway to emotional intelligence and it gives you access to real improvement, as well as personal and professional development. Self-awareness is not always easy. In almost every case with every human being, there are aspects of personality or behavior that have a negative impact on others. By itself, being aware of our negative behaviors is insufficient. Taking responsibility for the impact of those behaviors, asking for forgiveness and working to shift those behaviors are where leadership intelligence begins. Once leaders have mastered self-awareness, they optimize their abilities to leverage situational awareness, which is fundamental to assessing, evaluating and intervening in the ebbs and flow of the climate and culture of their organizations.
2. Executive brain function
Optimizing your executive brain function is a secret weapon of leadership intelligence. The PFC, or prefrontal cortex, is where the executive brain operates; it is like the controls in a cockpit. This is the part of our brain where strategic thinking, collaboration, reasoning and creativity come from. The problem is most leaders learn over time to depend and lean on one hemisphere – over time, they become complacent in allowing that hemisphere to run the show. This limits the airplane’s ability to navigate through storms and soar to new heights.
The left hemisphere of our brain is where our organization, categorizing, reasoning and strategizing come from. It is in the right hemisphere where brainstorming, innovation, collaboration and relationship abilities are housed. When leaders are aware of their goals and visions, as well as in control (conscious) of their thoughts, responses and well-being – and the leader leverages both hemispheres of their executive brain through right/left hemisphere integration – their leadership intelligence and effectiveness skyrockets. When a leader is utilizing all of their capacities, they see things they might not see and are more equipped to respond to climate and culture barriers and infringements.
3. Response agility
Response agility is the ability to respond in an appropriate, controlled manner, regardless of the current stress or breakdown the leader is facing. Being agile with response and reaction is key to effective leadership. Flat line reaction is not appropriate for all situations. Screaming and yelling is not appropriate for any situation. Anger and frustration might be needed at times, and curiosity and collaboration may be needed at other times.
Agility in your response means that you have trained yourself to think before reacting. Effective leaders ask themselves, “What is needed now?” When stress hits the fan at work, a leader who has a handle on how they respond and can coach others appropriately is a leader who is positively contributing to a healthy company climate and culture. Response agility takes discipline, awareness, new habit formation and commitment – and is a core component of leadership intelligence.
Being a mission-driven leader who inspires people to give their best in service of a compelling vision is a key element of today’s most successful leaders. They know that most people they hire are not coming to work simply for a paycheck; these leaders have a keen awareness that many people they hire are coming to work to fulfill their individual purpose in a way that supports the organizational purpose. Today’s highly effective leaders understand how to inspire spirit de corps and leverage their communications with people to do so. They utilize their people intelligence to tie work responsibilities and tasks to the overall intention for and strategy of the business. Lastly, these leaders understand the difference between climate and culture and have the aptitude to know how and when to intervene in both.
Learning the fundamentals of how people operate and how to inspire them is the easy part. Mastering those skills is leadership intelligence. Turning your leadership intelligence into your competitive talent advantage is the number one way to impact recruitment and retention of the best people.