|Inner Qualities of Leadership|
Extracts from a talk given
to the City Women's Network
We might or might not want to be CEO of a FTSE 100 company, but whatever the job title, as leaders we will surely want to be known, to have a reputation, for certain characteristics, certain qualities.
What defines us as a leader are not only the choices we make but how we are as people. Take Marjorie Scardino who, as she took up her role at Pearson, faced a potential embezzlement scandal. Contrary to advice given, she held a press conference to make known all the facts and how she intended to deal with the matter. These actions identified her as someone prepared to be honest, despite a difficult and potentially damaging situation.
Today, if we were to draw up a shopping list of leadership qualities we'd be likely to include qualities to do with relational skills. Leadership is very much about creating a bridge between the people and the organisation. But relational skills can't be bought off the shelf - they come from within the person, and are grounded in self-understanding first.
Take the quality of courage. It shares the same linguistic root as the French for heart, "coeur". Courage is doing something despite your head telling you not to - courage is a quality that comes from the heart. Leadership today favours a balancing of head and heart, stepping away from ego, serving others.
"Once we start delving into being rather than doing, we are confronted by intangible and perhaps unfashionable concepts of duty, service, example, motivation and so on. These lie at the heart of effective leadership." Lieutenant-General Sir John Deverell OBE
There is also a place for humility in leadership. Adversity is a good teacher of humility - when things fail, go wrong, or fall away. Then we're brought face to face with our vulnerability. People might prefer to side step this feeling through blaming others or finding suitable distractions - but facing one's vulnerability is a great strengthener. It reminds us of our humanity and the humanity of others.
Bottom line thinking
Bottom line business
imperatives remain to a great extent in a nineteenth century model of
power, conquering native people and raw materials. As James Hillman puts
it in his book "Kinds of Power" the hero [read Leader] is victor, peak
performer, driving forwards and in command. Hillman outlines the commonly
accepted definition of economic power as Efficiency and Growth. However
the problem is that, taken to extremes, these definitions pander to a love
of money and contribute to short term thinking and blinkered vision. They
are not to do with balancing head and heart.
"Some say knowledge is
power, but that is not true. Character is power." Sai Baba
IQ, EQ and SQ
Leadership and power is not just
about IQ either. With the growing emphasis on social capital, self
awareness, and appropriate and inclusive behaviour, the concept of EQ -
emotional intelligence - has found its place. But IQ and EQ are not the
Our attitudes and
assumptions colour the way we see the world, but where do they come from?
They begin in early life and are built on core beliefs that we hold about
ourselves in relation to the world around us. A core belief is rather like
a narrative that we've written about ourselves. It can be highly positive
and energised or it can actually hold us back. It is useful to understand
how this core belief influences us, whether its one that urges us on or
undermines us. Imagine the working day of the person whose narrative told
them, "never ever stop because if you do someone will overtake you." Not
only were they running themself towards an imminent heart attack but the
effect on the organisation was to create a culture without trust or
Imagine a crystal glass of
clear, pure water. Imagine yourself at the start of the day as this glass
of water. Then picture the same glass at the end of the day - are you
cloudy, knocked over, or literally "drained to the dregs"? Equally, you
and the glass, can only hold so much.
Think of the spectrum of energy that moves from power, ego and carelessness to a full range of what is authentic and calls upon the best in people.
Take a minute to consider the different energies inherent in this spectrum and where you want to be on it:
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