Imagine the head of an organization who is sharp, intelligent and articulate but most people can’t seem to get along with her. She does not connect well with people and she does not see it as her lack of ability, but thinks that others do not “get” her.
Daniel Goleman, in his groundbreaking work Emotional Intelligence, has raised awareness of the importance of leaders having emotional intelligence if they are to be successful.
Who are you?
What comes to mind when you read that question? I imagine you are thinking about your name, age, your family background and your career. Usually when asked that question, someone wants to know something along those lines.
The same question can be asked but with deeper meaning. This time think of the question in the context of the person you are inside that affects who you are on the outside.
While it’s true that leaders are not born they are made, it is also true that successful leaders all have some things in common. Talk with any successful leader and you will find these four essential leadership skills they all have in common.
Recently, as I coached a leader, we discussed how difficult life had been over the past year but was now on the upswing. I then asked her to reflect on what had made the last year so tough and why was the present different?
The leader is involved currently in something that is very new and exciting, and she is passionate about it. So I asked the question, “How much of a difference is your improved situation tied to your involvement in something that you’re passionate about and is new and exciting?” The leader was quick to point out that although this new and exciting thing did help, it was not as big a reason as one might think.
If you knew one question that would have prevented you from making a major life mistake, would you have asked it?
What if you discovered that question today? Would you use it to help avoid mistakes in your decisions going forward?
I think I just heard your response: “Well, duh!”
The question is available to you, and you can start using it immediately.
Have you ever had the experience of being in a team meeting and felt the need to speak up but decided against it because you felt you would appear unsupportive of the leader or the team? With your desire of maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict, you decided to hold your piece. That my friend is your run-in with groupthink.
I am the kind of person who enjoys being in the presence of people who see life from my point of view. When I am with these people, I am happy, calm and in control. No tension or emotion is rising because all our conversations are agreeable. I don’t have to think outside my box because everyone is in the box with me, no disagreements. I like living like that. I suspect the same is true for you.
But if I want to grow as a person, and more so as a leader, I cannot afford to surround myself with only those who see things like I do. I must have some people around me who see things differently. People who can challenge me in my ways of thinking and doing things. This can be uncomfortable, painful and difficult. But this is necessary if you are going to grow and develop.
Leadership is first about those you lead and secondly about the results you achieve. So, are you focused on the task to be accomplished or the people under your leadership who accomplish the task? Many successful leaders will tell you that it was only when they became people-focused that they were able to achieve success.
Some leaders hold to a popular idea which says, “When you show up for work leave your personal problems at the door.” If this were possible, you would not have embezzlements, affairs, fights, drugs and alcohol abuse in the workplace. As a result of this kind of thinking, many leaders do not want to know about the personal struggles of those they lead. Very often these same leaders are seen as uncaring and demanding.
Good and successful leaders are approachable leaders. Their followers find it easy to approach them with whatever concerns they may have. Good leaders don’t hear things from third parties, their followers are comfortable with approaching them directly.
Approachability comes over time as you, the leader, intentionally create a culture of trust and openness so your followers can feel safe and confident in approaching you. There are a number of things you can be intentional about in your leadership that will make you an approachable leader.
It is one thing to know thyself; it is quite another to embrace what you know about yourself. You really cannot effectively make yourself known to others if you have not embraced who you are.
The struggle to embrace the real you may have come from a number of different places.