3 Perspectives to Developing Leadership Effectiveness
By Bernard Desmidt
“The leader who exercises power with honor will work from the inside out, starting with himself.”—Blaine Lee
Looking to develop your leadership effectiveness? Here are three perspectives to consider:
1. “Whole brain” leadership. In the ’80s and early ’90s, much of the thinking around effective leadership centered on developing technical, “left brain” leadership skills. It was believed that business analysis, financial literacy, planning, process improvement, systems thinking, and workflow management was what leadership was about. While these skills are critical to leaders being able to get results, they’re simply not enough to engage followership.
Since the mid-1990s, there has been a marked shift in the understanding of what makes leaders effective. Through an abundance of empirical research, we now know the importance of a leader’s emotional, “right brain” traits, such as creativity, empathy, humility, and intuition.
For organizations to succeed, they need to replace “left brain” leadership with “whole brain” leadership. Daniel Pink in his book, “A Whole New Mind,” argues that we are entering an age where the left-brain capabilities that dominated the Information Age simply will not be enough to survive and thrive in the current Conceptual Age. A leader’s capacity to demonstrate creativity, intuition, humility, and emotional intelligence will be his or her distinguishing success criteria.
2. Leadership is about change. Management is about stability and getting results today, whereas leadership is about change and achieving greater results beyond today. By only doing more of what you do today, you won’t get to where you want to be tomorrow. Change is central to everything effective leaders do.
I use a four-step change model to illustrate how constructive change comes about. First, you become Aware of the situation that needs to be addressed, the opportunities for improvement or the dissatisfaction with the status quo. Awareness precedes change.
The next step is understanding what new thinking, mindsets, and beliefs you need to Adopt in order to change the situation. How we think determines how we behave. So before we can change our behavior, we need to adopt different thinking patterns, beliefs, and mindsets.
Once you’ve changed your thinking, you can Adapt your behavior, and by doing so, Achieve the desired outcome.
3. Leadership is principle centered. The 4 Principles of Effective Leadership represent the mindsets, language, skills, and behaviors of effective leadership, and apply at all times in all places. Modeling these principles will enable you to succeed as a leader. Helping others follow the 4 Principles will entrench leadership as an organizational capability, enabling all to succeed.
The Leadership Model
Applying the change model to effective leadership begins with an awareness of your leadership development priorities—what you need to focus on to realize your leadership potential. Then give yourself the opportunity to understand and adopt the 4 Principles of Effective Leadership. Once you’ve internalized the beliefs and mindsets of effective leadership, you then are able to adapt your leadership behavior and develop new and improved leadership competencies. By demonstrating the behavior of an effective leader, you create an environment or culture in which team members feel more engaged and can flourish.
Download the Leadership Model graphic at the end of this article.
Principle 1: Know Yourself. Learning about leadership begins with learning about self.
“The instrument of leadership is self, and the mastery of the art of leadership comes from mastery of the self.”—Jim Kouzes
Learning about leadership is at its heart, learning about self. It’s about developing a heightened level of self-awareness to understand how to improve your personal effectiveness.
To be an effective leader you need to model what you want others to be and do. But before you can become a role model, you first need to understand how and why you behave the way you do.
To know yourself begins with developing a heightened level of self-awareness in five key areas:
- Values: Knowing and living by what’s important to you.
- Strengths: Knowing and leveraging your strengths to add greater value.
- Emotional intelligence: Relating and interacting with others more effectively.
- Learning styles: Optimizing how you acquire and apply new knowledge and skills.
- Thinking styles: Realizing your potential by using your whole brain.
“Failure to live your values is not a setback, it is a real failure.”—Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen
Values are those things that are most important to you. They represent what you find meaning in being, and purpose in doing.
One of my leadership coaching assignments was working with a lawyer I’ll call Tom. He was a senior associate of a leading legal firm in Sydney. Tom had just been given the opportunity to become a partner in the firm. The firm’s managing partner suggested I coach Tom to help him improve certain aspects of his leadership style.
At our first session together, I asked Tom whether he wanted to be a partner of the firm. He seemed a little insulted by the question and answered, “ Of course—what self-respecting lawyer wouldn’t aspire to be a partner?”
But I sensed he wasn’t telling me his whole truth, so I kept probing. I kept repeating the question, and after about 45 minutes Tom broke down in tears. He told me, “When I think about becoming a partner all I see is a dark tunnel.”
It turns out Tom was very happy being a senior associate. He was totally satisfied with the work he was doing, the hours he worked, and his remuneration. But he knew if he became a partner, he would have to take on much more responsibility, work many more hours, and be accountable for business development.
In his mind, the responsibilities and commitments of being a partner were overwhelming. Sure, there was also the added prestige and income. But Tom valued his work/life balance and time with his family more.
Unfortunately, he’d led his colleagues and family to believe he aspired to be a partner. Now Tom realized he’d been living a lie to himself and everyone else.
But he felt honor bound to become a partner, even though in his heart, he didn’t want to. He was also afraid that if he rejected the offer, he would lose the respect of his colleagues and his wife, and put his career in jeopardy.
Like so many of us do at times, Tom had given in to the temptation to go along with others’ expectations of him. But had he taken the time to clearly identify his values, and then remained true to them, he wouldn’t have found himself in this predicament.
By being true to your values and living a life you choose, you will more likely engage in work that leverages your strengths, and pursue a career of your choice. When you’re aligned with your values you’ll flourish as a leader.
Excerpt from “ Inside-Out Leadership: How to Master the 4 Principles of Leadership Effectiveness and Become the Leader Others Choose to Follow” by Bernard Desmidt (XLIBRIS, 2012). For more information, visit http://amzn.to/Vu0s8j.
Bernard Desmidt is managing director of Exceld, where he helps businesses improve their performance through more effective leadership. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.exceld.com.au