Leadership Competencies For Success

How do we prepare our leaders for today’s world where collaboration with others who may have different worldviews and experiences will be necessary to succeed?

Three leadership competencies receiving a lot of attention these days are: inclusiveness, authenticity, and vulnerability. There is proven overlap of these competencies. Authentic leaders are noted for their “Emotional Intelligence,” which correlates closely with empathy, or the ability to sense other’s feelings and their perspectives. Authentic leaders openly share their perspective honestly and encourage others to do the same. Authentic leaders welcome opposing viewpoints and give them serious consideration.

Inclusive leaders look forward to the opportunity to include and learn from multiple perspectives, including those perspectives that may vary from the leaders’ background.

Vulnerable leaders, as we have learned from Brene Brown (https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown), must be willing to accept that they do not have all the answers and be open to sharing their concerns.

How do we prepare our leaders for this new world where collaboration with others who may have different worldviews and experiences will be necessary to succeed? How can we in Learning and Development (L&D) prepare a trajectory for these leadership competencies?

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

Every time I enter a room to give a speech or workshop, I have a hidden agenda. I am excited by the prospect of finding the person in the room who can teach me something important I do not know. Most often, that person is someone whose life experiences, worldview, philosophy of life, and dimensions of diversity are least like my own.

How can we replicate this in our leadership development programs? One of the most profound ways to experience vulnerability and practice authenticity and inclusion is to take a short- or long-term assignment in another culture. Nothing can be more enriching than the opportunity to be a “stranger in a strange land.” Such an undertaking should be done with a good dose of cross-cultural coaching or training. These experiences, even for as short as three months, can have a profound impact on a leader’s growth, as long as the leader is going into the assignment with an open mind, and a desire and willingness to learn and appreciate how things are done in the other culture. If leaders go on international assignments with the idea that their purpose is to get the locals to learn to accept their way of doing things, they should not bother to go. Most often, these leaders are resented and treated to passive-aggressive behavior by those they came to “help.”

ERGS, MENTORSHIP, AND COMMUNITY PROJECTS

One does not have to travel to another country to achieve the same competencies of inclusiveness, authenticity, and vulnerability. Think of the hundreds of opportunities leaders have to expand their perspectives. Many leaders become members or sponsors of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that represent groups who have an affinity different than that of the leader. For example, a male joining a women’s ERG, a single person joining a parents’ ERG, or an agnostic joining a religious affinity group. Such experiences are risky but can be critical learning experiences. In fact, many leaders who join such groups become advocates, mentors, and bridges for these groups and their members and are seen as an ally of the affinity group.

Dedicating time to be a mentor to someone who is from a group that is underrepresented in leadership positions is another way leaders can work on their authenticity, inclusion, and vulnerability. A truly teachable moment is when an executive and an employee from an underrepresented group can each share when they feel vulnerable.

Joining a community project with a diverse membership is yet another way to gain exposure to others in a meaningful way as long as the leader does not go in thinking he or she has all the solutions. Keeping an open mind, listening seriously to others, being willing to show you do not have the answers (being vulnerable,) and being empathetic can result in new perspectives, creativity, and innovation.

Those of us who train, coach, and lead need to examine new and innovative learning experiences to provide leaders with the opportunity to build these competencies, which will make them better leaders—and better people. If you have any creative recommendations or resources for building authenticity, inclusion, and vulnerability, send them to me at ngoodman@global-dynamics.com to be included in future columns on this topic.

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at ngoodman@globaldynamics.com. For more information, visit http://www.globaldynamics.com.

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