Great leadership is all about aligning brains in purpose and actions. President Obama’s campaign and influence on millions of people worldwide provide great examples of alignment for leaders today of inspiration, optimism, empathy, self-control and many other emotional intelligence leadership competencies.
If you don't consciously manage your brain and your people's brains today with our current economy, the result can be fear, apprehension and confusion. Their brains lose IQ points and you gain scared, defocused and unproductive people.
Leadership development can be the answer. Dr. Relly Nadler, psychologist, Executive Coach and author of the Leaders' Playbook has a multitude of emotional intelligence strategies and plays to not only stay in the game but build a strong leadership alignment, culture and bench strength to keep winning. This article will focus on leadership development research, leadership errors and how to build executive succession programs using emotional intelligence and brain neuroscience strategies.
As we all know this is a unique and scary time for our businesses, organizations and economy. Our new president Obama speaks of hope and the promise of change and the stock market nose dives more than at any other inauguration. We all fear what may be the next steps into quicksand and it is our leaders that can steady us as we move into the unknown.
How can leadership development help at this time?
The Center for Creative Leadership (2009) has stated numerous in-depth studies have reached the same conclusion: Organizations that invest in leadership development perform better than those that don't. In short they found investment in leadership development programs:
Bersin & Associates, an independent research firm, found: It is hard to find a company which has survived many economic cycles that does not have a (sophisticated) leadership development strategy in place. (CCL, 2009)
In a study in Harvard business Review by Laurie Bassie and Daniel McMurrer showed a strong link between leadership skill and the bottom line. The study looked at 11 publicly traded financial service firms and their stock price. They found that companies with higher scores for their investment in human capital delivered stock returns that were five times higher than that of companies with less emphasis on human capital. (CCL, 2009)
What is your plan to replace not only the talent drain but the emotional intelligence drain when your boomers retire? There are 78 million baby boomers who want to retire in the next 5-10 years and only 46 million Generation X workers to replace them. Each generation's reliance on technologies lowers their emotional intelligence, which is understanding and managing yourself and understanding and managing others. This will be explored further below.
Right Management Consultants, a major Outplacement firm, found that 77% of companies say they don't have enough successors to their current senior managers." (Colvin, Fortune Magazine, 2006).
Succession planning is taking your leadership development program specifically to the top leaders in the organization to allow for a smooth transition when key leaders retire or leave the organization. Often leadership development programs focus on level below the senior team. The senior team's executive decision making, alignment and teamwork is arguably the most important process in the organization. Is your executive team process well developed and refined?
Myron Jones, President of NMB Technologies Corporation, has his top executives all in executive coaching to help develop a coaching culture within the organization. He states, "Leadership Development goes through all levels of the company, it helps leaders manage resources and develop their self-mastery at work and home. If a leader is happy it translates to happier employees and bottom line results."
If one key manager leaves without having a successor to fill the void, you have enhanced the organizational fear and panic. It is not just the knowledge that is lost but the relationships, mentoring, motivation and calming influence that a leader has on their direct reports brains and thus their performance and retention. We all know people leave their boss more than their job. But when their boss leaves, the void can cause a ripple effect or even a tidal wave in the organization.
Smart and strategic succession plans have not only the people identified to step up but the critical skills needed to fill this new position. They then have a sophisticated program to train and coach these individual to be prepared to step in seamlessly.
Problem: Inherent Leadership Errors
There are six inherent errors or problems we have found in developing leaders in organizations and as a result just about every leader we have worked with has under performed. These are all missed opportunities for brain alignment.
1. Generalization of skill error: Leaders are promoted for reasons other than leadership, either technical skills or being a good individual performer. "You can manage yourself therefore you will know how to manage others." This error can leave new managers and leaders unprepared and set up for failure, as a new set of skills is required to be a successful leader.
2. Spotlight error: Leaders don't grasp that they are under the spotlight 24/7 and therefore everything they say and do either contributes to their credibility or weakens them as a leader. Also leaders have a spotlight when used judiciously to focus on the people's accomplishment and strengths can build a strong team and culture. Leaders may not realize they have a spotlight or use it to focus mostly on what is wrong versus what is right and working. Jones, president of NMB Technologies states, "As a leader you are in a glass box. All the good you do in a year can in one selfish and undisciplined moment be undone and you lose all the emotional equity that you have built up."
3. Influence error: Leaders consistently underestimate how much influence they have over their direct reports and team. They often are just doing their job but don't fully appreciate the view and expectations their people put on them as their leader now. Leaders are the emotional thermostat for their team, as their emotions are contagious and too often they are blind to their emotions and their impact on others.
4. Neglect error: The tasks of leadership are often relegated or neglected in favor of the crisis or hot issue of the day. The basic leadership functions of giving direction, feedback, delegating, and coaching are easily put off till the leader has time or finishes their urgent tasks. These leadership moments don't take long but when put off contribute to brain misalignment.
5. Style alignment error: Leaders may often use the style that is most comfortable for them versus using a leadership style that fits for the situation and the person. They may over manage or not step in enough to give proper supervision and acknowledgment. Leaders need to take the time to know the strength and weaknesses of their people and develop their tool kit to match their leadership to best foster the results they are looking for.
6. Focus error: Followers expect and want their leaders to be well intentioned, have well thought out plans, be clear in direction, and know how the followers can best contribute to the vision. When the leader is rushed, has not taken time to truly reflect or manage their emotions, the impact on their followers can be confusion, indecisions or wrong decisions, feeling criticized and less trust in their leader. Great leaders give their followers a clear target to hit with guidelines and resources to make sure they are successful.
The EQ Succession Solution
Emotional Intelligence or known as EQ or EI, is a series of 18 or so leadership competencies that help leaders to perform in the top 10%. There has been extensive research on these competencies by the Hay Group, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Cary Cherniss and the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in the workplace. A few examples point to the power of Emotional Intelligence for leaders.
I.Q., or Intelligence Quotient, and technical expertise help you get your job. E.I., or Emotional Intelligence, is what makes you a Star Performer. I.Q. contributes only 4-10% toward a leader's success. But the higher up you are in an organization, the more Emotional Intelligence determines your leadership success, contributing to as much as 85-90%. (Daniel Goleman, 1998)
For 515 senior executives analyzed by the search firm Egon Zehnder International, those who were primarily strong in Emotional Intelligence were more likely to succeed than those who were strongest in either relevant previous experience or I.Q. (Cherniss and Goleman, 2001)
The executives selected based on emotional competence were far more likely to perform in the top third based on salary bonuses for performance. In addition, division leaders with these competencies outperformed their targets by 15-20%. Those who lacked them under-performed by almost 20%. (McClelland, 1999)
The EQ Competencies and Obama
To be star in your organization you don't have to be great in all 18 competencies, but usually 9-10 across the four clusters of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. These competencies and behaviors have been identified over the last 30 years by behavioral interviews compiled by the Hay Group and popularized by the work of Goleman, Boyatzis and Cherniss.
To highlight a few competencies let's look at what competencies we have seen with Barack Obama, our new forty fourth president.
Self Control: A star or someone who exceeds expectations responds calmly most of the time. We have seen the drastic difference between McCain and Obama during the debates. Time magazine in an article "The Temperament Factor," had called them Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice. We also have seen Obama described as "No Drama Obama."
Why is self control important for a leader?
David McCullough a historian is quoted in the article about temperament as saying, "You can call it balance. You can call it a sense of proportion. You can call it maturity, good judgment...One of the clearest lessons of history is that there's no such thing as the foreseeable future, and particularly in traumatic times such as we have now, temperament is of the up most importance."
Obama and his aids have said he doesn't get too high or too low. He describes that "as temperamental strength."
Goleman has introduced the term "Amygdala Hijack" in his writings when a person is reactive, very emotional and usually has a fight or flight response. We know from brain neuroscience that there is an inverse relationship between the activation of the amygdala and the activation of the prefrontal cortex that has houses executive reasoning, logic and rational. When the amygdala is active then the prefrontal cortex is less active. What that means is there is a temporary loss of cognitive functioning or IQ points. So less emotional control begets less IQ and may lead to poor judgment. We have all seen it and experienced it. We hope though that our leaders can manage their emotions and thus make great decisions for us.
The good news though, this is temporary and when a person can label what is going on for them they can bring back cognitive functioning and reduce the amygdala arousal. If your brain is calm then there is good chance your teams' brains will follow your lead. How good are you or your leaders at managing your hijacks?
A star in empathy sees other perspectives and understands others. Obama's multi racial and multi cultural background allows him to relate, empathize and truly understand others. What is the behavior that highlights empathy? You not only have to see others perspectives but have to SAY others perspective. In his speeches and now working for support of both the democrats and the republicans, you repeatedly hear him state what he knows people are going through be it their hardships or oppositions to some of his policies. People have to know you know what they are experiencing to build empathy. The brain is wired to connect with other brains, stating their perspective allows this connection to take hold. Do you or your leaders regularly and consistently say what others perspectives are?
Inspirational Leadership and Change Leadership
Stars communicate a compelling vision and personally lead and champion change. We have see Obama do these regularly in giving people hope and "Yes We Can" to change. When this happens the multitude of brains align for a common cause. These are hard to do for leaders in organizations, but like all the EI Competencies they can be learned. Are you or your leaders a champion regularly for your organizational changes?
EQ Succession development components
1. Assessment: These EI competencies are usually identified with 360 degree feedback that matches the leader's assessment of their strengths with their boss, peers, direct report and others.
2. Plan: A development plan with a coach then ensues focusing on key competencies that help the executive grow.
3. Executive coaching: Ongoing individual coaching to capitalize on strengths and add tools for leader to implement.
4. Involvement: A leaders' team, direct reports and boss are usually involved with meetings to give support and hold accountability. The "more oars in the water" moving in same in the same direction the faster the leader will develop.
5. Ongoing feedback and assessments: These are the metrics to help the executive see their progress and recalibrate and readjust their development plans.
The Emotional Intelligence competencies can be learned with a series of "micro-initiatives." Understanding yourself and others can help align brains to bring about macro changes in your organization.
Dr. Relly Nadler is CEO for True North Leadership, Inc. and author of the Leaders' Playbook: How to Apply Emotional Intelligence-Keys to Great Leadership. For more information and FREE EI Assessments go to: www.truenorthleadership.com
Boyatzis, R.E., McKee, A. Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion. Boston Mass.: Harvard Business Press, 2005
Center for Creative Leadership, Driving Performance: Why Leadership Development Matters in Difficult Times. January 2009
Cherniss, C. and Goleman, D. The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
Colvin, G. Catch a Rising Star, Fortune Magazine February 6, 2006
Gibbs, N. The Temperament Factor: Who's Best Suited for the Job? Time magazine, October 15, 2008
Goleman, D. Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. and McKee, A. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
Hay Group. Inventory of Leadership Styles and Organizational Climate. Survey Certification material. Boston, MA: 2003.
McClelland, D. C. (1999). Identifying competencies with behavioral-event interviews. Psychological Science, 9(5), 331-339.