Leadership Intelligence Is What Matters Now

Being an effective leader of people in today’s world seems to be much more complicated than in years past.

In the previous century, for the vast majority, work was approached as a means for survival. The level of employee engagement did not dictate how long they stayed in the role. That’s different today, however. People are always on the look out for more stimulating and rewarding work, as well as inspiring work environments where they can make a difference and grow themselves and their careers.

Global workforce surveys report that highly qualified, motivated people chose to work for companies that build a strong, inspiring culture and that monitor and address both workplace culture and climate issues as they arise. If recruitment and retention of highly qualified, motivated people is one your organization‘s initiatives, leadership intelligence ought to be another. They go hand-in-hand.

Leaders in the early 21st century face unprecedented challenges. They must be able lead three completely different generations of people, all with different operating contexts and outlooks on what work is all about. Today’s leaders must not only understand their competitors for customers, they must also understand their competitors for the talent. 21st century leaders must have well-honed human awareness acumen and call on it moment-by-moment to inspire, enroll and engage their employees.

These leaders must understand the systemic impacts of their company ‘climate’ and be willing to look deeper to understand cultural norms that are impeding agility and innovation. They must have the finesse to weave the day-to-day task work into the big picture and inspire their people to give it their all for the sake of the mission.

Today’s leaders need to understand people at their core like never before.

Leadership intelligence relies on your ability to grow, learn and master new ways to lead people, and there are three tenets to consider when boosting it: self-awareness, executive brain function, and response agility.

1. Self–awareness

Self-awareness begins with the curiosity and courage to hear what works and does not work about your leadership and the culture that exists in the organization. Once you become aware of your competitive talent advantages and your talent barriers from the eyes of your people, you are equipped to take powerful action. Self-awareness allows you to leverage your talent and intervene when and where necessary to remove those personality ticks that are in the way of your true leadership potential.

Culture and climate awareness opens the door for you to see what is really going on and intervene in the cultural norms and barriers that are in the way of employee engagement, innovation and synchronicity. When you are curious and courageous you begin to ask the tough questions and hear the tough answers. When you do this, you begin to see what “blind spots” may be hidden from your view and you learn what you to that sabotages or impedes your leadership effectiveness.

Self-awareness is the doorway to emotional intelligence and it gives you access to real improvement as well as personal and professional development. Self-awareness is not always easy. In almost every case with every human being there are aspects of personality or behavior that has a negative impact on others, and with an authentic look in the mirror an aware leader can begin to take responsibility for that negative impact. Being aware of our negative behaviors, alone, is insufficient. Taking responsibility for the impact of those behaviors, asking for forgiveness and working to shift those limiting ways of being is where leadership intelligence begins. Once a leader has mastered self-awareness they optimize their ability to leverage situational awareness, which is fundamental to assessing, evaluating and intervening if need be, in the ebbs and flow of the climate and culture of their organization.

2. Executive brain function

Optimizing your executive brain function is a secret weapon of leadership intelligence. The left hemisphere of our brain is where our organization, categorizing, reasoning, and strategizing come from. It is in the right hemisphere where brainstorming, innovation, collaboration, and relationship abilities are housed. The problem is most leaders learn over time to depend and lean on one hemisphere and become complacent in allowing that hemisphere to run the show. This limits their ability to navigate through storms and soar to new heights.

When a leader is aware of their goals and visions as well as in control (conscious) of their thoughts, responses, and well-being — and the leader leverages both hemispheres of their executive brain through right/left hemisphere integration — their leadership intelligence and effectiveness skyrockets. When a leader is utilizing all of their capacities, they see things they might not see and are more equipped to respond to climate and culture barriers and infringements.

3. Response agility

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Response agility is the ability to respond in an appropriate, controlled manner—regardless of the current stress or breakdown the leader is facing. Being agile with response and reaction is key to effective leadership. Flat line reaction is not appropriate for all situations. Screaming and yelling is not appropriate for any situation. Anger and frustration might be needed at times, and curiosity and collaboration may be needed at other times.

Agility in your response means that you have trained yourself to think before reacting. Effective leaders ask themselves, “What is needed now?” This has everything to do with situational awareness and appropriate reaction. When stress hits the fan at work, a leader who has a handle on how they respond, and can coach others in this manner, is a leader who is positively contributing to a healthy company climate and culture. Response agility takes discipline, awareness, new habit formation and commitment and is a core component of leadership intelligence.

Being a mission-driven leader who inspires people to give their best in service of a compelling vision is a key element of today’s most successful leaders. They know that most people they hire are not coming to work simply for a paycheck; these leaders have a keen awareness that many people they hire are coming to work to fulfill their individual purpose in a way that supports the organizational purpose. Today’s highly effective leaders understand how to inspire esprit de corps and leverage their communications with people to do so. They utilize their people intelligence to tie work responsibilities and tasks to the overall intention for and strategy of the business. Lastly these leaders understand the difference between climate and culture and have the aptitude to know how and when to intervene in both.

Learning the fundamentals of how people operate and how to inspire them is the easy part. Mastering those skills is leadership intelligence. Turning your leadership intelligence into your competitive talent advantage is the number one way to impact recruitment and retention of the best people.