There are many people who believe that good leadership is simply about common sense. And, to a large extent, that is true. Good leadership requires abilities and behaviours such as demonstrating vision, passion, authenticity and the ability to engage others towards a common goal, writes Annie McKee.
by Annie Mckee
If good leadership is easy, why do many of us find ourselves wondering, ‘Why were many of my bosses so bad?’ Most of these bosses were not evil or stupid − quite the contrary. In fact, our experience of leaders has supported an optimistic view: most leaders intend to lead responsibly in the service of the common good. Very few get up in the morning intending to do harm to the people who depend on them. Why, then, do good leaders fall short of their potential? It might have something to do with common beliefs about what leaders should be and do. Sadly, a few myths about leadership are widely held to be true. These myths drive leaders to adopt practices that ruin cultures and discourage people to the point that it is unlikely − even impossible − for people to sustain performance over time. As we look at each myth, consider what effect these myths and truths about good leadership have on you.
Myth 1: Intelligence is good enough Clearly you have to be talented, intelligent and experienced to lead a complex organisation or institution. You cannot succeed if you do not understand stakeholders, the environment, your technology or the numbers. But this is not enough. The research tells us that cognitive intelligence – IQ − is simply a baseline requirement. In other words, you have to be smart just to get in the door. Competencies related to emotional and social intelligence − not IQ, university degrees or technological experience − are the most important factors in distinguishing great leadership from average leadership.
Emotional intelligence enables leaders to deal with their own internal responses, moods and states of mind. Social intelligence informs how we understand and interact with others. Leaders who have developed emotional and social intelligence are effective because they act in ways that leave the people around them feeling stronger and more capable. These leaders manage themselves effectively under stress and ambiguous circumstances. Intensely in touch with what their people are thinking and feeling, emotionally intelligent leaders motivate and inspire through sharing hope and an optimistic view of the future. At best, they create an environment that is exciting, challenging and supportive − one that can sustain collective success over the long term.
As a resonant leader, you need to pay particular attention to your emotional state and how you affect people. Your power over people is important, and they know it. They are watching you all the time, judging your feelings and moods, and trying to predict what you need, want and will do. This leads us to the next most common myth − feelings do not belong at work and the leader’s emotions are not important in determining organisational culture and performance.