"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other". John F. Kennedy
Many leaders focus on strategic thinking and planning. But as Daniel Goleman argues in his book The New Leaders, the most effective leaders place a significant part of their attention on the people they lead, harnessing their enthusiasm and unleashing their talent.
There are lots of qualities we look for in a leader – courage, vision, charisma, calm, listening, decisiveness, determination and so on. But above all, we look to leaders for emotional guidance. Indeed a pretty good working definition of the leader is the person in a group who has the greatest impact on the emotions of others. And, of course, this involves more than just having the job title of 'leader'.
Lots of research has confirmed what we intuitively know: a harmonious, motivated team will dramatically outperform a fractious, demoralised team. And I know first hand from many years leading film sets how important a sense of purpose and cohesion are to turning a collection of individuals into a high performing team.
Leadership can be a lonely business. And having a calm and sympathetic space in which to reflect is essential if a leader is to fulfil the two core skills the job demands.
Firstly the ability to see what's really going on. To make the right decisions, and to understand what will foster true commitment in the team members, a leader needs to see past the immediate to form an accurate picture of what's happening for the individuals, in the wider landscape and on the horizon. Emotional awareness is crucial to this kind of insight.
And secondly a leader needs the ability to work with and influence the emotions of others. Your leadership impact is an essential part of what creates a climate of excellence. Leaders are always 'on', with the team continually looking to you for guidance on what's acceptable behaviour and how to respond to challenges. This calls for high degrees of self-awareness as well as wide-ranging and sophisticated behavioural skills.
Using simple theoretical models and lots of practical exercises I help clients sharpen their awareness of emotional dynamics and develop a broad repertoire of influencing and behavioural skills so they can use System 2 thinking to make more intelligent choices about the impact they create, rather than simply allowing System 1 free rein to react to circumstances.
Often the most effective part of my work is the individual feedback I give. One of the hardest things is to know how we are really perceived by those we lead – the stuff that 360 rarely elicits. I aim to be honest and direct and help clients get to grips with the changes they can make that will have a big impact on their own performance and on those they lead.