As I started to write this article I wanted to call it the Mindful Leader but this brought to mind images of North Korean leaders. So its an article about leadership and what leaders should focus upon.
Ask yourself two questions. Who is the leader in my organisation and who is the most influential person? It’s quite common that the answers to these two questions may be very different. The person that stimulates, encourages, connects, motivates, listens too, energises may not be the leader. The leader may have become aloof and removed
Since the financial crisis of 2007/8 and in the decade before that there has been a growth in command and control style of leadership. The call went out for leaders who could cut costs and extract value. And this has come at a heavy price.
Daniel Goleman, the Emotional Intelligence guru has said, “the common cold of leadership is poor listening”. With ever shortening deadlines, increased customer expectations, a heightened competitive environment and increased a huge increase in data, a leader can be left not knowing where to turn. In such an environment the safest place for a command and control leader is back to the security of goal focus and ridged top down management.
Successful leaders need to be able to focus on four critical areas:
- Exploitation – extracting the maximum value from current products and services
- Exploration – awareness of the competitive environment, so that they can prepare for challenges and take advantage of opportunities
- Focusing on the culture and vibe of the organisation to ensure that they are listening to their team – picking up concerns and being able to harness great ideas
- Self awareness – understanding their impact upon others
Each of these skills is essential to good leadership but require very different neural pathways. A great leader can move seamlessly between one style of working and another. The leader who spends too much time on any one area, at the expense of the others, will have difficulty engaging and harnessing the collective energy and focus of the organisation. This balancing act requires great mindfulness.
A leader needs to be able to see what others cannot see. When a leader focuses upon a something she gives it meaning. But is it the right thing to attend to? Will it bring value to the organisation and pull the team together. And once the collective attention of the organisation has been placed in the subject, the challenge of a leader is to retain that attention through powerful, uplifting and engaging stories.
The great balancing act requires a leader to have a wide range of emotional intelligence skills including being empathetic, sensing their affect on others, good team work, heightened listening skills and cooperation.
A recent Accenture study of CEOs came up with one over arching factor that was an essential part of the successful leaders tool kit – self awareness.
Just think back to the performance of ex CEO of BP, Tony Hayward . After a long delay in responding in person to the Gulf of Mexico tragedy he turned up on a local beach and said to the gathered press group, “Nobody wants this over more than I do. I want my life back” . No mention of the deaths of BP staff and the suffering of their families, no mention of the environmental catastrophe, no mention of the economic hardship for local fishermen…”I want my life back”….
A leader must be authentic. A leader must listen. A leader must be humble and know that he serves his employees, shareholders and the wider community.