The LeadershipZone for better leadership

Get into the leadershipzone – practical tools and ideas you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager

The LeadershipZone: the four zones

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The complex challenges of work, home, family and social pressures, mean that leadership is more important than ever.  As we go into the new year, I thought it might be helpful to describe the four zones and key elements within them at length, exploring what it means to be a resilient, emotionally-intelligent leader.

The LeadershipZone Model

The arrows separating the four zones link to emotional energy: high and low (top and bottom respectively), positive and negative (right and left).  The LeadershipZone is an environment of positive ‘high’ or dynamic energy: a place where things get achieved in a supportive and professional work environment.

The Forton Group Model of Leadership

The role of the leader is both to create and maintain that performance environment, supporting the team to deliver successfully – by accessing resources from the wider organisation where necessary – and enabling individuals to see how they contribute to that success.

The LeadershipZone is about personal success, team success and between different teams; successful organisations and for the wider society in which that organisation operates.

The LeadershipZone is what ‘good’ looks like; where people feel that their work is meaningful, that they are sufficiently challenged and have the resources they need to get the job done.

The Renewal Zone

Maintaining positive emotional energy is about taking out enough time to sleep, eat, relax and socialise.  Whether that’s physical exercise – dance, team sports, walking or running, relaxation with family or friends, or solitary activities such as reading, studying, prayer or meditation.  Getting enough renewal time is within our control as individuals, although it’s tempting to  allow others to crowd out our renewal space.

The Renewal Zone is lower pressure than the LeadershipZone – where the need to deliver creates sustained high energy.  Sports can also be dynamic and high-energy, but they live in the Renewal Zone because their purpose here is to revive and restore your energy.  The Renewal Zone is about your personal revival: it’s in your control.  It’s vital that you know what works for you and make space for it in your life.

As a Leader, it’s important to know your team well enough to be aware of what renews and revives them.  It may be as simple as ensuring that the working day has enough clear breaks in it – for people to get away from their desks or place of work; to get out into the sunshine, or eat their lunch in a relaxing atmosphere.  For others it’s about leaving work on time and getting home to be with the family.

The Drama Zone

The Leadership and Renewal Zones are the positive emotional sides of the matrix, but there is a dark side.  The Drama Zone refers to the high energy, yet negative approaches people take, typically when things start to go wrong.  Misunderstandings occur, project timelines slip, or financial targets are missed: these things happen.  In the LeadershipZone they are opportunities for learning and improvement; in the Drama Zone attitudes of blame, finger-pointing, disrespect, cynicism and contempt are allowed to flourish.

As professionalism diminishes, the team slips into the Drama Zone, characterised by a win-lose mentality, where lose-lose may be seen as preferable to the idea of any party gaining the upper hand.  Bullying, harassment, racism and other forms of negative workplace behaviours take hold. These negative behaviours chip away at successful performance and drain the team of physical, emotional and financial resources.

While it may seem that the role of the Leader in this zone is to sort out the problems, there are inherent dangers in this.  Being a ‘rescuer’, heroically wading in, metaphorically knocking heads together and sorting out the situation may appear to be a good fix, but there’s a risk of falling prey to the laws of diminishing returns.

Resilient Leaders use a range of leadership styles and flex these to suit the situation.  They apply emotional intelligence to neutralise conflict and promote professional relationships.  Poor leaders display lack of trust, reluctance to delegate and micro-management behaviours, in preference to addressing the underlying issues.

Recognising the Drama Triangle is itself the first step to shifting the focus back to the LeadershipZone.  The underlying culture needs to be addressed if the issues aren’t to repeat themselves and the Leader’s role is to focus on what good looks and and remind people what it feels like for the whole team to win.

The Burnout Zone

If the Drama Zone is allowed to take hold, sooner or later someone falls into the Burnout Zone.  This may show up in the workplace or at home, and will be exacerbated by life experiences that are outside anyone’s control.  The tipping point may be ill-health, loss of a pet, or the death of a loved-one, but the Burnout Zone is a place of multiple-stressors, low energy and a prevailing attitude of negativity.

Recovery from the Burnout Zone is possible, but usually involves significant time, money, major change or restructuring.  This may include changes in lifestyle, workplace, employer or boss; it may include exploring deep-seated behavioural patterns with the help of a therapist or professional counsellor.

Good Leadership in this Zone requires high empathy and listening skills; creating a pathway back into work when the time is right, or co-creating an appropriate exit strategy.

The LeadershipZone in 2012

The purpose of this blog is to support leaders, coaches and those who support organisational and leadership development, in maintaining positive energy and creating effective, professional workplaces for people to feel challenged and valued in.  The LeadershipZone is a place of dynamic energy where resilient leaders feel equipped to use their emotional intelligence and deal with the ups and downs of life in a complex and challenging world.  I wish you success in 2012, and look forward to hearing about your biggest challenges and how you overcome them.


Author: Helen Caton Hughes

Leadership and Team Coach based on inspirational and practical tools. Works with leaders around the world; trains coaches to International Coach Federation standards. Passionate about finding best ways for leaders to inspire themselves and get the best from their teams

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