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Emotionally-Intelligent Leadership Challenge Number 9

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Challenge #9 Leadership is no longer the role of a single ‘hero leader’

A connected organisation no longer relies on single ‘hero leaders’ or champions to take on that responsibility solo.  This challenges peoples’ individual egos – but it’s actually a reflection of the reality of complex organisations.leader as superhero

“Everything we’re doing is part of the system.  There is no ‘Archimedean point’ where we’re either failing, or, if we pull harder, we’re going to succeed.” 

(Paul Hawken)

The good news is that the feeling of responsibility is no longer a burden to individual leaders.  And it’s a genuine shift towards a leadership culture.

  • Leaders don’t need to feel isolated or alone
  • Team members know how they contribute and feel valued

I’m not suggesting abrogation of responsibility or accountability.  Simply that the two things don’t have to go hand in hand, as they used to.

Leadership responsibility can rest across many peoples’ shoulders – by having considered discussions and meaningful meetings.  Grappling with the key issues and looking at problems from many perspectives.

Yes, individuals may have accountability for specific technical areas – whether that’s the finances, the IT or the operational challenges.  But that’s not the same as decision-making related to strategic issues.

One CEO of a multi-million turnover organisation sighed deeply as she described a meeting with her Board where they spent half an hour deciding on whether to buy a £50 kettle for the staff common room.

Management techniques such as balanced scorecards, monthly management accounts,  measure inputs and can provide us with indicators of progress.  But it’s by having meaningful conversations – talking over the key points out loud – that we discover what these figures are really telling us.

And then there’s the invisible metrics. 

  • The 5:1 positivity to criticism ratio that rarely gets talked about and never measured.  Yet it’s the invisible glue that holds relationships together – at home and in the workplace.
  • Or the incremental learning rate. When people start to notice the small, yet progressive, steps they make towards excellence each week – their confidence grows, as well as the increased likelihood of success

The value of a discussion or meeting is usually invisible too. 

I typically ask leaders and managers in team events to calculate the costs of their own time being invested in their development – and then multiply it by the number of people in the room.

When people relate time investment to their own income, they’re a lot more likely to value the time they spend.  They’re also more respectful of others’ time.

And they’re less likely to put themselves in the lonely role of the ‘superhero leader’ – increasing their sense of connectedness, trust and teamwork.  Emotionally-Intelligent leadership is about both feeling connected to others, through our shared responsibilities and commitment, as well as feeling responsible and accountable in our own role.


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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