Over the past few months, I have been following the discussion of leadership in the blogosphere. There are countless entries with titles like “5 tips to become a better leader” … or 10 or 20 tips. The torrent of such articles is overwhelming. Only on LinkedIn last week, there were more than 5000 posts on the topic.
What has struck me is that the vast majority of these articles focus primarily on the EQ (Emotional Quotient) side of things. They talk about listening better, showing more empathy, praising frequently, being more generous, giving freedom, being more caring, being passionate and so forth. It sometimes seems like the authors are shouting in an echo chamber – with the same messages, reverberating back and forth. And many of the messages don’t go much beyond the importance of being nice.
Yes, EQ is important, indeed very important, but it takes more, much more, to be an effective leader. Effective leaders must:
· Precisely articulate the problems to be solved / the opportunities to pursue
· Ensure problems are structured well, so they can be solved effectively
· Guide problem solving so that the organization uncovers insightful, value-adding solutions
· Set high standards for individuals and for teams and assert these clearly
· Set meaningful and measurable targets and ensure that results are tracked and followed up
· Create a sense of urgency
· Hold people accountable
· Give clear feedback, including tough messages
· Identify and challenge assumptions
· Be courageous in uncovering and addressing conflicts.
Why is there so little discussion of these “hard” topics in the leadership forums?
In my experience, it is most effective to develop the “soft” side of leadership and the “hard” in tandem. Executives often have opportunities for growth in both areas. It is the balanced development of hard and soft leadership skills that makes for exceptional leadership. And here, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It takes maturity to deliver a tough message with compassion. It takes wisdom to address conflict in a way that heals. It takes calm confidence to give feedback that encourages. It takes a centered mindset to raise difficult topics and hold up the mirror. It takes clarity on values to say “no” respectfully.
Where do you have the greatest opportunity to grow? How can you blend the development of your hard and soft leadership skills to unleash your potential as a person and as a leader … thereby unleashing the potential of the people you lead?