In more than 25 years of enabling business leaders to pioneer successful and sustainable change, I have concluded that leadership requires three core, critical skills:
- The ability to deliver results
- The ability to influence, motivate and empower people i.e., emotional intelligence
- The ability to build extraordinary leadership teams.
Poor leaders have none of these skills. Extraordinary leaders possess all three, in abundance.
In addition, strong leaders are focused on the delivery of sustainable outcomes; they have honed their influencing skills and worked on their emotional intelligence (knowing that when it comes to leadership, EQ trumps IQ hands down) and they know that 21st century leadership is a team game, not a solo pursuit.
They also realise that every one of these attributes requires continual development. The future of their careers and organisations depends upon it.
Introducing the Chequerboard of Leadership
When it comes to the first two attributes of leadership (delivery and EQ), each type of leader between the two extremes of woeful and extraordinary can be plotted on a simple matrix that I call the Chequerboard of Leadership.
Why is it a chequerboard? Because a leader’s position on the board isn’t set in stone. No matter which square a leader may occupy today, they’re not imprisoned in that cell forever. They can move – preferably upwards and to the right – if they’re aware of their position on the board and have the desire to change.
Each square exists at all levels of the organisation. After all, leadership today is not about hierarchy, it is about influence. We are all leaders.
Let’s take a closer look…
Leaders in The Disaster Zone would be considered irredeemable in their current role. But those in The Chaos Creators section or The Lost Tribe square can still change and develop themselves to become better leaders.
Those in the light green squares are the high potential leaders. And in the yellow middle square, within The Engine Room, live the leaders and managers that can sometimes be taken for granted – yet they’re the backbone of the business. It’s the most populous square and contains many individuals that could best be described as a safe pair of hands. But it’s also occupied by a host of hidden leaders whose development would deliver substantial returns for the business if they had the chance.
So, where would you place your exec on the board? Which square would each member of your organisation’s leadership team fall into? And what about yourself? Where would other people place you – and why?
Introducing the Spectrum of Leadership Teams
Now, let’s look at the third critical trait of extraordinary leaders – their ability to build extraordinary teams.
I believe leadership teams exist on a spectrum, from Dysfunctional to Extraordinary, at all levels of an organisation.
Sadly, companies, departments or divisions with Dysfunctional leadership teams never live up to their full potential. They create problematic cultures that mirror the tribal, warring behaviour at the top of the organisation. And they consistently under-perform and are eventually replaced, starting with the head.
Dysfunctional teams can be transformed, though, provided the leader is ready, willing and able to do so. Hopefully they would move across the spectrum – first to Fragile then onto Developing and, finally, to Extraordinary.
Transforming Dysfunctional teams is challenging but the alternative is far worse – as so many leaders have discovered. This make-over will be critical for the success of the organisation or department, the success of every employee and, of course, the success of the leader themselves.
Over to you
As with the chequerboard, where would you place your organisation’s leadership team here? Where would your boss’ team sit on the Spectrum of Leadership Teams and why?