Leading in tough times – connected leadership – a key element

Many people in leadership positions were originally appointed due to their technical skills and their individual capabilities, not for their natural abilities in collaborating and working well with others to achieve a result.  A classic example would be Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, who admits “No doubt I have much to learn about a collective way of leading” after accusations from Lord Foulds that his style is “based on dishonesty, dividing lines and bullying..”  brown

Recent research by The Centre for Creative Leadership, exploring the leadership skills most needed looking ahead suggests that the top leadership skills needed are collaboration, leading change, building effective teams and influence without authority. Brown also talks about his need to learn and keep learning to make the most of the strengths he already has – as most of us do. Contrast this with the positive headline in the Times for President Obama

President Obama’s speech in Cairo set a welcome tone of respect and empathy

During tough times people need competent leaders who can focus on the bottom line and results, however they also need leaders who can connect, have empathy and give hope to others – all competencies from the emotional intelligence domain and where Obama seems to posses natural strengths. Organisations (and individual managers) who ignore these things during hard times have a danger of creating problems for the future. I remember you when the chips were down and when a connection with you was needed, not when times were smooth and unflustered.

Connecting with people is an absolute key facet of leadership – and one that many managers and leaders need to focus more on as their impact seldom matches their intention – and people judge us on our impact on them – not what we may have intended. I’ve just had the pleasure of working with some gifted high potential directors in increasing their capacity to increase their connection with others.  Mr Brown may well have left his learning far too late…will you do the same?

3 thoughts on “Leading in tough times – connected leadership – a key element”

  1. Very thought-provoking post. Your last comment about leaving this kind of “learning far too late” got me thinking. Why do organisations seem to leave development in this area until people reach management positions? If emotional intelligence competencies were developed from induction onwards, then perhaps we wouldn’t have this problem of disassociated leaders.

    Aren’t leaders as much a result of their environment as vice versa?

    • John, for me you raise two different issues – firstly whatever someone’s position in the hierarchy wouldn’t they benefit from developing emotional intelligence competencies and then secondly how do we avoid leaders becoming disassociated from their impact on others? All this is exacerbated during recessionary times when cutting development activities is an easy ‘economy’. I could send a really long reply to both questions (and will be delighted to directly if you’d like me to)- in short yes regardless of position emotional intelligence type competencies can be developed regardless of position – and they will help you perform, and get more enjoyment from what you do. I’ve had the pleasure of working with all grades at an engineering based firm who have found the skills very useful at all levels – however as a provider of this type of work, I would say that wouldn’t I!
      The disassociated leaders point is an interesting one. Due to their impact on an organisation in setting the climate they have a huge impact and need to be a focus for development -though as you infer not to the exclusion of others. I seldom see many leaders who truly don’t care about their people or their impact, however I see people create habitual ways of working that seem right to cope with the sheer magnitude of the amount and complexity of what they have to deal with – who often lose sight of who they are, what they stand for – and alternative approaches. I would guess Gordon Brown who seems to need to work much harder (and continually) in this area, is shocked at the amount of ill will others feel about his management style, and because this is not an area he has looked at for quite some time, he has not noticed that the style which once made him successful seems now to be ill equipped to connect and bring others with him. With tools like 360 feedback and time for reflection, allied to both support and challenge, and a desire to adapt managers can refocus and increase their own effectiveness and really tap into the potential of others. That is the benefit of well thought through development programmes for connected leadership – and skilful coaching.

      The danger for companies is the idea we can wait to develop our leaders until .. we have more budget…. things slow down a bit… the reorganisation is over… and so on. Like Mr Brown – for some people that may never happen – and if it does, but too late endless harm may already have been caused.

Leave a comment