Just so you know, I stuffed this up many times

by | Jun 11, 2019

I often use the parenting experience as a metaphor for leadership.

There is a moment all parents will relate to. It is the day you put your newborn child in your car for the first time. The baby has gone from the sanctuary of the womb, to a hospital with all its reassurances, and now rests in a baby capsule in the back of your car.

You drive, timidly, most likely at around half the speed limit, trying to come to terms with just how unprepared you are for whatever challenges this little bundle will throw your way for the remainder of your life.

Such is leadership, with each day reminding you of the gap between what you thought you knew, and what you actually know, and with that, the ebb and flow of confidence and belief.

I was reminded recently by author and thinker Evette Cordy (who has a wonderful book titled Cultivating Curiosity) of a quote by Anais Nin which reads:

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

In this context, I believe it is essential leaders have an acute sense of their leadership ‘WHO‘. To lead with authenticity, what I describe as a “fully self-expressed leader”, allowing you to build and sustain trust, but as importantly, maintain personal confidence when feeling overwhelmed by your leadership challenge.

Now that I am in the business of mentoring leaders and their organisations, it requires, almost by necessity, a process of self-reflection on my part. When teaching, or giving advice, there are many times I lean forward and say, “Just so you know, I stuffed this up many times”. While I enjoy the opportunity of coaching from the context of my ‘lived leadership experience’, some of these reflections are most uncomfortable, sitting somewhere between embarrassment and shame.

With this in mind, I have given a lot of thought to the notion of the leadership WHO, which I have tried to express in a vaguely mathematical formula.

We have all heard of IQ, a standardised test to assess human intelligence, and most will be familiar with EQ, our emotional intelligence, the capability to recognise our emotions and those of others. I have put together a LeadershipQ formula, seeking to articulate the components of an individual’s personal leadership offering, in particular, one which is a reflection of our leadership WHO.

Leadership [Q]

It starts with your PERSONALITY, your personal differences and characteristics. Most of us would have a collection of personality profiles undertaken over the years, all seeking to define our personality type, motivations and values, and in doing so providing insight and understanding, perhaps to varying degrees, depending on your perspective.

Our personality is unlikely to change much, it is our DNA, and even the baby in the back of the car already has much of their personality hard-wired.

We then add your FUNCTIONAL CAPABILITY, noting that it does not just relate to overall competency, it is a focus on the skills and talent required to do this job well, as well as the means by which you are able to maintain personal belief. To move too far from your personal capability, particularly your deeper experience and expertise, while seeking to lead, runs the risk of a loss of confidence as you face too many new issues without enough context and understanding.

We therefore advise building your leadership game on domains that you understand and enjoy, but also understand your weaknesses, and whilst always seeking to improve, where possible, complement your offering with fellow leaders with strengths in the areas you do not naturally excel.

When I hear the statement from new leaders which goes something like “I didn’t know what I didn’t know”, in our experience, it should be “I didn’t know, what I did know”.

Of course, functional capability also takes into account the specific leadership competencies required to do this job well.

We then add your NATURAL GIFTS. These are an expression of who you are and your uniqueness. From your gifts come your purpose, a means by which you can sustain high energy and focused attention. They are more than your strengths, they are an expression of the work you love to do, and therefore the aspects of the role you will be naturally drawn to.

As part of our designCEO work, we profile Natural Gifts, and the feedback has been excellent, allowing individuals to recognise their uniqueness in relation to their leadership values and capacity.

These three elements, PERSONALITY, FUNCTIONAL CAPABILITY and NATURAL GIFTS are then divided by your BS, and yes there is an element of the colloquial BS, but more specifically, your BLIND SPOTS. These are not your weaknesses, as most often we are conscious of our weaknesses, and they are less likely to derail us than our blind spots (often referred to as derailers).

Most often they are a ‘shadow’ of our strengths, and when they do appear, your first response is likely to be “I should’ve known better”, or “I should’ve seen that coming”.

All of these elements are then multiplied by two factors, those being:

Firstly, your EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, your EQ as previously defined. We have all experienced very talented people who are unable to leverage their abilities as a result of their inability to emotionally connect. Issues such as a lack of empathy, low self-control and self-knowing or poor relationship skills, diminish the value their unique capabilities would otherwise provide.

We use EQ profiling extensively in the designCEO work. Without wishing to overemphasise its value, perhaps the most important aspect of EQ is that it is coachable. We have many examples of individuals who have developed the habits and behaviours to make significant changes to their emotional competencies, and in doing so, realise the full value of their expertise and talent as leaders.

The final piece of the formula is the leader’s METTLE, their leadership and personal resilience. We ask, has the leader established the leadership identity and habits to allow them to sustain the inevitable personal challenges of leadership? These include their physical and mental well-being, learner mindset to develop their leadership craft, relationships and whatever personal activities allow them to actively manage the many trade-offs that challenging leadership roles will inevitably produce.

In many ways, the majority of the designCEO work focuses on establishing leadership mettle, as without it, you cannot sustain any authenticity or personal energy in a leadership role.

We must always remember that no leader brings a ‘full leadership game’, and we are all a work-in-progress at some level. To build our game however, leaders must embrace learning, because simply, no one is going to do their learning for them.

So how do you measure up on our LeadershipQ formula?

If you or your team need help with the development of your LeadershipQ, let’s chat.

I always enjoy the opportunity to talk all things culture and high-performance, and the development of leaders to achieve it.

Here are three ways to start the ball rolling:

  • I teach and coach an integrated leadership performance system utilising sophisticated learning models and systems garnered from elite team sport, ideal for leaders who are committed learners, who understand the responsibility of leadership. To learn more, please arrange your FOC 30-minute leadership telephone consult to discuss your personal, team or organisational challenges or aspirations, please use this link.
  • Participate in our next one-day Leadership Masterclass which I personally facilitate. It is a sophisticated, intimate and practical leadership intensive for aspirational leaders, both current and emerging. To learn more, and to register, please use this link.
  • Sign up for the “More to the Game” weekly email, and receive a copy of my “What business can learn from football” White Paper. The emails are short leadership reflections, no more than a couple of minutes to read and we will always treat our communication with respect. Please use this link.

You can also contact me at cameron@designCEO.com.au and let me know how you think we can work together.

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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