Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, wherever you are
I do hope you are still managing to keep safe and well in these times.
Last week we explored how great leaders, in order to rise above the crazy challenges of these times, need to develop vertically in addition to horizontal development, the latter being the normal focus of many learning and development departments. Shane A Ng’s metaphor provides a useful illustration of these two forms of development:
“Horizontal development is to add more water into the glass, whereas vertical development is to expand the size of the glass. The glass resembles the person’s mind and the water within resembles knowledge, skills and competencies…Without expanding the glass, there is always a limit to how much water the glass can hold.”
This week I would like to explore what we might do to mature vertically. Obviously, maturity takes time because it’s emergent and evolutionary. It’s about who we are becoming rather than what we necessarily do. Who we are becoming informs what we believe and what we do.
Daniel Goleman is probably globally known as the “face” of emotional intelligence. Certainly, he was one of the first and foremost developers of the term and the concept. Recently I noticed that he is talking about the crucial competencies of leaders. My take on this development is that he is right: leaders (really all of us) would be far better off today if they took some time to develop these competencies in order to transcend today’s complexities.
Even so, this is nothing new. Goleman’s studies in the 1990’s showed that leadership, taken at a high level view, consists of three factors: intelligence, technical competence and emotional intelligence (or crucial competencies). Here’s the thing though: these factors are not spread equally; emotional intelligence is fifty percent of the deal. Yet, we traditionally don’t spend time on emotional intelligence – we kind of let it happen – certainly not to the same extent that we focus on our intelligence (say the first twenty years of our life) and technical expertise (say the second twenty years of our life). So, if we haven’t traditionally focused on emotional intelligence, and it’s fifty percent of the deal, doesn’t focusing on it present the greatest opportunity for our development?
Just a passing thought: if we haven’t developed emotional intelligence, doesn’t that by definition mean we are emotionally unintelligent?
So, if emotional intelligence is a big kicker, what exactly should we focus on? Goleman’s crucial competencies are self-awareness (for example, emotional self-awareness), self-management (i.e. emotional balance, adaptability, achievement orientation and positive outlook), social awareness (empathy and organisational awareness) and relationship management (influence, conflict management, teamwork etc). That is a lot of stuff to develop if we haven’t started doing so already. And of course, we never fully mature – I would hazard the guess that the more we mature, the more we would realise there is even more to still develop.
Let’s look at how we might apply this maturity as leaders. Of course, there are millions of leadership models and books out there, a great number of which not surprisingly are focused on horizontal development. Probably the best vertical development model for leaders I have come across, is Alan Watkins’ Enlightened Leadership Model. It’s also the most complete model I have come across, understandably so as it uses Ken Wilber’s integral model (in short, his theory of everything – even if he knew it was only everything as he understood it then).
Watkins, in explaining his model, uses the visual of a leader standing in the middle of a square room, facing one of the walls. The room is divided into four quadrants. In front of him, in the front-right quadrant, is what he calls Market Leadership. In this area, the leader focuses on things like clarifying the vision, setting ambition, uncovering purpose, identifying strategic building blocks, establishing effective governance, and deciding on customer battlegrounds. In front of him in the left quadrant is him focus on commercial performance. This includes things like driving revenue and profit, developing the offer (products and services), building scorecards, creating a competitor radar, controlling operational risks, managing the business system. These are the quadrants he focuses on using his horizontal skills. They are what he spends most of his time and effort on. Interestingly, they are also external to the leader.
However, there are also two quadrants behind him that get little or no attention, often because they are not seen – excuse the pun – as important. They are internal focuses pertaining to the leader’s own performance, professionally and personally. And indeed, the left-hindquarter (I couldn’t resist that) relates to personal performance where such things as step changing the quality of their thinking, developing boundless energy, uncovering personal purpose etc reside. And right behind him on the right-hand side is people leadership where identifying the organisational ‘way’ and evolving organisational culture reside (typically delegated to HR?). Developing integrated relationships and high performing teams also rests here as does clarifying personal leadership qualities.
In my view, Goleman’s crucial competencies and Watkins’ internal quadrants are areas of vertical development. Vertical develop, however, takes time – unlike instant coffee, you can’t just add water and stir twice. As another Goleman study has shown, conventional training can’t do the trick here – in fact, he points out that conventional training goes to the neocortex in our brain which grasps concepts and logic. What we are talking about, however, needs to find its way to our brain’s limbic system which governs feelings, impulses and drives. The limbic system apparently learns best through motivation, extended practice and feedback. Vertical development, then, seems better served by coaching.
When I consider the models these two gentlemen have given us, Shane A Ng’s metaphor of the glass becomes patently clear to me. How much more effective would our world and organisational leaders be if they consistently focused equally on developing maturity, on making the glass bigger. And aren’t we all in some way obliged to similarly lead ourselves so that we can be more effective people, family members, parents, friends and employees? Better leaders, better world!
I’d love to hear your comments of the views and ideas I have shared this week. Please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to find out more about how you might achieve, and apply, transcendent leadership so that you are able to consistently rise above current challenges, drop me an email (also at email@example.com) so that we can explore together how my Transcendent Leadership Coaching Programme might help you lead yourself, your team or your organisation in these times.
I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meanwhile, please take wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing seriously at this time. Keep safe and keep well!