Though we discuss and debate a lot about leadership, there is no consensus about what it really means. Despite numerous opinions and theories, there is a lack of a common language for understanding and developing leadership. Although US companies spend about $14 billion annually on leadership development, studies show that leadership development programs have failed to produce leaders.
“Developing leadership without a comprehensive model is like building a house without a plan.” – Dr. Asoka Jinadasa
According to a leadership development benchmarking survey, while leadership development was among the top three human-capital priorities, 75% of organizations say their leadership development programs are not very effective. Only 7% of senior managers polled by a UK business school think that their companies effectively develop global leaders. About 30% of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit international business opportunities fully because they lack leaders with the right capabilities.
Several flawed assumptions and myths about leadership have derailed the attempts to develop leaders. This article simplifies and synthesizes the diverse aspects of leadership into a framework that is easy to understand and easy to apply.
Relevance of leadership
Among North American companies ranking 120 issues, leadership was viewed as the most important one due to its impact on workforce management. Another survey found that 65% of firms placed leadership development among the top five focal points of corporate strategy and that the need for innovation was placed among the top five factors driving leadership challenges. Leaders must adapt their corporate cultures to make employees open to transformational change through innovation. Demographic shifts also demand that leaders manage and inspire an increasingly diverse workforce in terms of gender, nationality, ethnicity, age, religion, etc.
Leadership has also become integrally linked to two top business priorities of customer focus and high-quality products and services. A British survey found that poor leadership deteriorated the quality of customer service, and 60% of the respondents said that how their supervisors treated them influenced how well they did their jobs. The command-and-control leadership methods of previous decades resulted in a lack of innovation, creativity and accountability, all of which had a negative effect on organizational performance under volatile conditions. Consequently, leaders started seeing themselves more as partners, supporters, coaches and facilitators.
Most organizations and their leaders are struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies from one workgroup to another. Teams are composed of individuals with diverse motivations, mindsets, attitudes and behaviors, all of which lead to varying degrees of performance. Good leaders have the ability to maximize the individual and collective performances of such diverse groups of people. Though many leaders are endowed with some of the necessary traits, few have the combination of competencies needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly and sustainably improves organizational performance under changing conditions.
Being prepared for more of the unexpected is an essential feature of good leadership in today’s volatile world. Leadership thus requires two core competencies, which can be summarized as Wisdom (knowing what to do next) and Skills (ability to do what is needed). Since the seeds of the future lie to some extent in the past and present, leaders need to decipher past and current trends, relate them to possible future scenarios, and help their followers develop the necessary skills and processes.
The leadership skills needed in an increasingly volatile environment are being described in terms such as passion, creativity, mindfulness, and even spirituality. While the analytical left-brain competencies are often called into play in today’s fast-paced environment, future leaders will also need the less tangible right-brain competencies such as emotional intelligence, intuition, and mindfulness to manage accelerating change.
Are leaders born or made?
Early studies claimed that leaders were born, meaning that leadership is rooted in the inborn characteristics that some people appeared to possess. Later studies found that persons who were leaders in one situation may not be leaders in other situations. The focus then shifted away from inborn traits of leaders to an investigation of leadership skills that could be developed. This shift in thinking produced a complex array of theories, without providing a commonly applicable leadership model that was easy to understand and apply to nurture leaders.
Some people appear to possess an inborn quality that gives them the ability to influence others and to be perceived as leaders. However, there is no evidence that leadership is anything more than shorthand for a basket of disparate skills and abilities that seem to match the image of what we think of as a leader. Leadership qualities appear to include a complex mix of personal energy, confidence, charisma, mindfulness, vision, skills, self-discipline, ambition, courage, determination, assertiveness, humility, coolness, poise in public, etc.
Why a new leadership model
Many leadership development programs appear to focus narrowly on day-to-day operational issues and are woefully lacking in ways to instill in leaders more strategic skills such as how to develop and communicate vision, or delegate responsibility. Most leadership competency models provide a series of behavioral descriptions clustered around six to sixteen or more headings, implying that leadership development involves improvement across dozens of skills and behaviors. This path to leadership development is overwhelmingly complex. Leadership development that is a mile wide and an inch deep moves a leader only from good to a bit better.
Context is a critical component of successful leadership. This requires equipping leaders with a small number of core competencies that will make a significant difference to their performance in specific circumstances. Instead, what we often find is a long list of leadership standards and a complex web of dozens of competencies. When an organization identified a small number of leadership capabilities essential for success in its business, it achieved far better outcomes.
Therefore, the objective in defining a new leadership model was to formulate a simplified version that covers all necessary competencies, meets the needs of diverse activity fields, and balances analytical work-related competencies (Skills) with less tangible ones relating to mindfulness, vision, intuition, etc. (Wisdom), all founded on a platform of stress-free, natural health.
Developing a new leadership model
Most definitions of leadership address only rational and observable phenomena. Consequently, researchers avoided investigating the emotional and psychological factors relating to leadership. As a result, many organizational performance issues relating to human motivation, attitudes and behaviors remain unresolved. By taking a different psychodynamic approach to leadership style and development, we can focus on the dynamics of human behavior that are difficult to understand. Leaders need to understand the complexity of why leaders and followers act the way they do. They have to understand that people are not one-dimensional entities, but intricate beings with rich and myriad motivational drivers and decision-making patterns.
Organizations everywhere need a new breed of leaders with multiple intelligences and competencies. They must have broad intellectual interests and the ability to think both in analytical and intuitive ways. To guide modern, networked organizations where creative individuals are often the most valuable asset, leaders must have not only analytical left-brain thinking abilities, but also emotion-based, intuitive right-brain competencies. In an age when alliances and collaborations between people are crucial, necessary competencies such as emotional intelligence, listening skills, intuition, and empathy require leaders to balance their hearts and their minds.
A six-dimensional model of leadership
We are leaving the old way of thinking of leadership with its over-dependence on the logical mind. A new kind of thinking is awakening, characterized by a balance between rationality and intuition. This delicate balance, blended with other new insights, is integrated into a new leadership model that is easy to understand and apply under all conditions. This new model identifies six attributes that collectively lead to the development of Wisdom and Skills, which are the core competencies of leadership as defined earlier.
The new leadership model comprises of six holistic dimensions symbolized by: Heart (emotional intelligence), Mind (rational and intuitive intelligence), Body (temple we live in), Passion (energy that fuels high performance), Focus (reaching goals despite setbacks) and Health (immunity from stress and illness).
A holistic six-dimensional model of leadership
Heart governs the emotional intelligence needed for empathizing with subordinates, colleagues, superiors, customers, suppliers, etc. through understanding and caring. It is an essential leadership attribute, since we are all in the “people business” dealing mostly with others. Heart also governs corporate success, because business transactions require empathy between individuals who represent their organizations, and a heart-oriented corporate culture will be able to retain staff, clients and suppliers, especially during difficult times.
Mind governs concrete, abstract and spiritual intelligence, technology, innovation, intuition, creativity, etc. It includes whole brain integration achieved by using the analytical left side and the creative right side of the brain together, which improves effectiveness of the human brain by as much as 5 to 10 times. Since the human mind is capable of finding innovative solutions to any problem of any complexity, it is a key component of success in today’s highly complex and fiercely competitive commercial environments.
Passion is what drives ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results by aligning their hearts, minds, beliefs and efforts. It fuels both individual and corporate success by unleashing the mental and emotional energy needed by individuals and organizations to reach ambitious goals. Passion combined with talent provides the fuel for transforming education, business and communities in the 21st century. However, unless Passion is tempered by Heart and Mind, it can lead to rigidity, obsessions and wasted effort.
Focus is the convergence of beliefs, resources and effort that make individuals and organizations strive until they achieve goals, despite setbacks. Focus is also about conserving mental energy, without wasting it on mundane matters that are unimportant. I have used Focus in preference to Willpower, since Focus implies desire and willingness, whereas Willpower implies doing something emotionally unappealing through force of will.
Body is like the temple that we live in. Since all the heavy molecules in the human body (calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.) were forged in the stars (as proven in the Nobel prize-winning thesis in 1983), we are literally made of stardust and that carry the wisdom if the universe at a cellular level within our body.
Health is the overarching foundation of the other five dimensions, since it can affect all of them positively or negatively. Everyone can enjoy natural health through the discovery that every sickness, disease and ailment can be traced to a mineral deficiency, and by following the advice of Hippocrates, which requires a change in eating habits to exclude all processed food and beverages, and include maximum Hippocrates diet staples such as raw vegetables, fresh fruits, sprouts, greens and whole grains.
The six dimensions of leadership can best be explained by using a role model for each one: Heart of Mother Theresa, Mind of Albert Einstein, Passion of Michael Jackson, Focus of Mahatma Gandhi, Health of wild animals, and Body of Fauja Singh (100-year-old British marathon runner).
The wide range of concepts found in leadership theories suggests that, in order to model leadership, we must consider not only the mindsets, attitudes, behaviors, analytical skills and intuitive insights, but also abilities to cope with increasingly unpredictable operating conditions, changing cultural and demographic trends, etc. All such complex and multidimensional attributes relating to leadership are captured in the holistic six-dimensional model of leadership presented in this article, which includes stress-free natural health that is ignored in other leadership models. This simple and comprehensive six-dimensional model can be easily understood and used to nurture leadership in any type of organization.
This article is adapted from his paper presented at the Australasian Conference on Business and Social Sciences 2015 in Sydney, Australia, which can be requested by emailing email@example.com