Summary: Traditionally, leadership has been taught as a set of large tasks such as communicating with important people or teaching someone to do something, getting work done from employees, etc. But in practice, there are certain methods that need to be practiced in order to lead well. The best way to learn this is to associate yourself with a business.
Julie was a biochemist who worked in a lab under the supervision of Gordon, a renowned scientist with a bad temper. One day, she went to his office to ask for his feedback on the draft of her research paper that she had submitted. He told her that it was one of the worst papers he had ever seen and that she had no talent for writing.
Julie did not get angry or defensive. Instead, she said, “I appreciate your honesty. To be honest, I wrote it without much confidence. Your papers always amaze me because they are so clear and concise. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to work with you, and I was thrilled when you offered me a position last fall. Our research results are very important, and a well-written paper can have a huge impact. I know I need to improve my writing skills, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for me. I want to learn as much as I can from you.”
Gordon’s mood changed instantly. He looked at the paper again and pointed out some problems and offered some ideas. Julie thanked him and went back to work on her paper. She revised it several times and submitted it to a top journal. It was accepted and she won a prestigious award for it.
Julie did not have formal training in leadership. However, she showed some qualities that made her a good leader. She was humble and respectful. She wanted to learn new things. When someone told her what was wrong, she did not feel bad. Instead, she used it to get better. Her teacher and his skills were important to her.
Many people think that leadership is about doing big things like talking to VIPs or training others. But the truth is that leadership is more about how you do things than what you do. And the best way to learn how to lead is to get involved in a business.
There are many examples of iconic leaders who did not have formal education or training in leadership. For instance, Abraham Lincoln only attended one year of school, Mother Teresa and Eleanor Roosevelt did not go to college, and Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were poor students by their own admission. Yet they all rose to extraordinary leadership by following their vision, passion, and values.
Today, organizations need more leaders like Julie who can adapt to change and drive innovation. A Gartner survey of more than 6,500 employees and more than 100 C.H.R.O.s worldwide found that the best organizations rely on their workforce, not just their executives, to lead change.
Boost Your Leadership with Behavior and Skills
Most leadership courses teach a set of behaviors that leaders should master, such as having difficult conversations, building trust, giving feedback, coaching, motivating, influencing, and changing others. These behaviors are taught separately, with their own frameworks and checklists. This can make it hard for learners to remember and apply what they learn.
Julie’s Interaction with Gordon
Julie was having a difficult conversation with Gordon. His harsh words were spreading around the office, and she needed to address the issue. She knew that she had to build trust with him, give him feedback, coach him, motivate him, influence him, and change his behavior. All of this had to happen in just 35 seconds.
The Three Common Themes of Leadership
Our research team at Mentora has studied and analyzed over 1,000 examples of leadership moments. These are moments when people have made a positive impact on others, whether they were colleagues, partners, customers, audiences, or even friends and family. They did this through conversations, meetings, conflicts, presentations, negotiations, and more.
At first glance, we noticed many differences between the situations these people faced and how they responded. But when we looked deeper, we discovered three common themes:
- Intention: They had the same intention for these moments: How can I bring out the best in myself and the best in others in pursuit of our shared positive purpose?
- Awareness: They were aware of the context of the moment, the people involved, and the potential outcomes.
- Action: They took decisive action that was aligned with their intention and awareness.
These three themes are the foundation of leadership. They are the essential ingredients for making a positive impact on others.
Purpose: The noble and meaningful reason for following through on a commitment.
Wisdom: A calm openness to the truth – with all its nuances – in every situation.
Growth: One’s constant effort to become fully capable.
Love: Creates warmth, understanding and connection.
Courage: The spark of human will that is the core strength in one.
Disarming: She started by acknowledging some of Gordon’s truths and admitting that her writing was not up to par.
Appreciating: She added warmth to the interaction by complimenting Gordon on his clear and concise writing style.
Aligning: She showed that they had a common goal by pointing out how the publication of the paper would have a great impact on the scientific community.
Asking for help: She invited Gordon to help her improve her writing skills.
Partnering: She expressed her desire to learn from him as a mentor.
Every action begins as an internal action
Directs your intentions, your feelings and thoughts to activate the right energy. Then engage in activities outside of using proper guidance, such as changing expressions, tone, and words in your interactions with others. If Julie outwardly likes to admire Gordon’s writing but inwardly feels angry at him, Gordon may notice that Jolly is being hypocritical or think that Jolly thinks his writing is artificial or fake. Hence it follows that the inner action should come first. Mentors Our leadership training experiences focus on—
Students often find it futile to just train people to say or do the right things. Actions build behavior and a small set of actions can create countless leadership behaviors. We must recognize that no matter how far we have come in leadership, we may need to practice some simple actions that we are not using right now.
Benefits of Training:
We have transformed our workforce/working approach with clients using these three benefits as it facilitates three tasks. To master a discipline, you need to break it down into simple components and then learn and practice them, first individually and then in combination. That’s what the science of learning shows. Most actions take five to 10 seconds to execute, so they are much more learnable than complete behaviors. A few weeks after undergoing the Energy/Action training, an HR manager at Lululemon shared, “Because the actions are so simple, I find that I already incorporate many of them into my daily work and life.”
Activity: Because you can choose a new action every few seconds, your course of action can change when you encounter resistance or see the other party back off. “By working with energy and action, I can adapt my behavioral style based on the unique situation I’m in at a given moment,” noted an executive at UnitedHealth Group. The Energy/Action/Action approach allows you to acquire leadership skills in small steps, and each step becomes a big step in expanding our behavioral repertoire. This “small step, big leap or giant step” approach may actually be how Gandhi, Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Mandela and others rose from ordinary people to extraordinary leaders.