Of course this would be a preposterous word and a daft title for a style or model of leadership.
Except it’s a mashed up word that describes some key features of a leader who should be fit to lead in the 21st century. Indeed heading into the third decade of the 21st century. Sobering thought that we’re as near to 2030 as we are 2000.
So leadership then. In the 21st Century. And that long and ridiculously incoherent word.
We’re BOMBARDED with research; thought leadership; models; approaches, development programmes and the like. Leadership in crisis? Maybe more leadership in a state of constant flux.
What IS apparent though is the cognitive and spiritual demands on leaders have never been more openly discussed and many would say, more challenging. Economic fragility; reputational sensitivity; globalisation; threats; technological advancement; social change I could go on. Some may think we’re in a hyped up world and that it’s always been this way. I tend to think the openness and pace are key differentiators between now and any other period in the history of corporate leadership as we know it.
One other factor and a big, no huge, and meaningful word springs to my mind around leadership: TRUST. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer* shows a decline in trust especially for CEOs. So for 2015 it reads worse despite economic recovery in much of the world. Perhaps that’s because it really isn’t about the money. Maybe it really IS about people believing in those who lead them in a range of guises (politically, spiritually, professionally and communally).
What’s the answer then? It isn’t in a word; a programme or a model. It is – in my view – in one place though. The soul of every leader.
Soul: yes that enigmatic, mystical thing in us all. The differentiator between us and other animals with some power of reasoning and intellect; and certainly between us and machines or technology.
Yes the soul of a leader is where the answers lie. For there we find the true motivation of the individual. The core beliefs held by the person behind the job role. The energy force and appetite to change. The empathy. The firmness. The courage. The generosity. The humanity.
Leadership is – arguably ever more so these days – about a delicate mixture of the soul and the intellect. Spirit and brains. IQ and EQ in psychometric/psychological shorthand.
We’ve known this for years though haven’t we? Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence was a watershed in this area. We’ve had tools to help us understand; programmes to measure; books to learn from and courses to attend.
And yet we are still seeing leadership wanting.
ESPECIALLY in areas of compassion and understanding of what positively impacts and creates positive human performance and application of skill and energy. Which explains why people report less trust in CEOs. Academics and NGO leaders are reported as twice as credible in the Edelman Trust Barometer global survey.
We ask the question “What do CEOs believe in?” and come up with “themselves and profit at any cost” as a default. A frustration appears to centre on the fact that we know – and therefore leaders should also know – that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Indeed the most successful, sustainable and revered leaders appear to have a knack of getting the most from themselves, their people AND make money/do great things AND STILL be a human being showing kindness, strength, compassion and bravery all combined.
Most of all THEY KNOW THEMSELVES and are in touch with their souls. They’re humble enough to keep addressing their own shortfalls. They’re tuned in enough to realise the positive and negative impacts they have on others.
It’s this tuning that gives me hope that leaders CAN improve this situation and not be corrupted by “the machine” forever lost to toxicity, narcissism and ego.
Tuning that comes from understanding their energy flow; their spirituality and their cognitive processes. They are able to work out the component parts of their emotional and social intelligence. They are mindful of their hopes, fears and anxieties.
They know their own soul.
This post is inspired by an event happening in the UK on 20th March** and featuring some of the most stimulating and inspirational minds around human psychology, leadership motivation and behavioural science. Miss it at your peril. And try and persuade your leaders to book on and find their soul.