My focus with clients this month has been emotional intelligence and self-awareness. As the financial year and first quarter closes out, it’s fair to suggest that a number of teams, leaders and businesses are under pressure to make their numbers. There are several coaching assignments on which I am engaged at the moment where our conversations have taken us to how leaders operate under pressure. And therein lies the challenge.
Our leadership brand isn’t defined when we have had eight hours sleep, are fully prepared for a key meeting, present to a benign audience and communicate a non-contentious message. Our leadership brand is defined when we’ve had three hours sleep, had no time to prepare, have no idea what we’re talking about and face a hostile audience with a tough ‘ask’.
The problem with brands is a single word: consistency. Without consistency we don’t have a brand, and as leaders we need to be incredibly aware of this.
I once worked for a boss who fitted the description of ‘manager on meds’ perfectly. What I mean by that is each day was always a voyage of discovery in terms of whether they were going to be pleasant, approachable, encouraging and inspiring (and hence ‘on their meds’). Or, were they were going to be aggressive, arrogant, dismissive and rude (hence ‘off their meds’)? Each day became more and more difficult (even when he was okay), because what I was very aware of was the reticence and trepidation with which I approached my work, and my interactions with him. And he’s not the only one in business who fits the description, and the implications of this behaviour to our people and costs to our companies are absolutely huge.
I talk about the LEADER model of ‘Executive Presence’ which came out of my research on this topic. One of the ‘E’s in the LEADER model is ‘ENGAGE’. This is about leaders being able to win hearts and minds, inspire and enthuse, challenge and support, attract, develop and retain the very best people in the market.
Leaders with ‘Executive Presence’ are aware of their triggers and the impact of their behaviour on others – plus they know how to maintain control. We’re human beings, so that means we all have – and feel – emotion. If our leadership brand is defined in terms of being inconsistent, unstable, and overly emotional then it breeds the worst emotion in business - fear. People hide because quite frankly who needs it? Productivity, performance and people are seriously damaged by such behaviour and everyone loses out. All leaders are in a relationship business – no matter what their area of functional expertise. We never forget how others make us feel, and great leaders make their people feel safe, cared for, supported, challenged, empowered and motivated to achieve extraordinary things. 'Managers on meds' make their people feel the complete opposite.
Which one are you?