Leading 'above the line'
Leadership of the future is not about building 'horizontal' skills - i.e., the abilities, skills and behaviours needed to lead others. Instead, what has become apparent from research into today's leadership is that leaders and managers are often already 'experts' in the 'what' factor of leadership - trained in various programmes offering techniques such as feedback, prioritisation, dealing with difficult people and conversations and other skills they think they need.
Although these leaders have 'learnt' these skills, they have not always been able to put them into practice and use them in the way they were intended to lead, relate to and engage others.
Studies identify that what stands in the way of being able to do something different is the leader's lack of awareness:
- What triggers them to react and act the way they do.
- The understanding of how they affect others and what happens as a result.
- What they can do to choose to change their behaviour.
The next step in developing leaders and leadership is about the "how factor", how they go about seeing and changing what they don't see today. It is to develop their "vertical" abilities, instead of more horizontal ones. We don't grow vertically by adding more horizontal skills and we don't grow vertically by imagining or trying to imagine it. Growing vertically requires us to involve our body, heart and head in the process - our three main intelligences.
"Our focus is to increase and strengthen the leader's ability to recognise their own limiting patterns, thoughts and actions and replace them with new ones. When this happens, the leader gains access to a more open, genuine and constructive way of interacting with others and the environment around them achieves significantly better results."
Leading 'above the line'
Our focus is to increase and strengthen the leader's ability to discover their own limiting patterns, thoughts and actions and replace them with new ones. When this happens, the leader gains access to a more open, genuine and constructive way of interacting with others and the environment around them achieves significantly better results.
It is important to recognise that we all have different defence mechanisms, perceptions of people, environments and situations that are stuck in our habitual pattern of "how to do" (automatic reactions) when it feels safest and most comfortable. We identify this as leading 'below the line' and it creates a corporate culture where the norm is to blame others, deny that anything is wrong, justify the situation and defend our own position.
When leaders can see and let go of their habitual patterns, fears and anxieties, the way they view their environment and situations changes. They change the course of how they think, feel and act - they gain new tools and deal with situations 'above the line'. 'Above the line' organisational cultures contain a high degree of personal responsibility, trust in their own and others' abilities and thus motivate people to 'go the extra mile' to achieve results.
"To achieve 'vertical development' the leader needs to be 'present' in his or her experiences - to be increasingly self-aware and 'mindful' in the moment. He/she needs to gain a deeper, increased understanding of his/her own hearing and reactions and how they affect others in order to consciously choose a different way of acting."
The qualities that characterise 'above the line' leaders can be summarised in nine different distinctions. As the leader moves up "above the line" they also access the strengths of these to utilise in their leadership.
These distinctions are:
- Strength- the ability to step up and say or do what is required with both compassion and clarity; face the situation with confidence and deal with what is in front of you both constructively and effectively, while also ensuring that others affected by the situation are supported and engaged.
- Inclusive- the ability to bring a sense of comfort and harmony to any situation; maintaining a calm attitude and creating a sense of belonging with others; appreciating different perspectives while contributing your own.
- Idealistic- the ability to be true to yourself and your own values as well as to those around you; be consistent and transparent in what you see as important to you and what you do not compromise on, while respecting that there are other perspectives and options.
- Caring- the ability to truly empathise with others and to build strong and long-lasting relationships through meaningful connection and communication; to attend to the needs of others as well as your own in a balanced and compassionate way; to be generous while receiving from others.
- Prestera- the ability to bring energy, talent and organisation to make things happen and deliver results; be flexible and adaptable to complete what needs to be done; understand your impact on others in different situations and adjust it to engage and uplift others to make them succeed.
- Creativity- the ability to see the beauty in other people, things and the world around you; feeling that you bring unique perspectives and insights to people and situations and being willing to share them, with humility, to others.
- Wisdom- the ability to understand meaningfulness and how everything is connected and to reach genuine insights and wisdom as a result; noting and gathering information about what is happening in "multiple layers" around the situation and the people involved and integrating that information to help others understand.
- Supporting- the ability to actively and tangibly support people, groups and causes and ensure their safety and security; balance the desire for stability with calculated risk-taking; look for opportunities to strengthen consistency in processes of continuous improvement.
- Visionary- the ability to visualise the potential and possibilities in yourself, others and situations around you; inspire others to "what could be" and contribute optimism to achieve what might be possible; contribute a variety of things in a light-hearted and competent way and get others to do the same.
To achieve "vertical development" the leader needs to be "present" in his or her experiences - to be increasingly self-aware and "mindful" in the moment. He/she needs to gain a deeper, increased understanding of his/her own hearing and reactions and how they affect others in order to consciously choose a different way of acting.
All this requires time and commitment, and a willingness to explore and experiment with the nine distinctions through a variety of exercises, as well as discipline.
It also requires building resilience to 'fall back' 'below the line' by creating a safe and supportive environment with others. Everyone will find different resistance to development at different stages of life; not everyone has the capacity to overcome these barriers on their own. The key here is together.