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October 12, 2021
Developing the most elusive but most critical leadership behaviours
I’ve assessed, developed and coached senior leaders for many years and also had the pleasure of being involved in the research behind one of the most widely used leadership behaviour models in the world, but there is one thing that has always really frustrated me. Of the eleven leadership behaviours that we identified as being critical in dynamic complex environments to driving performance there are three rare behaviours that you don’t see very often and that are incredibly hard to develop. These are the critical leadership behaviours:
- The ability to think flexibly
- The ability be empathic
- The ability to create coherence within a team
Dealing with all the challenges going on in the world demands high levels of these very critical leadership behaviours. They are critical. We need to collaborate better, develop much higher levels of cross functional alignment and team working plus build much deeper, more trusting relationships. We know these behaviours are important, we also know leaders struggle with them and we know they are hard to develop. But why? That question has been vexing me for years … now I have the answer. In fact I had a revelation.
I met Dr Alan Watkins several years ago and he revealed to me how behaviour is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Everything people say and do – our behaviour – is profoundly affected by what’s going on ‘below the water line’. Our behaviour is affected by our feelings and our emotions, which in turn is affected by our physiology. It really is that fundamental and the reason that I had been finding it so difficult to help leaders develop these elusive behaviours was that I had not gone deep enough.
For example, if you think about empathic leadership behaviour it’s very difficult to create an empathic connection if you’re not aware of your own emotional state. How can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes if you don’t even understand how you’re feeling in your own shoes?
My revelation has revitalised my passion for developing leaders. Finally, I can see exactly why so much leadership development fails to deliver on its promises. Now that we can see what’s below the water line, we need to develop those fundamentals of emotional mastery and coherence. Only then will we realise our full potential and enable our leaders to thrive in the face of the challenges of our complex world.
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Chris was trained in behavioural observation by the late Professor Schroder of Princeton University and was actively involved in international academic research that identified the characteristic behaviours of high performance leaders and teams in complex, fast moving environments.
Chris has coached hundreds of men and women and advised FTSE/Fortune directors and boards on 5 continents and in nearly every industrial sector. She has helped leaders and their teams double their business growth, reinvent their culture, inspire their people and transform the way they think about their own future.Read bio