(I first wrote this post for Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling, a blog for women in business. You can check it out here.)
For years we’ve been assuming that if we excel at what we do, and stand out with our talents, we’ll be rewarded with leadership roles. But today that’s only half true.
It turns out that individual talent isn’t what drives group achievement. Getting along does.
Research has proven that:
Collective intelligence produces more results than individual talent alone. ‘Soft skills’, long overlooked and sometimes devalued in the past, are now showing to be paramount to the success of an organization.
This has special implications for those of us with high-empathy or who are highly sensitive. We tend to lean in heavily to soft skills by nature. We’re often aware of the emotions in the room as well as our own. We can lead ourselves and others from these gifts, but how?
How do you bring out the best in someone you have nothing in common with, or don’t even like?
How do you let go of your need to be right order to become better at co-creating?
How do you trust that you’re in good hands when deciding to be honest or real with someone different from you?
How do you trust that your efforts to include someone you can’t relate to will pay off?
When it comes to the soft skills of navigating vibrant and productive relationships, the learning ahead for us as individuals and organizations is big. We’re slowly embracing feminine qualities of leadership, that employ emotional and empathetic skills.
As high-empathy collaborators, we have the opportunity to start adapting now for what’s ahead, by developing skills that our future will call on.
Here are four practices I think are central to leadership, but that we are only beginning to find ways of talking about, along with reflection questions to build self-awareness around each one:
1. Emotional risk taking.
Fully embracing diversity and inclusivity requires changing the way we see one another. We aren’t just protected by equal rights, but we are equals. This means we place equal value on the ideas of others, and lean into curiosity in order to live beyond our biases.
Creating value in this world involves emotional risk. We must be honest and vulnerable to form authentic relationships for the sake of group success. This means everyone has a personal stake in the game. No one gets to be invulnerable. Also, no one gets to be better-than. Everyone risks, for the sake of the collective.
Sound scary? It is! It’s a whole new paradigm. But by embracing this change, we have the opportunity to build skill at creating meaningful and respectful human connection in the workplace. This promises to make us stronger and more fulfilled not only as individuals, but also as a society. It’s hard to deny that our country is calling on us to learn these lessons.
Consider: How comfortable are you with being vulnerable in the workplace? How do create connection and trust with your collaborators?
2. Embracing the word love.
In order for everyone to risk, there must be psychological safety. Safety isn’t avoiding conflict, or holding back from saying what we really think or feel. Safety is relationship security that expands our ability to say what we truly think or feel.
One of the ways we create safety is by taking responsibility for our impact. Consider the difference between expressing criticism with the intent to take someone down (because you’re reacting in fear) and expressing criticism out of wanting better for yourself, the speaker, or your group as a whole. Criticism can annihilate safety and silence a room (stopping progress), or it can create the kind of disruption that inspires everyone to engage deeper.
We are biologically motivated to be a part of a tribe, which means when we feel loved, our systems relax and our faculties are freed up for higher thinking. Love isn’t a skill we list on our professional resume, but it’s one of the most important leadership skills we have.
Consider: How do you practice connecting to your most heart-based intentions? What’s your guiding purpose behind how you choose to work with others?
3. Braving loss.
The truth about any change is that when we bring in the new, we say goodbye what it replaces. This is true with the most positive changes of our life (consider the loss that accompanies the gifts of parenthood, for example).
We may not be ready for change. For some of us, change may require us to alter the way we think. We may no longer have the choice to lean on old habits.
In order to stay on the creating end of change (rather than the reacting end), we need to brave the necessary losses. Loss of old ways, comforts, habits. Loss of sameness, fitting in. Loss of staying small. To meet the future, we need enough ego stability to challenge our assumptions, let go of old beliefs, and upgrade to new ones.
Experiencing loss for the sake of growth takes wisdom, courage, and trust. I encourage my clients to make friends with loss, because it’s a valuable part of change.
Consider: What will you have to let go of, in order to meet the changes you want with openness? What current challenge of yours might be an opportunity to learn and grow?
4. Slowing down.
If we want the confidence to take risks, the ability to collaborate via love instead of fear, and the strength to embrace change….
…we can’t do it all by texting, driving and eating at the same time.
When we live at a rushed pace, we resort to reactive decision-making, which feeds our primitive brains. In order to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must bring more to the table. We need to be conscious of our thought processes and our impact on others.
This calls for nourishing our wellbeing, taking care of our brains, tending to our hearts, and… slowing down.
The pursuit of effective collaboration requires us to be present. We must keep false urgency and scarcity at bay, so we don’t treat people (or ourselves) like objects, or a means to an end. The way we work must feed into everyone’s health and wellbeing.
To become tomorrow’s leader, we can start modeling effectiveness by slowing down and being present.
Consider: How do you design your days for overall wellbeing, so that grounded, heart-based interactions become more likely for you?
As you read this, what most excites you about this vision of the future? Where do you see yourself in it?
I encourage you to share this article with a colleague or mentor, and use it to start a conversation about how you envision yourself growing as a leader.
I help people who are stuck in the wrong job find their true purpose and make a life from it, so they can finally enjoy satisfaction and success. I believe every outlier has a purpose, and it's not to fit in- it's to elevate the status quo. I discuss things like: the truth about how change really happens, common traps we create for ourselves (and how to eliminate them), how to own your emotions and leverage them as a leadership tools, and stories of regular people leading from their hearts and experiencing success.
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