By John Spence
For nearly 30 years, I’ve been teaching leadership for organizations around the world. Interestingly, I have seen some significant changes in just the last few years. When I entered the workforce in 1994, it was all command-and-control. When my boss said “Jump,” it was, “How high, and how many times, sir?” Then it shifted to management by numbers where everything was run through spreadsheets, and when the numbers were not agreeable, the solution was often times to “reduce headcount.”
Today, leadership has moved to a servant leader model, where the traditional top-down hierarchy is literally flipped. The leader is seen as the individual who serves the rest of the organization. I am a huge proponent of this leadership style. When power and control are replaced with love and empathy, organizations thrive.
However, with the ever-increasing scale and speed of change impacting every organization and individual around the world, I see another shift coming in what it will take to be a highly effective leader going forward.
To be successful in the future, there are three key “quotients” where every leader must excel.
IQ – The Intelligence Quotient
Another word we can use here is competence. It has always been and will always be important for leaders to be highly competent in two areas: their actual job function and their leadership skills. This means that leaders need to approach their career more as a craft, constantly honing their skills, learning more and pushing themselves to consistently improve.
Unfortunately, far too few people embrace the idea of lifelong learning. As an example, the average college graduate reads only .5 books per year after they leave university. If you were to read just one skill enhancement book every other month – six books a year – you would be in the top 1% in the United States of America. If you were to read one a month – 12 books a year – you would be in the top 1% in the world for self-learning.
By the way, many people say that your IQ is set at birth, but this is not true. Research into brain plasticity shows that you can increase your IQ if you continue to stay mentally active, but your IQ can also go down if you don’t!
EQ – The Emotional Quotient
EQ is the ability to show empathy, compassion and make genuine connections with others. What we are learning is that EQ is as important as or more important than IQ. A leader who is competent but can’t connect with people might be respected, but they won’t engender loyalty and commitment.
When I facilitate leadership workshops, I do an exercise in which I ask each of the attendees to draw a line down the middle of a blank page and on one side write “best boss ever” and on the other side write “worst boss ever,” and then list all of the reasons why one was so great and the other one was so terrible. I then ask them to identify which traits were IQ and which were EQ. When we add them up, for both good and bad bosses, EQ is typically seven times that of IQ.
Luckily, it is also possible to increase your EQ through becoming more self-aware and focusing deeply on trying to understand and empathize with others.
In my book, Excellence by Design – Leadership: The Six Key Characteristics of Outstanding Leaders, I boil it down to one key phrase: “I am good at what I do (IQ), and I do it because I care (EQ) about you.”
If you clearly demonstrate that you are competent, working hard every day to get better and do it to support and serve your team, you will be a leader that people enthusiastically follow.
AQ – The Adaptability Quotient
This may be the most critical quotient moving forward: the ability to discard old ideas, embrace new ideas, adjust your frame of reference and be agile in dealing with constant change. This will be imperative not only for leaders but for entire organizations.
From an individual standpoint, the best course of action for improving AQ is to expose yourself to a broad spectrum of information. Innovative and agile thinking comes from taking your personal knowledge and experience and combining it with new ideas. This collision leads to insights that will help you anticipate change and lead more effectively. So get out of your comfort zone and explore topics that you normally wouldn’t study, go to events that will stimulate your mind, talk to interesting people outside of your industry and find lots of ways to challenge yourself to grow intellectually.
To create a highly adaptable organization, a recent McKinsey & Company research study indicated that there are five characteristics that all agile organizations possess:
- Shared purpose and vision
- Network of empowered teams
- Rapid decision and learning cycles
- Organizational culture that ignites passion
- Effective implementation of next-generation technologies
In summary, agile organizations are a motivated group of people who work well together, enthusiastically embrace change and have a strong sense of urgency to grow the organization and themselves.
The speed of change is only going to increase, so every leader will need to improve their IQ, EQ and AQ to be successful in the future.
John Spence is recognized as one of the top 100 business thought leaders and one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world. He is an international keynote speaker and management consultant and has written five books on business and life success.
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