Developing leadership qualities

Organizational success depends on managers’ leadership qualities

Successful managers are often confident, perseverant, supportive, dynamic, enterprising, willing to take calculated risks, understanding, forthcoming, inspiring, and radiate peace even in the midst of turmoil. When managers have such leadership qualities conflicts are more readily met and solved and employees thrive and will do their best to make each project successful.

Inversely, if managers lack these qualities, conflicts with colleagues and between groups of employees – all the “human stuff” – will again and again undermine otherwise well thought out projects causing them to fail or to produce suboptimal outcomes. Thus, developing the above leadership qualities drives organizational performance, has a positive impact on bottom line, and benefits the individual manager’s career.

Most managers are keenly aware that what most persistently threatens the success of their projects are human (not technical) problems.

In 2013, I asked 60 experienced managers what challenges they were facing in their organization, which had a clear negative impact on organizational performance and bottom line, and which they had been unable to solve for a prolonged period of time – sometimes years. These managers worked in a broad range of industries, both public and private sector, and at all levels of the organization from team leaders to CEOs and partners.

None of the managers mentioned traditional business challenges, such as, of developing new products or services, gaining bigger market shares, reducing costs or waste, managing liquidity, monitoring performance, or handling new technological or social changes. Instead they all mentioned challenges related to understanding and working with people– including them-selves. The kind of challenges they mentioned were:

  • How can I keep the internal fire in R&D employees – and still make them finish projects when they loose interest for these projects?
  • How can I do the long term planning and not get caught in the here-and-now tasks?
  • How can I make researchers, with contractual freedom to research what they want, relate to the institute’s vision and mission?
  • How can I make sure my employees do not leave the company (and form a competing company) after we have spent resources developing them?
  • How can I make employees feel they are doing a good job, in situations where the employees know they could do much more if they had more resources?
  • How can I justify asking employees to help create automated work processes, which eventually will make these same employees redundant?
  • How can I manage an uncooperative employee with rare skills whom I would not be able to replace?

Developing leadership qualities by changing the place you act from

Cultivating leadership qualities is a matter of cultivating the place from which we act. If we try to be patient from a place of self-restraint, our patience will be an effort to uphold and will break down when we are under pressure. If we try to be strong or assertive from a place of impatience or fear, we will end up merely being aggressive. If we try to be optimistic and enthusiastic from an insincere place, others will see us as superficial and blind to the severity of organizational challenges.

In this leadership program, we will develop eight leadership qualities

  1.  The ability to have a fruitful dialogue with people who’s view and values are opposed to your own
  2. The ability to be patient and perseverant without effort
  3. The ability to act with strength, courage, and directness without aggression
  4. The ability to feel and radiate peace in the midst of turmoil or conflict
  5. The ability to have empathetic and kind understanding while maintaining demands for high performance
  6. The ability to be spontaneous, light, and optimistic without being superficial
  7. The ability to look at a well-known challenge with fresh eyes
  8. The ability to detect when your taken-for-granted assumptions lead to inefficient action

Methods for developing leadership qualities

The methods we use involve reading and discussing the newest research, contemplative techniques, guided meditation, and working with art. The methods we use are grounded in cognitive science research – in particular in Cognitive Metaphor Theory, the embodied view of cognition, and research in interoception.

I have described the theoretical underpinnings of the work in my book: Sensory Templates and Manager Cognition.

How to sign up for the program

New groups start continuously. If you are interested in participating, you can apply to the program by writing a mail to briefly describing your management experience and the most important challenges you are currently facing as manager.

Groups will be designed to create a strong supportive and challenging environment for developing your leadership qualities.