We recently completed a survey about senior leadership. We asked executive leaders what they expect of their senior leaders. We asked senior leaders about what they wish they knew more about prior to being prompted to senior leadership. And, we asked team members what they wanted to see more of from their senior leaders. 

When we  asked senior leaders what they wished they knew about senior leadership but didn’t, here’s are a few summary quotes of what they said…

  • "I wish I knew more about Emotional Intelligence influence on leading teams and having to work with other organizations."
  • "More insight into my own limitations as I moved through this process."
  • "I wish I understood the value and impact of managing my emotions."
  • "I wish I would have known how to be more sympathetic - they don't teach you that in college.  Human relations are critical to success - when to be "hard" and when to have a softer approach.  We are here to run a business at the end of the day, but the people we encounter along the way is what it is really about."
  • "Not to overreact." 
  • "I learned to manage individual employees slightly different based on personalities, strengths and weaknesses with the goal of getting most out of each individual…all while striving to be consistent overall."

The first shift that leaders must make to be successful at senior leadership levels.  

The shift is to move from being smart to being aware. I call this enhanced state of awareness Interpersonal Agility and it’s the first part of our 4-part senior leadership model that we'll be exploring over the next several months. 

Previous level of leadership

At the previous level of leadership, we were likely technical experts and that’s what got us promoted. We were good at what we did and someone said, “let’s promote this guy or gal.”  And even though we were at the beginning stages of needing to get work done through others, we could still get away with being the technical experts and being successful. 

This no longer works at the senior leader level. 

And primarily because of the changes of the senior leadership roles we explored in the previous post – the complexity of the role, the consequence of our decisions, and consideration for the future. We now have a much broader spectrum of stakeholders to engage with – the executive leaders we work for, an extensive network of peers with whom we have to negotiate resources, the people who work for us, our customers, vendors and others. 

The technical knowledge and skills that made us successful in the past do not arm us with the tools we need to manage our emotions in the midst of the chaos and complexity that comes with senior leadership. And, if we don't make the shift from trying to be smart to being aware, we won’t be equipped to stay in conversation, to manage well in conflict, to hold the needs of our constituents in mind as we make a case for what our team needs, and to make effective decisions. As a result - conflicts tend to fester longer or go unresolved and silos build up between organizations. 

Next Post

That's the intro the Shift 1: from Smart to Aware. Stay tuned for more details on this shift in our next post. 

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