Monday, May 21, 2012

What Does It Take to Become the Leader’s Leader?

Whether advising on board of directors, directing as Chairman of the Board, or serving as CEO, these administrators are unmistakably leaders. Nevertheless, they do not have all the answers. The best leaders request guidance for the tough decisions. That is, they continuously seek out other leaders in whom they can confide.

To be a confidant to the leader, it is important to have been a leader. In many cases, some of the best confidants are people who
were faced with excessive misfortune.  While the circumstance presented a struggle, they refused to be demoralized by it. Instead, they were able to overcome and pass on the valuable lesson on to others. The confidant who had an unfortunate experience is better prepared and can empathetically empower the leader work through tough issues. While it’s not mandatory, it is a distinguishing factor in creating a great confidant.

Often the embedded idea of a leader is an expert in technology, process improvement, finance or the law. Executives however need more than IQ; they must develop EQ. A leader’s leader then, must understand his/her audience, making sense both of the individual as well as human nature. With this ability, the teacher can effectively communicate to the pupil, guiding them toward a specified direction.

It is essential for leaders to be able to break down complex ideas into simple concepts. Thus, the leader’s leader is no expert in one field. Instead, the confidant has depth in various industries. They can thereby find the parallels in sports, art, the animal kingdom, romantic relationships, or parenting, repositioning and redirecting the leader.

Above all however, being the leader’s leader necessitates proficient listening skills. Good listeners give people a safe space to be themselves. For any relationship, this sort of trust is fundamental.

All the same, effective listening is more than just hearing: it’s applying. As management consultant Robert Heller put it, “Effective management always means asking the right question.” The leader’s leader must take in what another leaders is saying and be able to rephrase what was just said to them. This clearly implies attention and also allows the speaker to objectively hear what was communicated.

The best advisors to leaders can repeat what was said and then add what was unsaid in the communication. In some cases, the original speaker may say, “Yes, that is what I really wanted to say. I just did not know how to say it.” This allows the leader’s leader to draw out the unspoken or un-thought thoughts. Furthermore, it can empower a person by uncovering the ability to innovate.

Perhaps the leader’s leader has to know enough about many topics in order to know the right questions to ask. To the observer, it would seem that the leader’s leader has all the answers. That would be a misconception. The leader’s leader must be a great listener so they are able to ask critical questions.

Good leaders rarely need someone to tell them what to do. They need a confidant to help them uncover what is already hidden in their own minds.

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. 

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