Decoding Leadership

One of the more intriguing things I’ve often discussed or talked about is leadership. Not many people I know are able to give definitive answers to “What is leadership?” or “What makes a good leader?”, which makes me conclude (in consultation with a few people I consider leadership gurus) that this is because leadership is such a subjective matter – every good leader is uniquely different and brilliant in different ways, appealing to different people with their different attributes.

A great blog I have read and still refer to once in a while is Harvard Business Review’s Decoding Leadership by Norm Smallwood. Perhaps it is a function of how my brain works, but I love the fact that he explains leadership with 5 simple rules. According to Smallwood, 60-70% of leadership traits are common in any effective leader – from a bootstrapping entrepreneur to a leader at a large organization. These leadership traits can be summarised into these 5 rules.

  1. Shape the Future

    In order to enjoy doing this, you probably would have an Analytical preference – this part of the brain tends to enjoy logical, rational thought, planning, abstract thought, and analysis.

  2. Make Things Happen

    This tends to attract the Structural part of the brain which enjoys sequential thought, processes, guidelines, implementing, and seeing things through.

  3. Engage Today’s Talent

    Clearly appealing to the Social part of the brain, a leader enjoys the process of nurturing and inspiring others since this part of the brain is socially aware, intuitive about people, and empathic.

  4. Build Tomorrow’s Talent

    Quite possibly something that the Conceptual part of the brain would enjoy, often thinking about future success and having a vision that drives forward.

  5. Invest in Yourself

    This, to me, is a function of our behavioural attributes – are we constantly pushing forward, forgetting to stop and rest? Are we open to receiving other people’s input, criticism, and points of view so that we can improve ourselves? Do we listen sufficiently? Are we willing to share our ideas so that we can be challenged? Do we interact with others easily?

Synthesised with what we know of thinking and behavioural attributes according to the Emergenetics model, these rules point to a philosophy we have always upheld – that a diverse team (which we call a Whole Emergenetics (WE) team) will function more effectively than a homogeneous team.

If, as a leader, you do not embody the thinking and behavioural preferences to enjoy following all these 5 rules, you would probably want to surround yourself with people who can complement you and cover your blind spots – which is probably a whole lot easier than to force yourself to learn to love following all 5 rules.

I believe that Leadership Development starts with Personal Development and we must first be self-aware before we start to nurture others. And only then can we understand the approach to developing the people around us in order to ensure not just their success, but our own as well.

Colin Yeow
CEO – Emergenetics Asia