Leadership is contextual.
That is to say that every leadership interaction is entirely different, because of a myriad of variables, many of which can’t be fully comprehended by the leader or the subordinate. While the application of leadership principles and demonstrating favourable leadership characteristics is certainly advantageous, what works in one situation will not necessarily work in another, seemingly similar situation.
Leadership is about the “situation”. The situation you are in, the situation the subordinate is in, the context of the place and the context of the circumstances. These variables change, some of them openly, some of them hidden, in the minds of those who are interacting. This is where the leader needs next-level leadership, a variable that doesn’t change that they can use to be more effective.
I’ve been really fortunate to teach leadership to all types of leaders, including some of the smartest engineers on the planet. I struggled for a while explaining to these engineers that there really isn’t a single template that I can give them for leadership. There’s no definitive set of rules or a systems engineered process for their leadership engagements.
In fact, much of the present leadership teachings are centred around the leader espousing the highest of values. The most polished principles would be problematic fitting inside a simple framework. So it stands that leadership concepts that work really well in a vacuum fall apart when you add the “grey” context of people.
People are messy problems.
It was while deeply thinking about this issue that I came to reinforce in my mind what next-level leadership is. Simon Sinek sums leadership up well, saying something like “Leadership is getting someone else to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”
Let me take it a step further. Once you understand that leadership is influence, know the drivers of how to influence others and understand all of the basics, the next step is to understand that leadership is about controlling emotions at the highest level.
Next level leadership centres on:
- Controlling your emotions;
- Helping others through emotional change;
- Predicting emotional behaviours;
- Managing emotional fallout;
- Circumventing negative emotions;
- Supporting emotional outpouring, and;
- Creating an environment for the application of emotional intelligence.
It is the art of emotional control. In every leadership interaction, there will always be an exchange of emotions.
If you want to truly be a great leader, a leader who is remembered years later, you need to learn about emotions.
If you want to take your leadership to the next level, you have to learn emotional control of yourself and others around you.
Developing emotional intelligence will make you far more effective in your interactions with your team.
On my journey, I have witnessed good, bad and great leadership. In the Australian Defence Force, I observed some very effective officers. These people were technically brilliant, educated and well versed on how to lead. They are leaders who became Generals and others who will be the Generals of the future, but some of them struggle with this concept. Some of them think that emotional control is displaying no emotion at all, having a poker face. Great if your playing poker, not so great if you’re developing capabilities or shaping culture. This isn’t always the case, but it’s certainly not uncommon due to the establishment and hierarchical nature of the relationships needed to conduct warfighting.
Conversely, in the corporate sector, I have seen a few leaders who truly understand the importance of emotional control and how it helps in relationship building. They have used their emotional intelligence to create huge fan bases and followers dedicated to implementing their same vision. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that some of these leaders were engineers too.