Welcome back for the second instalment of a new series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. If you missed the last article, which explores the Roots of Motivation, you can find it here. Today, we’ll be discussing leadership!
In times of rapid change and political uncertainty, the question of leadership becomes more pertinent than ever. However, it seems like no one can fully agree on what constitutes great leadership. Is it charisma? Determination? Creativity? Adaptability? Or is leadership entirely contextual—different horses suiting different courses?
Of course, narrowing down leadership to one skill or trait is possibly too limiting, and leaders often have multiple traits and skills that make them efficacious and inspiring.
In order to get a clearer picture of leadership, then, let’s do a practical exercise! After all, that’s what this series is all about: getting pragmatic about change and growth.
This exercise is very simple and comes from Chapter 8, Activity 3, page 145 of Mapping Motivation.
“What do you think are the four most important skills that a leader should have in discharging their duties?”
Please write them down. Remember, the act of writing something on paper uses a completely different part of the brain than merely thinking, and thus engages you with what has been written far more than simply tossing around ideas in your head.
Now, before we go on to looking at the answer, let’s consider the number of skills we’ve asked you to note down. Four is not an arbitrary or random number. The reason we have selected the number four is because it connects with the principle domains of business: Finance, Marketing & Sales, Operations, and People (more information about this can be found on pages 19-20 of Mapping Motivation).
What is interesting to consider is: where do the skills you have written down fit in with these broad categories? Do all of your skills / traits fall into one basket, or have you managed to spread them across three or more domains? For example, if you wrote down that leaders need to have skills in organisation, efficiency, process, and possess a practical knowledge of the product, then you might consider that all of these pretty much fall into the camp of Operations. Whilst Operations skills are valuable, they do not tell the whole story. Having more efficient processes will save the company money, but it will not generate new sources of income. Being organised will help the business run more smoothly, but that will not necessarily resolve conflict between departments or individual employees. So, as you can see, an ideal leader would possess a spread of skills that covered the four bases of the principle domains of business.
Secondly, we might consider the important adage that leaders need to be able to work “on” the business and “in” the business simultaneously. Working “on” the business is characterised by a focus on vision and strategy—aka, where is the business going?—and being able to implement that vision with the necessary processes, systems, and structures. Working “in” in the business, by contrast, is about the people: recruiting and sustaining winning teams, and ensuring everyone in the organisation is motivated.
Though I am well aware that military analogies are in reality unhelpful and misleading when it comes to business (yet still so many gurus use them left, right, and centre) I will risk being called a hypocrite to use one here!
If you were a general in charge of building an army, and commanding that army in battle, you might consider working “on” the business (or in this case the army) as strategic planning (where are we going, what obstacles will we encounter, how can we overcome them) combined with the implementation of hierarchical structures and fighting methodologies that might help you deliver that strategy. For example: we are marching West and are going to fight the Amazonians, who are exceptionally good archers. Every soldier must therefore be equipped with a shield, and in battle, they must use the phalanx “turtle” formation, each soldier covering the soldier to their left, forming an interlocking shield wall to defend against ranged attack.
But, as we all know, and as Tolstoy so profoundly observed in War & Peace, strategy, tactics, and technology alone are not enough for an army (or business) to triumph. Here is an extract from War & Peace, Book 10, Chapter 35, in which the humble Russian General, Kutuzov, is preparing for the battle that will route Napoleon from Russian soil:
“He listened to the reports that were brought him and gave directions when his subordinates demanded that of him; but when listening to the reports it seemed as if he were not interested in the import of the words spoken, but rather in something else - in the expression of face and tone of voice of those who were reporting. By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.”
It is this “intangible” force that Motivational Maps hopes to make tangible, or rather visible. And this is where we enter the realm of working “in” the business, aka, being among the troops, feeling the spirit of the army, and “watch[ing] this force and guid[ing] it as far as that was in [our] power.”
So, what is our answer to the question of the four most important skills?
Chapter 8, Figure 8.5: 4+1 leadership model (p. 148).
As you may have noticed, we’ve cheated slightly, in that there are actually five things! But the fifth is not like the others, and to use an old saying: four apples and an orange does not make five apples. The fifth skill, which is Self: self-awareness, self-insight, and self-development, interpenetrates and augments all the others.
We do not have room in this blog to unpack what all of these core skills mean in great detail here, but hopefully this article has given you some clues already. For more information, consult chapter 8 of Mapping Motivation. You can actually pick up Mapping Motivation at a 20% discount here.
And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.