The balancing act of leadership

How Leaders Fail,” he states that “without robust social skills a leader won’t be leading for long.” Rock cited a recent study by Management Research Group (MRG) that examined how many leaders are able to balance both a goal and social focus simultaneously. The study found that leaders who were identified as highly goal focused were great at delivering results and taking initiative. Social or interpersonal leaders excelled at listening, working with diverse people, and being sensitive to other’s feelings. “The skills where goal-focused leaders excelled proved difficult for those that were interpersonally focused, and vice versa,” Rock wrote. But the real complication, as Rock pointed out, “is that the system for thinking socially and the system for thinking about goals and concepts function like a neural seesaw.” When the goal-oriented portion of the brain is engaged, the social-oriented portion takes a break; likewise, when the social and interpersonal portion of the brain is at work, the goal-oriented portion shuts down. So what can leaders do about the potential conflict between being goal focused and socially adept? Based on 15 years of helping organizations improve performance, we have found a simple process that consistently and effectively melds the two functions. We lead sessions in which leaders and their teams collectively define a “purpose” for their organization. Purpose is NOT a lame mission statement. Rather, it is a compelling, energetic statement of the greater social good that leaders are determined to achieve. The purpose itself is a leadership goal, while the process of developing it collectively establishes a strong common social bond. By empowering the team to develop the mastery needed to achieve the purpose, and holding them explicitly accountable to work toward achieving the purpose, leadership can again easily live in both worlds. While the brain may have conflicts in these areas, there is much additional research showing that seemingly conflicting portions of the brain can be taught to work together. When this happens, organizations have the best of both goal direction and social effectiveness.]]>

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