Leader Volume 10, Number 4
The New Face of Leadership
Dr. Ciancutti is the founder of The Learning Center (www.learningcenter.net).
Dr. Steding is president of Metacode Technologies, Inc. (www.interwoven.com).
They wrote Built on Trust:
Gaining Competitive Advantage in Any Organization
(Contemporary Books, New York, 2000) from which this article is
Trust is more than a highly esteemed human value.
Along with technology and innovation, it is one of the most
powerful forces driving business today.
The most important job of any leader is to breathe life
into the connected team, and into the trust that binds that team
together and creates its competitive advantage.
The New Amalgam
In a trust-based organization, leadership is a form of
emotional custodianship and requires the qualities of
connectedness, relatedness, empathy, expressiveness, instinct and
right-brain qualities join with traditional, rational left-brain
business skills to
make up the core of this new type of leadership.
Many of today’s leaders have not been trained in the
emotional aspects of high-performance team life. In business schools, the emotional content of teams is often
given lip service but not effectively addressed. Yet emotions are at the core of any team.
To produce extraordinary results, we need to understand how
such emotional dynamics as trust, fear, dignity and meaning
operate on teams.
Fast-track leaders sometimes have a difficult time letting go
of the idea that traditional leadership skills such as strategy,
systems, structure and quantitative analysis—those on which they
believe their early success was based—are the only “right”
ones. They tend to
focus on choosing the right side of the issue, rather than on
converting “Them vs. Us” and other negative interpersonal
dynamics into closure and discovering an even better answer.
In an organizational development class at Stanford, students
were given a choice of two case studies on which to work.
The first involved a complex portfolio investment problem
requiring sophisticated financial-risk models; the other involved
allocation of parking spaces in the company parking lot.
The MBA students leapt on the former like hyenas on fresh
meat. The Sloan
Fellows, on the average ten years older and more experienced,
chose the parking space allocation problem.
They knew what the really important issues were and had
more experience in dealing with emotional situations.
Preoccupation with left-brained technique may actually mask a
reluctance to delve too deeply into one’s own emotional life,
which is a prerequisite to understanding others.
Being willing to engage in self-examination is the only way
to achieve authentic growth, and that kind of authentic personal
growth is crucial to the new leadership.
We don’t need to preempt traditional business abilities
with these “softer” skills, but to create a new balance and a
new order of effectiveness. We
want to combine professional acumen and the ability to read
financial statements with an understanding of people and skill
with relationships, interpersonal dynamics, social capital, and
internal currency. We
are looking for more than just small incremental improvements in
what we already know. We
want to leap into the unknown that will bring benefits beyond what
we thought possible.
While the effort may be great, the rewards for this form of
self-development are both profound and unique.
We can move our careers along through maneuvering,
politics, or plain dumb luck, but without personal growth, we
become increasingly dependent on circumstances.
Real, dependable career progression requires that we grow
as people, so that all parts of our internal system evolve
together in balance.
Being connected to the team also means being connected with
ourselves, and being able to convey to others what is really going
on with us. People
can sense if we are not being entirely honest with them, or if we
are trying to be something we are not.
They see and remember when we put our own ego needs above
those of the team or other team members.
Conversely, appropriate expressions of authentic
emotion—fear, enthusiasm, anger, frustration, boredom,
hurt—can do more to create a connection than the best
Over time, our own internal connection with our instincts and
emotions provides a source of intelligence that augments the
intellectual. It is
as if our intellect sits at the gateway between the external
situation and our internal gut response.
We consult first one, and then the other, to gain an
authentic consensus. The
head finally recognizes the potential contribution of the heart,
and we let all capacities work together to produce a new order of
Closure as a Leadership Skill
We have seen, after working with hundreds of groups, that
beyond survival needs—food, shelter, safety, etc.—the
strongest urge felt by teams is for resolution, or closure.
Early philosophers identified limbus partrum as a
special place between heaven and hell for those not good enough
for eternal bliss yet not deserving of eternal punishment.
Limbus became limbo, the first circle of hell in Dante’s Divine
Comedy, an excellent primer on unenlightened team life.
There Virgil explains, “We are lost…we live desiring
without hope.” In
other words, there is no closure.
The leader of today needs to master the specific skill of
closure, along with those skills that facilitate it—listening,
resolving “Them vs. Us” dynamics, nonassumptive questions,
etc.—in order to liberate the team from despair and to sustain
hope. Lead us not
into equivocation, but deliver us from limbo.