Lately, much emphasis is given to a leader’s ability to influence the behavior of his/her followers and much less on his/her ability to actually direct them towards the right goals and strategy. This made me question the nature of leadership, as it is currently being presented. What’s the value of influence if it doesn’t lead to actual positive results for an organization?
To begin, we have all encountered numerous articles on leadership, which claim to have identified the true nature of leadership. empathy, generosity and gratitude constitute the set of values a leader should have, according to the latest relevant article I’ve read, for example. Many of us have even attended lectures, participated in seminars or workshops, which trained us to become better leaders, or at least tried to make us understand this complex concept. All of these experiences have one thing in common, as you may have noticed. In all of them, there is a core assumption that leadership is basically a combination of soft skills and high emotional intelligence, which leads to certain behaviors that a person should demonstrate to influence others. A person capable of demonstrating such behaviors effectively and subsequently capable of influencing others is automatically recognized as a leader.
If this is how one defines leadership -which is usually the case- then sure, leadership can be taught and developed (although there is almost no confirmed correlation between leadership training and such developments). What is wrong with that definition is the fact that it totally ignores the intelligence factor. In my opinion, organizational leaders shouldn’t be capable of only moving people towards a path, using behavioral tricks, whether they are genuine or not. Undoubtedly influencing others positively and bringing the best out of them is a skill of tremendous value, but an organization also needs someone to be smart enough to point it towards the path of successful and winning strategy, by taking the right decisions. If this parameter is not satisfied, the leader’s influence itself is useless, in the final analysis, as it leads to results of no or very little value.
The very next question is whether someone can be taught how to make decisions that lead an organization to successful future? To answer that, we have to address the prerequisite of great decision making.
The prerequisite of bright decision making is analytical skills. Analytical skills provide a person with the ability to identify problems, stakeholders and their needs; decompose a situation logically; understand the role of the decomposed parts and their contribution to the formation of the situation. Unfortunately, analytical skills are highly related to person’s intelligence (IQ). It is also a common knowledge that intelligence can’t be increased. Subsequently, analytical skills can’t be improved much.
So the conclusion to which we arrive is that effective leadership is not only based on effective influence, but it also depends on effective decision making. Although influential skills can be developed to an extent, effective decision making can’t be improved as a skill, because it is highly correlated with an individual’s IQ. Thus, an effective leader can’t be utterly created, as there is the intelligence factor that can’t be developed.
The whole point of this article is to direct researchers and content writers towards identifying and sharing with others the role of intelligence and decision making in leadership. How can an intelligent leader be identified effectively and what specific skill set should he/she possess, besides the ability to influence others?
It all comes down to how you define leaders. So in case you define them taking exclusively into consideration their ability to influence others, then you probably disagree with the key messages of this article. But if you agree with a broader definition of a leader, which includes his/her ability to take the right actions, then we are probably on the same page. Whatever the case, I am very interested in knowing your opinion on the matter.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.