Just as superheroes - Phoenix, Superman, or Wonder Woman - have powers to conquer or bring hope to the world, leaders have “powers” to do the same in organizations. These powers are leadership characteristics. And when leaders embody their power(s), the contributions they make can advance an organization and have a significant impact on the quality of people's lives.
Alan Turing, a British pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, and cryptanalyst, embodied innovation and creativity. Considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, his concepts paved the way for leaders like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs to exercise their power of innovation in the area of technology.
James Burke, the former Johnson & Johnson chairman, displayed integrity when he recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol capsules off the market, at a time when it was not fashionable, and gave other CEO's the courage to be honest and do what was right for the consumer.
Online searches reveal that the most commonly cited and admired leadership traits (powers) include respect; ability to communicate; humility and presence. Rarely mentioned, is neutrality: non-judgment and non-reaction, THE most powerful weapon in a leaders' arsenal. Neutrality does not mean that a leader is devoid of emotions. Instead they have a calm detachment and impartiality in their approach to work and in interaction with others. They have embraced and embodied their authentic self.
Leaders can begin to develop the trait of neutrality by practicing the following:
- Separate fact from interpretation - when you are in a meeting, draw a "T" on a blank sheet of paper. Record what is heard as fact and what sounds like interpretation. On average, you will notice that the conversation is primarily interpretation leading you to listen non-judgmentally and respond to what is important - the facts.
- Have "accountable conversations" - it is natural and easier to "hold someone else accountable" because the focus is usually on what the other person did or didn't do exempting oneself from accountability. Having "accountable conversations" is different because you begin by stating where you were not accountable. This approach diffuses any adverse reactions and enhances the professional relationship.
- Minimize the use of the word "you" in your language - the word "you" creates defensiveness, especially when asking someone to account for an unmet result. When using you, the "real" purpose of the conversation gets diverted; the employee feels "disciplined and belittled"; the leader becomes reactive making for a culture of distrust.
- Be clear about your intention in communication - intention is the "energy" behind a communication; not the goal. They are the emotional expression of an underlying belief (judgments) that is held about a person, team or situation, and is what is experienced by the receiver. An intention of "non-judgement" helps a leader connect with people at a personal level.
One final thought about leaders and superheroes. They are servant leaders. The needs of those they serve are their highest priority.