Business Tips Articles

Improve Your Leadership IQ

Being an effective leader of people in today’s world seems to be much more complicated than in years past. In the previous century, for the vast majority, work was approached as a means for survival. The level of employee engagement did not dictate how long they stayed in the role. That’s different today, though. Working-class people are always on the lookout for more stimulating and rewarding work as well as inspiring work environments where they can make a difference and grow themselves and their careers.

Global workforce surveys report that highly qualified, motivated people chose to work for companies that build a strong, inspiring culture and that monitor and address both workplace culture and company “climate” issues as they arise. If recruitment and retention of highly qualified, motivated people is one your contracting company’s initiatives, your Leadership IQ ought to be another as they go hand in hand.

Leaders in the early 21st century face unprecedented challenges. They must be able to lead three completely different generations of people — all with different operating contexts and outlooks on what work is all about. Today’s leaders must not only understand their competitors for customers, they must also understand their competitors for the talent. Leaders of the 21st century must have well-honed human awareness acumen and call on it moment by moment to inspire, enroll, and engage their employees. These leaders must understand the systemic impacts of their company’s climate and be willing to look deeper to understand cultural norms that are impeding agility and innovation. They must have the finesse to weave the day-to-day taskwork into the big picture and inspire their people to give it their all for the sake of the mission. Today’s leaders need to understand people at their core like never before. Can you say that you’re one of these leaders?

Your Leadership IQ relies on your ability to grow, learn, and master new ways to lead people, and there are three tenets to consider when boosting it.

1. Self–Awareness

Self-awareness begins with the curiosity and courage to hear what works and does not work about your leadership and the culture that exists in the organization. Once you become aware of your competitive talent advantages and your talent barriers from the eyes of your people, you are equipped to take powerful action. Self-awareness allows you to leverage your talent and intervene when and where necessary to remove those personality ticks that are in the way of your true leadership potential.

Culture and climate awareness open the door for you to see what is really going on and intervene in the cultural norms and barriers that are in the way of employee engagement, innovation, and synchronicity. When you are curious and courageous, you begin to ask the tough questions and hear the tough answers. When you do this, you begin to see what “blind spots” may be hidden from your view and you learn what you do that sabotages or impedes your leadership effectiveness.

Self-awareness is the doorway to emotional intelligence, and it gives you access to real improvement as well as personal and professional development. But self-awareness is not always easy. In almost every case — with every human being — there are aspects of a personality or behavior that has a negative impact on others, and with an authentic look in the mirror, an aware leader can begin to take responsibility for that negative impact.

Being aware of your negative behaviors alone is insufficient. Taking responsibility for the impact of those behaviors, asking for forgiveness, and working to shift those limiting ways of being is where your Leadership IQ begins. Once you have mastered self-awareness, you optimize your ability to leverage situational awareness. This is fundamental to assessing, evaluating, and intervening, if need be, in the ebbs and flow of the climate and culture of your organization.

2. Executive Brain Function

Optimizing your executive brain function is a secret weapon of Leadership IQ. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is where the executive brain operates; it is similar to the controls in a cockpit. The PFC is the part of our brain where strategic thinking, collaboration, reasoning, and creativity come from. The problem is that most leaders learn over time to depend and lean on one hemisphere of the brain and become complacent in allowing that hemisphere to run the show. This limits the airplane’s ability to navigate through storms and soar to new heights.

The left hemisphere of our brain is where our organization, categorizing, reasoning, and strategizing come from. It is in the right hemisphere where brainstorming, innovation, collaboration, and relationship abilities are housed. When a leader is aware of his or her goals and visions as well as in control (aka conscious) of his or her thoughts, responses, and well-being, the person’s Leadership IQ and effectiveness skyrockets. This is done through right/left hemisphere integration. When a leader is utilizing all of his or her capacities, he or she will see things that might not have been seen and will be more equipped to respond to climate and culture barriers and infringements.

3. Response Agility

Response agility is the ability to respond in an appropriate, controlled manner — regardless of the current stress or breakdown that the leader is facing. Being agile with response and reaction is key to effective leadership: a flat line reaction is not appropriate for all situations; screaming and yelling is not appropriate for any situation; anger and frustration might be needed at times, and curiosity and collaboration may be needed at other times.

Agility in your responses means that you have trained yourself to think before reacting. If you are an effective leader, you will ask yourself, “What is needed now?” This has everything to do with situational awareness and appropriate reaction.

When stress “hits the fan” at work, a leader who has a handle on how he or she responds — and can coach others in this manner — is a leader who is positively contributing to a healthy company climate and culture. Response agility takes discipline, awareness, new habit formation, and commitment, and it is a core component of Leadership IQ.

Being a mission-driven leader who inspires people to give their best in service of a compelling vision is a key element of today’s most successful leaders. A successful leader knows that most people hired at the company are not coming to work simply for a paycheck. These leaders have a keen awareness that many people they hire are coming to work to fulfill their individual purpose in a way that supports the organizational purpose.

Today’s highly effective leaders understand how to inspire esprit de corps and leverage their communications with people. These leaders utilize their people’s intelligence to tie work responsibilities and tasks to the overall intention for and strategy of the business. Lastly, these leaders understand the differences between climate and culture and have the aptitude to know how and when to intervene in both.

Recruiting and Retaining the Best

Learning the fundamentals of how people operate and how to inspire them is the easy part of being a leader. Mastering those skills is your Leadership IQ. Turning your leadership IQ into your competitive talent advantage is the number one way to impact recruitment and retention of the best people.

About the Author

Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO/Founder of KeenAlignment, an award-winning keynote speaker, and author of The Wealth of Talent. Graziano is recognized as one of Silicon Valley’s Top 100 Influential Women in Business and known for her courageous authenticity and massively impactful coaching style. She brings 20 years of experience to empowerment, collaboration, and alignment with an unwavering focus on helping companies raise both their employee morale and their bottom line. For more information, contact: Magi Graziano, (408) 420-0926,

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