Ignoring more ancient wisdom, development for the modern leader is frequently stuck in amplifying that leader’s behavioral competencies instead of developing their capacity for self-aware cognitive transformation.
Roselinde Torres is a leadership expert with the Boston Consulting Group and has worked with hundreds of CEOs and business leaders. In her TED@BCG San Francisco talk, Torres identifies the characteristics of leaders who are thriving and what they do differently and the preparation practices that enable people to grow to their potential. In essence, as Torres says, “Leadership in the 21st century is defined and evidenced by three questions.” Paraphrasing Torres, those three questions are:
> In what ways are you anticipating the future?
> How diverse is your network?
> Do you have the courage to change?
What I discern when I am presented with contemporary examinations of leadership is fairly simple. Leaders must have an agile capacity for thinking and emotional intelligence. This would comprise domains such as curiosity and openness, comfort with ambiguity and difference, cognitive empathy, and courageous vulnerability.
The methodologies for leadership development have not changed much over the last couple of decades. However, one approach that tends to be relegated dismissively as the preserve of middle managers or Millennials is conversation. Such dismissal is ironic given that the further up the ladder of wealth, authority or power a leader moves, the more closed minded, rigid, insular and indifferent he becomes. It is precisely at this elevated level that leaders must diligently attend to their art of conversation. It is through this art that leaders may develop meaningful relationships with diverse groups of people, acquire an empathetic understanding of other points of view, spark thoughtful connections that stimulate new ideas, and reveal and illuminate a more authentic self to themselves and to others.
As leaders and the flocks of leadership development experts evaluate the next iteration of leadership models and characteristics, it is worth remembering the ancient methodology of authentic conversation.