Sunday, May 7, 2017

Three Traits of Senior Leadership

The senior leadership should represent a high level of leadership maturity via profound thinking and sound judgment.

Leadership is about the future and change. More specifically, leadership is about creating a powerful future that is compelling in the present, utilizes the best talents, capabilities, and resources of their people and organization to drive changes and produce meaningful and valuable results. People lead at different levels. The senior leadership of the organization or the society is like the steering wheel to ensure their ships are moving in the right direction towards the uncharted water. Senior leadership is neither equal to seniority nor the big title, it implies the high level of intellectual and emotional maturity, strategic foresight, profound insight, decision wisdom, and high-level leadership influence.

Sound judgment: Generally speaking, compared to other junior-level management positions, the senior leadership role needs to spend significant time making both strategic and tactical decisions on a daily basis. Hence, sound judgment skill is important to enhance leadership effectiveness and improve decision-making capability. Due to the complexity and ever-changing business dynamic, sound judgment is a hardcore leadership competency and the prerequisite quality of being a senior leader. In the senior position, stay on strategic focus rather than the tactical details. That means the senior leaders are foresightful, they can leverage strategic thinking (thinking long term), systems thinking (contextual understanding the interconnectivity between the parts and the whole), creative thinking (thinking the alternative and better way to do things), independent thinking (junior leaders follow the senior leaders, but senior leaders should follow their own mind and heart). Senior leadership is neither the status quo, not a ceremonial role only. Ideally, it means the leaders are reaching a high level of maturity to drive changes and make influence significantly. Biases and stereotyping are how humans cope with larger numbers of other humans than they could ever know. Therefore, senior leadership should set the tone for advancing and inclusiveness. There’s knowing unknown, there’s unknowing unknown, everyone perhaps has some blind spots blocking the way. But as a senior business leader (or any kind of leader), the blind spots will cloud your vision, trigger your negative emotion, cause your decision ineffectiveness, and compromise your leadership competency. Hence, even you are in the senior level position, be learning agile, learn from all necessary resources, learn from others, learn from the past, etc, but ultimately, you should shape your own viewpoint and practice your own leadership influence.

Abstraction: Compared to the junior/middle or functional managers, senior leaders should focus on the holistic big picture, without getting distracted by trivial details. Senior leaders play a critical role in setting principles and policies, hence, abstract thinking helps them differentiate substance from style, grasp the quintessential from outdated information. Abstract your thoughts and words by omission, composition, generalization, or idealization, to reach a point of agreement or develop the foundation of the timeless principles, in order to move the organization/industry/society forward and step into the "VUCA" digital new normal. You must convey a clear message and communicate relentlessly and understand that not all of the stakeholders will move through the change curve at the same speed. Just because you have arrived at the other side does not mean everyone else has. Either making communication, negotiation, or presentation, senior leaders should enforce communication to tailor audience via different styles. From abstraction to elaboration. Open your mind - listen (read) carefully, expecting to find some new insight. As a C-level position is at a higher level, as many times abstraction enables an agreement.

Profundity: If in the industrial age, the louder you could speak, the more senior it sounds like; and then the digital era changes the rules. The digital senior leadership should reflect on how profound your thinking or how persuasive your communication is. Leadership in itself is a constant learning process that requires the leader to build experience and to share insight. Insight is an understanding of cause and effect based on the identification of relationships and behaviors within a model, context, or scenario. The difference between knowledge and insight is thinking, and especially lateral, nonlinear, or multi-dimensional thinking, a holistic view. The more complex the situation is, the more different approaches and role gaming is needed to reach for in-depth understanding. Furthermore, insight is being able to identify the root cause of a problem or core issues. Ideally, when the rule is fair and the digital principle is clear, the deeper you can think, the more senior position you could reach. Senior leaders should have the ability to frame the right problems, before delegating others to solve them. We all know that often solving the wrong problem is even worse than doing nothing about it because it would cause more problems. The difference between senior and junior (middle) leadership is not about how many answers you have, but about how well you can ask the open questions to attract best answers and leverage all sorts of information to perceive the big picture into which the knowledge fit, to improve decision effectiveness and enforce leadership maturity.

Senior leadership makes influence from mindset to behavior, and evolving to what is needed next for radical changes and societal advancements. Leadership is ripened when the power of leadership is based on acute observation, insightful understanding, sound judgment, courageous questioning, unconventional connection, thoughtful discernment, and deep penetration. Thus, the senior leadership is less about the status quo based on the steep hierarchy, more about the high level of leadership maturity.


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