Recently I had the opportunity to attend a strategic leadership workshop by Pairee Learning. The workshop was led by George W. Watts and Laurie Blazek. George is a Ph.D. in Psychology and his passion is inspiring people to unlock their highest potential. He has trained CEOs and management teams of many Fortune 500 companies on leadership and sales.
Chandrakanth B.N. is the founder and CEO of Pairee Learning. Prior to Pairee, Chandra was the Founder and Managing Director of Theorem India, which he started with just 2 people in 2002 and grew it to over 1300+ people globally spread across 4 continents. (And I have worked at Theorem before).
Review of the Workshop
I have been a voracious learner all my life. I’ve attended workshops across many subjects. But until recently, I never took the topic of leadership as a serious subject of study. I’ve mostly linked leadership skills to the ability to inspire and motivate others and have never thought deeply about how to build a leadership team and discover one’s strengths.
This workshop was one of the best workshops I’ve attended in my life and it has definitely impacted how I would like to build my leadership skills and create a leadership team. The workshop was not just a knowledge session but an interactive learning environment with plenty of individual attention being paid to each participant by the training team.
The basic idea behind this workshop’s theme is that every leader has certain strengths and certain weaknesses (shadows). Many times, leaders make the mistake of hiring people who are like them, rather than hiring people who are complimentary to their strengths.
There are 5 major leadership skills that leaders of an organization are supposed to have.
- Open-mindedness and creativity
- Extroversion and sales skills
- Agreeableness and people management skills
- Conscientiousness and the ability to execute.
- Emotionally stable and analytical thought process.
No leader can be extremely good at all the above skills. By default, one or two out of the above five will be dominant personalities within a leader.
A leader has to find out what he/she is good at and create their leadership team in such a way that others compliment their skills by filling in key leadership roles which require other strengths from the above list.
Now let’s have a look at each leadership skills and how it relates to business.
1. Open-mindedness and Creativity
Every innovative organization that creates new things needs to have a strong leader who is creative and innovative. If you look at a company like Apple, Steve Jobs is the person who is open-minded, wants to disrupt the status quo and create new things. A company like Accenture is great at execution but they lack innovation, which is a huge challenge for them.
Most startups that have made it big have two key leaders with complimentary skills. One person creates the product and the other person sells the product. Without an extroverted leader, it is difficult for a company to take their product or service to the market and convince people to pay them money.
If an open-minded and creative leader understands that he is not an extrovert, it is best for him to partner with someone who is extroverted. From selling your product to the customers, to selling your idea to the investors and selling the dream to your team, an extroverted leader would do a far better job at it than an introverted leader.
Certain people are very skilled in ironing out the difference of opinion between important stake holders. Agreeableness is a key leadership strength that not all leaders possess naturally. People who are strong in this skill will do an excellent job in being account managers. The creative and open-minded entrepreneur comes up with a great idea, the extrovert sells it and the agreeable leader will manage the relationship.
No organization can survive without proper execution. People who are great at sales skills might not be very good at getting things done. You need conscientious people who can actually execute a project that comes to hand. A clear process driven mindset is essential for delivery. No organization can survive without conscientious leaders working to get this done and deliver on time.
5. Emotionally Stable
As a general rule, people who are open-minded and creative get carried away by their emotions. They are not always emotionally stable. But an organization needs highly emotionally stable leaders to check the status of reality.
Usually, CFOs need to be emotionally stable leaders. The open-minded and creative will get carried away by idealism while the emotionally stable leaders in the organization will be realists and see the organization from the lenses of current reality. Because if we are not rooted in reality the organization could get carried away in wild dreams and lose itself.
The 5 Key Skills for a Successful Organization
The above 5 skills are key to making an organization successful. If any one of these skills are missing from the leadership team, the whole organization could crumble. The organization is only as strong as the weakest leader in the leadership team.
Here’s a list of business expertise of each trait. A business needs leaders that can cover all these skills to make it a great and profitable organization.
If the people in the management do not understand that these 5 major skills are critical to any successful business and if they don’t find out their own strengths, then life can get pretty difficult to the top. Leaders who do not understand these 5 skills will end up hiring more people in the team who are like them. This will strengthen one key leadership skill but will fail in other critical areas.
There are extremely creative and innovative startups that have failed because no one could sell the idea to customers and investors. There are startups who are great at execution but they lack new initiatives and creativity. Some organizations are good at creativity and sales, but without execution and delivery, they will fail.
After attending this workshop, I’ve learned what mistakes I’ve done in the past in trying to build a leadership team for my startup. The first try failed and I had to let go of people in my leadership team. I judged them on various factors instead of realizing that they can be best only at one or two major leadership skills.
What kind of Leader I am?
Self-awareness is one of the most important requirements for growing as a leader. This workshop helped me understand where my key skills lie. All the participants were asked to do an exercise to find out which leadership skills are the strongest in each person.
After my exercise, this is what I got:
My strongest leadership skills are open-mindedness and conscientiousness. I am great at ideating new things and executing it. However, I am naturally an introvert and I am not good at sales. So this makes it very clear that when I build my leadership team, I should choose people who are extroverts and emotionally stable to complement my skills.
I rank fairly well in agreeableness as well and would be able to take up tasks that require working with other humans. But being open-minded and creative, I often get carried away by my emotions and I am not emotionally stable. I am always looking at what could be rather than what is.
Each key leadership skill also comes with its shadows. Extremely extroverted and agreeable people also have problems with introspection and thinking things through in a deep way.
The open-minded and creative me also comes with the following shadows. Because I have so many business ideas coming up all the time, I am distracted, impulsive and unrealistic at times. Perfectionism and obsessiveness is the shadow of my conscientiousness. And due to my sensitivity to other people’s feelings, I also have trouble saying no.
Every leader has to find their strengths and also figure out the shadows that they are casting because of their strengths.
As the famous saying goes “The brighter your sunshine, the darker your shadow.”
I would consider myself lucky for having the chance to attend this workshop. I also took 3 members from my team to attend this workshop and they also feel that it has been a great experience. George was in India for a short period and he did only two workshops. I hope he will return to do more. Thanks to Pairee Learning for bringing this workshop to India.