I am a leader in my organization. As such, I get the opportunity to participate in leadership conferences, special training programs, and discussions intended to help us think differently about leadership. Sometimes it feels like each year brings a new flavor or focus on how to evolve our leadership. This past year, we spent a lot of time discussing our style of leadership and whether we were more drawn to leading with our heads or our hearts. This week’s lecture discusses the importance of utilizing many kinds of intelligence in order to be a successful leader.
In my organization, we spent time discussing our personal tendencies when it comes to leadership styles. The general question was “if you are presented with a problem, where do you look to first in order to solve it”? Our options to choose from were data or intuition. If you chose data, you were saying that when trying to solve for a new problem, you prefer to start with reviewing the facts and making sure that you have subject-matter expert levels of knowledge. If you chose intuition, you were saying that you leaned on your feelings about the matter and had a tendency to create strategy based on that. Ultimately, the messaging was very clear that a great leader needs to know how to balance both in order to be successful. Equally important is the idea that you should surround yourself with people who think differently from you in order to employ a system of checks and balances on your work.
This idea of using both data and intuition relates directly back to Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. In Sternberg’s theory he focuses on what leaders do when presented with a problem and his theory says that they employ three types of intelligence in order to problem solve. The first is analytic intelligence, which is general problem solving ability. The second is practical intelligence, or intelligence that you have learned over time in real world situations. This could also be called “street smarts”. The last type of intelligence is creative intelligence, which is the ability to create something new and useful in order to solve a problem. (PSU WC, 2020, Lesson 2) In my opinion, the analytical intelligence relates to the use of data, practical intelligence relates to the use of intuition, and the creative intelligence speaks to the ability that a leader has to combine the two.
When considering your personal leadership style, I think that it is important to be skilled in the area of self-awareness, as that will first allow you to create an honest assessment of your personal style. Once you know where your tendencies lie, you can do work to strengthen the integration of all types of intelligence and surround yourself with people that can support you in the areas that you might have a harder time with. “In today’s business environment – which is characterized by constant change and multiple and highly complex challenges – neither approach is sufficient in itself. Rather, both are needed to make real headway in increasing employee engagement.” (von Der Heyt, 2014)
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2016). PSYCH 281 Lesson 2: Trait Approach. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2040131/modules/items/28001665
von der Heyt, Andreas. “How To Lead With Head And Heart – The Ultimate Balancing Act.” LinkedIn, 10 Aug. 2014, www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140810111135-175081329-how-to-lead-with-head-and-heart-the-ultimate-balancing-act/.