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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Apr 12, 2023

It is always good to discover new ways of looking at how we humans get on with each other.  As a new leader, inheriting an existing team, the first thing you discover is very few of the team are like you and that they are motivated individually, rather than as an amorphous group.  Understanding people is certainly a key to successful leadership.  I recently came across Ms. Shade Zahral in an interesting video, explaining a four quadrant intersection of courage and humanness.  In this format, courage is shown from bottom “low” to “high” on the left vertical and humanness on the right horizontal from left “low” to right “high”.  I thought this was a useful tool from which to examine the human dimension of work.

So if you are high in humanness, but low in courage, you are in the bottom right quadrant.  This quadrant is labelled as “People Pleasers”.  We meet this type of person don’t we.  They are often empathetic types who genuinely like people. They do everything they can to be accepted and avoid any criticism.  If they are critiqued at work by their boss or by colleagues, they take it personally and they retreat within themselves, never pushing higher and further to reach their potential. The low courage element makes it difficult for them to drive performance because they want to make everyone happy and focus on feelings rather than results and are rarely put into leadership positions.

The opposite quadrant, the top left, are high courage, low humanness and labelled Agitators.  It refers to people who are risktakers, super confident, self-assured, but lack empathy.  They climb over the bodies to get to the top to grasp the brass ring of success.  They are ready to push everyone hard to make sure their own career is a glorious success and don’t care about the team.  Everyone else is a tool to be used for their own self-aggrandisement.  This type is often successful in becoming a low level leader. They rise to a certain height in the organisation, but have difficulty getting to the top, because they don’t attract the required support of their teams. 

Those low in courage and low in humanness are labelled Apathetic and Toxic and in the bottom left quadrant.  They are often experts of the passive-aggressive social interaction techniques to fend off pressure and criticism.  They are often the resident politicians and sycophants in the organisation, always working on finding the weakness in the system, to exploit them for their own benefit in order to survive, when in fact they should be removed.  They are the masters of rumours and whispers as well, but they are clever enough to disguise what they are doing, so they can be hard to ferret out. Hopefully we haven’t allowed any of these horrible people to become leaders in our organisations.

The stars of this four box quadrant show of course are those in the top right quadrant, high in courage and high in humanness, labelled Partners in this construct. They can offer feedback in a way which is balanced with warmth and care.  They build relationships built on trust and these are the types of people who can unite teams and lead the organisation forward. 

I was reflecting on this four quadrant model, when I read an article in the Financial Times by Tarek Chehidi on Human Skills and what we will need in business.  He wrote, “The trend towards digitalisation and AI is well under way in many industries, allowing some technical skills to be automated, and leading employers to place a greater emphasis on human-centric skills such as problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, cognitive agility and empathy”.  He added most education systems “prioritise knowledge transfer, memorisation and standardised tests, and fail to cultivate human-centric skills”.  If the higher education system isn’t producing the empathy and human-centric skills, then it is up to organisations to take a good hard look at who they are promoting, what they are modelling and what type of people they want running the business.

We can easily see that most current leader development efforts are focused on technical skills.  The best engineer, best accountant, best designer, best salesperson etc., is given responsibility for others, on the basis they were successful in their work.  They are often Agitators though, who are skilled in their work discipline, but lack empathy.  They expect others to be like them if they want to be successful and there is only one model of progress – the one they have mastered.  They get results, but the human cost is high and usually not sustainable.  Their successor has to come in and clean up the mess they have created.

This expert model is the “hero” archetype of leadership, where the boss is the most skilled and the most competent.  As technology keeps pushing us all forward, it is getting more complex in business and less easy for the boss to be the expert in all facets.  This is the new era of the team effort and we need to combine the full strength of the team to defeat our rivals who are unable to maximise the full strength of their team.  The Partner top right quadrant of courage to aim high, take risks and the means to push yourself out of your comfort zone is required.  At the same time, the humanness dimension means having empathy with the team members and an understanding that they are different to the boss.  They don't share the same dreams and aspirations and they march to different drummers.

Where would you locate yourself in that four-quadrant diagram?  Are you able to unite the whole team behind you, because of your capacity in empathy and communication?  If not what are you doing about it? Are you able to help the members of the team align their own purpose with the purpose of the organisation?  Is there enough overlap there to make the whole construct a success? If the education system is not producing enough empathy consciousness, what are you doing about it, when these young people turn up on your work doorstep?  How are you role modelling yourself, for others to aspire to?  What are you doing about becoming more human-centric down at your shop?