Wilma Slenders is strategic adviser, executive coach and founder of Transcend Management Advisors in Calgary.
Why is it important for executives to get leadership training and coaching?
Slenders: Professional development is important for leaders at all levels of the organization. We may believe that once an individual has reached an executive level, growth and development is no longer important. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being an executive is challenging. There are constant societal, sector and market challenges that the executive needs to stay on top of, as well as leading the organization to remain relevant, grow and generate results.
Leadership training and coaching are means for executives to become better leaders. Through coaching and training, executives learn more about themselves, their impact on others and how to work more effectively.
Coaching is a safe place for executives to explore their areas of strengths and growth opportunities, as well as be challenged on their assumptions, judgments, beliefs and perspectives in order to have a greater impact within, and external to the organization.
Leadership training and coaching help executives stay up to date with current thinking and methods, as well as hone their skills for current and future leadership challenges.
It can be lonely at the top. Coaches can help by playing a number of roles, including being a sounding board, thought partner, mentor, friend, consultant and trusted adviser.
What are the key qualities of a great leader?
Slenders: If you ask 10 people, you will get 10 different answers. These are some of the qualities that I believe characterize a great leader. Great leaders are emotionally intelligent (EQ). They know themselves well, understand their impact on others, regulate their behaviour, are socially adept and diplomatic, and are internally motivated.
It’s said that IQ will get you in the door, but EQ will keep you there, help you excel and will lead to promotion.
Foresight and vision are also critically important. Great leaders have the ability to create a vision around which people rally.
They also have the innate and proven ability to take advantage of opportunities as they emerge and use them to the best advantage of all concerned. This requires passion, confidence and courage.
Great leaders understand that they are only as smart as the people who surround them. They listen to feedback and encourage diverse perspectives and views in order to make their own thinking and decisions better.
Great leaders are decisive. They make decisions, often based on incomplete evidence. They’re willing to take risks that others wouldn’t take. And when they make a mistake, they acknowledge it and move on.
People in organizations look to their leaders for cues on how to behave. Being a person of integrity, being honest and having strong moral principles shows others what’s expected. It’s the most important quality.
What are the key things in a person’s personality that prevent them from being a great leader?
Slenders: Under pressure, when distracted, bored, stressed or confused, most of us aren’t at our best. At those times, we display counterproductive tendencies, referred to as ‘dark side’ behaviours.
In normal circumstances, these behaviours may actually be strengths. For example, being careful and thorough may cross the line, under stress, to be risk averse, overly careful and fearful of failure. Or normally being intense and energetic may show up as being moody, inconsistent, volatile and unpredictable under stress.
Other dark side behaviours include having inflated views of one’s own competency and worth, being unable to admit mistakes or learn from experience, not listening to others, being overly sensitive to criticism and lacking trust.
The dark side of our personality can limit or derail our success. Dark side behaviours may impact credibility, leadership effectiveness, the quality of relationships and reputation.
In order to not let them overtake us, it’s important to have awareness of these tendencies, recognize their triggers and take corrective action. Leaders who aren’t able to do so may not achieve the success that they desire.
What’s your sense of the mood of Calgary executives considering the economic climate?
Slenders: Some executives I work with are seeing opportunity in this market. They’re excited about what could be here in Calgary. They see the future requiring disruption of the present and innovation in the future. This requires embracing new ways of thinking and working with less reliance on traditional tried-and-true methods and approaches.
Others have taken a wait-and-see attitude, evidenced by not wanting to make too many risky moves without having a clearer view of what the future looks like.
Calgary is in a transition phase. We can no longer rely on the things that created success and served us well in the past. However, we seem to be uncertain of what’s required in the future. Courageous leaders will work with, and leverage, that uncertainty and ambiguity to create different futures for their companies.
Is there a certain executive demographic that’s more receptive to leadership coaching and training?
Slenders: Not everyone wants to be a leader. For those who do, leadership coaching and training is highly valuable. I’ve found that the leaders who require coaching the most are usually the ones who are least receptive.
Leaders who want to grow, develop and excel are the most receptive to leadership coaching and training. Executives who are able to put their egos aside in order to open the door to the opportunity for personal, professional and corporate growth benefit greatly.
The clients I work with are mid-to-executive-level leaders who are highly motivated, results-driven, and value advice and guidance. They’re prepared to make the investment to work with a professional who will challenge and support them in reaching their goals.
They seek a trusted, strategic adviser and seasoned mentor who will provoke them to think and act differently and provide alternative insights and perspectives, which will help them become the best leader they can be.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business