What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life today? Take a few moments to think about this question if you need to. Once you have someone in mind, list three words that you think best describe what this person contributes to your life.
From 2005 to 2008 Gallup conducted a study of why people follow a leader. The question they asked is the same question just asked of you, “What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?” It was followed by, “List three words that best describe what this person contributed to your life.”
There was no list of leadership characteristics or categories to choose from, just an opportunity for followers to define how leaders make a positive difference for them.
At the end of the Gallup study, some of the most used characteristics of leadership from the leadership gurus were nowhere near the top of the list. In fact, the most common responses were not purpose, wisdom, humor, or even humility. The words that appeared most often were trust, compassion, stability, and hope. With over 170,000 words available in the English language, to have these four at the top of the list is significant.
“The followers we surveyed also cited honesty, integrity, and respect as distinct contributions from the leaders in their lives.”
“Caring, friendship, happiness, and love were other frequently mentioned words followers used when asked what leaders contributed o their lives.”
“The People we surveyed also mentioned the words security, strength, support, and peace.”
“Followers also mentioned the words direction, faith, and guidance when describing this basic need.”
It is interesting to note that none of the four characteristics listed above have anything to do with a person’s intelligence, or IQ. Instead, they have everything to do with a person’s emotional quotient, or EQ. What this means is the key to effective leadership is not “out their” somewhere, it is “in here,” inside ourselves. The heart isn’t just a pump, it’s is the essential, active ingredient for building trust, integrity, empathy, resilience, and credibility.
Robert Cooper, in “Executive Leadership,” says this type of wisdom—from the heart, not the head—“is what ignites creative genius, keeps you honest with yourself, shapes trusting relationships, provides an inner compass for your life and career, guides you to unexpected possibilities, and may even save you or your organization from disaster.”
“People with high levels of personal mastery…cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, or the head and heart, any more than they would choose to walk on one leg or see with one eye.” Peter Senge