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Intelligence In Leadership – A Double-Edge Sword

I often say intelligence can become a double-edged sword.

Recently, I’ve been working with Oliver, a particularly intelligent and highly esteemed leader, managing multimillion-dollar projects.

Brimming with exceptional IQ and domain expertise, Oliver unknowingly began categorizing his colleagues based on his perception of their abilities, failing to recognize the repercussions of his 'alpha behavior' on his team's dynamics.

A recent episode unfolded that helped him reflect upon this challenge.

Theo, one of Oliver's colleagues, had unfortunately underperformed on a crucial project. When I asked about what happened, Oliver shared:

"Well, Theo was leading this big project. It didn't go well; it fell apart spectacularly," Oliver revealed.

"I see. And how did you involve yourself during the process?" I inquired.

"That's the thing; I wasn't. Theo never approached me. He chose to go it alone. He didn't ask for help, no collaboration, nothing," Oliver explained.

As Oliver delved deeper into the narrative, pinning the blame on Theo for all that happened afterward, I wondered: Why didn't Theo reach out to Oliver? I let Oliver vent for a while, then probed, "Any idea why Theo didn't involve you, considering your expertise?"

"Honestly, I think Theo wanted to be the superhero, you know? He wanted to handle it all on his own," Oliver confessed.

Intrigued, I asked, "What’s the level of trust between you two, and how has your relationship with Theo been in the past?"

"It's... It's been complicated. I'll admit there was a breakdown in trust and collaboration."

"A breakdown?" I reflected his words back to him. "Are you saying it was better before?"

Oliver momentarily contemplated, then admitted, "Actually, no. Trust and collaboration were never even there before."

"So, you didn't see Theo in a positive light, and he never really had a chance to succeed from the beginning?" I asked, piecing together the clues.

Oliver paused and nodded, then said, "You're right. I didn't trust him to deliver." He shook his head with shame, then added: "I never gave him a chance."

His own revelation visibly impacted Oliver, but as sobering as this realization was, it marked the turning point in his leadership approach.

Acknowledging his unintentional arrogance, alpha leadership, and its implications on his colleagues was a critical first step toward resolution.

Ways to catch your dismissive behavior

His company decided to engage me as his coach. Our work started with 360 feedback to show his blind spots and create a plan.

However, not everyone benefits from a coach or a formal feedback process. Yet, you can still self-assess and catch these biases by observing the behavior of people around you.

Here's what you should look out for:

  1. Limited Engagement: Team members staying quiet during discussions could suggest their ideas aren't respected.

  2. Avoidance: If people prefer working independently and seldom seek guidance, they might lack trust or comfort.

  3. High Turnover: A pattern of team members leaving or expressing burnout could indicate a lack of support or recognition.

  4. Defensiveness: Regular defensive reactions to your suggestions might imply that colleagues feel undervalued.

  5. Miscommunications: Frequent misunderstandings could suggest your intentions are being misread, perhaps due to feeling belittled.

  6. Resistance: Consistent pushback against your ideas might signal a reaction to a perceived bias.

Don't let your brilliance blind you. Add EQ to your IQ.

Start observing these signals in your day-to-day interactions. If patterns emerge, it's time to reflect and perhaps seek professional guidance.

Remember, the journey from being an 'alpha leader' to an 'inclusive leader' starts with self-awareness. __________________________


You're an Alpha Leader - brilliant, driven, formidable. But what about the emotional landscape of leadership? It can sometimes strain relationships and team dynamics.

Here is where I come in.

Together, we'll shape you into an Empathic Alpha Leader, where strength meets understanding, and decisiveness pairs with empathy.

Start your journey to empathic leadership today.

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