The Demise Of The Rational Leader

leader walking on many levels

The idea that successful leaders are rational is a myth. It’s just not true.

This notion has been damaging for leaders because it takes people in the wrong direction and suggests that leaders lead functions, not people. In my book, Leadership Material, I emphasise that relationships and behaviour are two sources of success for leaders. There are at least eight other sources.

Why is it that being rational doesn’t work? Because behaviour is comprised of at least three aspects – thinking, feeling, and action.

Rational leaders who emphasise thinking use less than a third of their capacities. By discounting their feelings, rational leaders discount a powerful source of their own experience. Intuition, insight, and foresight are other powerful tools for leaders and arise from their knowledge and experience.

Rational leaders often regard people skills as “soft,” “touchy-feely,” or “illogical”. This can result in others accepting them as conceptually brilliant, cold, and impersonal. Rational leaders rely on knowledge and reasoning; behavioural learning, which is crucial for leaders, is devalued. Rational leaders are frequently unsuccessful in leading people.

Leaders with presence consciously choose to blend their personal attributes with their professional identity.

They focus on how others experience working with them and ensure their behaviours help build relationships, help them to be approachable, and create trust. They know how to let their unhelpful attributes, like being critical, acerbic, or overly analytic, fall into the background of their interactions. This enhances their abilities to maintain relationships and communicate effectively when they are under pressure.

You can read more about this, and the other sources of success, in my book.

© Diana Jones

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