by Andrea Charman

Core leadership practices

EQ is very much about who you are. It is about ‘being’, and out of a way of being, your behaviour flows. So, given a set of good leadership EQ qualities, what do you then actually do?

Note that carrying out leadership practices without having mastered the underlying EQ qualities and made them part of your being will not make you a leader.

Research shows that the following six practices are critical to success. They sit at the centre of effective leadership:

  1. Challenge the process
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Enable others to take action and contribute to achieving results
  4. Model the way
  5. Engage the mind of others
  6. Encourage the heart.

1. Challenge the process

Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.

Colin Powell

Challenge the process – seek challenges and opportunities to develop, grow, innovate and change the status quo; experiment and take controlled risks in the belief that we take invaluable learning from failures. The result is increased performance.

See Quality, Process Improvement and Creative Thinking.

2. Inspire a shared vision

Visualise a positive future that is attainable and express it in easy-to-access terms; this might be via a picture or a clearly-outlined scenario. It is critical to provide a clearly-outlined vision through consultation that appeals and engages others by appealing to their values, hopes, dreams and aspirations. Powerful leaders have the capacity to enable others to see the end game or the target through their own eyes. Ownership is the result.

Included in the ability to gain commitment to a clearly stated vision of collective success is mindfulness about keeping people informed of what is going on, what has been achieved and what still needs to happen. Plus, the WIIFM factor – people need to see how they fit in. Only then will they put their energy and effort behind the plan.


Shaping a personal vision

‘You have to have a mass of people with personal visions that are aligned, though they don’t have to be identical.’

Mary Livingston has always given careful thought to personal motivations, perhaps as a natural outgrowth of a career in sales. The roots of her personal vision go back to when she joined the organisation (AT&T) at the time when the group felt really good about itself. She started her career in AT&T’s sales organisation in 1982 when the company was proud of what it had done in the marketplace.

It should be noted that after this period, competition from deregulation in the US telecom market drove AT&T’s market share down and resulted in internal controversies between the sales force and the business units over who was to blame. The conflict reached a point where internal competition exceeded external competition, and it was Mary’s personal vision that started to bridge these extremes. She focused on creating a sense of pride based on results, so that both individuals and teams were given recognition for their performance.

Martin Luther King was one of her inspirational, motivational forces and she wrote her vision out of the ‘I have a dream’ speech. She carried a copy of her speech wherever she went to take every possible opportunity to voice it. The result was that Mary’s personal vision was deep and lasting, carrying her and many of those who worked with her through some very tough times.

Mary Livingston’s personal vision

Primary motivation:

  1. Pride

I have a dream that one day we will be a sales force that stands tall and commands respect from customers, business units, and competitors.

  1. Desire for greatness

We will be a benchmark for other sales organisations. Business cases will be written about us.

  1. Competitive spirit

I have a dream that we will one day be a sales force that consistently meets commitments and says it can do more (instead of being skilled in defending forecasts we know we cannot meet).

  1. Serving others

We will be a sales force that delights customers, that is, raises the bar for customer satisfaction.

  1. Doing the right thing

We will be a sales force that thinks more about the competition and the customer than about turf. In other words, there is an abundance mentality; we intuitively understand there is more for everybody if we do the right things (versus divvying up the same pie in a different way).

  1. Overcoming all odds

Borrowing from Martin Luther King’s dream analogy is no accident. I respect the difficulties and obstacles, but I am not concerned about them:

‘For when people get caught up with that which is right, and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping short of victory.’

Vision isn’t something to be forced. Some people will be very hooked into some visionary thought but not know what kind of steps to take to get there. Others don’t seem very visionary, but are really clear on things that need to be done.

Do this exercise to assess your own working vision.

Also see the topic on Vision and Mission.

3. Enable others

Successful leaders enable others to take action and contribute to achieving results in a context of support. The promotion of collaboration through the conscious support of co-owned goals builds the trust that is critical to sustained success. Effective leaders must build others and strengthen their resolve by passing on both power and influence. The most appropriate way to do this, in today’s multiple stakeholder environment, is through the creation of a coaching culture that develops capabilities while providing challenge and challenging tasks, as appropriate. Rather than providing answers, effective leaders question and challenge within an environment of support.

See the topics on Empowerment and Coaching.

4. Model the way

Set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values; by choosing a positive attitude and achieving small gains in a consistent manner that will encourage and promote progress and build commitment and motivation.

How you behave will be noticed. Your behaviour needs to be consistent with your stated vision and values. Inconsistency will undermine your credibility and you will not be seen as authentic. You need to ‘walk your talk’ because it seems like the natural and automatic way for you to behave, not because you ‘should’.

People will respond to, follow and emulate true authenticity, which requires having the courage to be yourself.

Do this exercise to think about the example set by your own behaviour and the example set by others around you.

See also Moments of truth.

5. Engage the mind of others

People will be engaged when they are doing something that is important to them. So, as a leader, you need to know what is important to the people you are seeking to lead. And you do have some influence. Be passionate about what you believe in, about what is important to you, and others will ‘entrain’ with this and start to also consider it important.

Think of your own experience. When has something really engaged you? When did that engagement start? Was it something someone said or did? Was that person a leader in that moment?

Your goal is to achieve a change in the collective mindset that has the power to overcome barriers and blockages by releasing legacy baggage.

See the topic on Motivation.

6. Encourage the heart

Encourage the heart by recognising individual contributions and commitment; contributors are encouraged to travel the journey. This is about engaging people at an emotional level and ensuring that every success is recognised and celebrated.

People must be allowed to exercise their passions and bring their emotions into it.

See also Motivation, Emotional Intelligence, and Storytelling for Business.


To discover where you may need to work on your core skills, complete the Leadership capacity checklist.