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Blog – Strategic Leadership

By Dina Julia Ashour

Today, humans spend a vast amount of time in organisational contexts, always interacting with others, working towards a shared goal. The ability to effectively communicate shared goals, manage teams and individuals is, hence, of tremendous value in work, volunteering and even in personal relationships.

Despite leadership advice often focusing on changing the individual and sometimes going as far as advising to manipulate others, not much of the popularly shared articles and TED talks approach leadership from an angle of approaching co-workers and stakeholders from a point of curiosity and connection.

However, even in an increasingly tech-driven world, it is vital to use emotional intelligence to lead strategically, explains Kalai Vanii Jayaseelan. Kalai is a former bioinformatician, co-founder of Sukhaatma where she trained hundreds of employees and leaders worldwide in tech, healthcare, research, and change-making.

In this workshop, she guided her diverse audience through concepts of strategic leadership, on how to break down the goal of an organisation to the goals of the individuals making it up – in the end it is humans performing work even when assisted by technology.

As leaders in our organisations, we are often confronted by volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous outlooks and problems. To be future-ready, leaders must therefore embrace systems thinking – to explore and understand the interconnectedness inherent in our work – and thereby develop the foresight to address the challenges, even if unprecedented and complex to solve.

So how does emotional intelligence fit into developing these seemingly superhuman skills?

The solution proposed is one of stepping out of automated behaviours and looking to increase your awareness of yourself and that of those around you. This turns out to be a practice in the truest sense of the word: You need to interrupt yourself, sit down and think about how you engage with others and practice what you believe from that analysis to work better. The goal is to develop empathy and to be a good listener which just means to collect information reliably and appropriately.

On a visceral level, this will resonate with many. Not only are we often annoyed by how e.g. co-workers can be thoughtless or insensitive to us as people but we are just as familiar with orders or communication that simply do not achieve their goal because they do not consider the needs of those supposed to facilitate them.

It is time we step out of the automation in our organisations and engage on a human level, to take a step back and actually engage. Our work lives and our productivity can only benefit from it.

Related article: Blog – Effective Leadership in a Changing World

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