'He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.'
Early into my officer career, I spent a several short periods based upon a Royal Naval ship responsible for Marines deployed on international tasks.
One particular period is very vivid: my team and I (numbering around twenty five) spent several periods up to two weeks at sea transiting between different countries, preparing to meet and engage with new international partners. This time was challenging for my sub-team leaders – they would become need to become skilful at keeping their people engaged, enthusiastic and developing further with limited resources in a competitive environment.
For me, it was also a time to reflect on the fifteen and a half month programme that develops civilians into Royal Marines officers.
Naturally, It got me thinking about becoming a good leader in my chosen field. Not just an effective leader - that implies you're good effectuating other’s judgements even when you don't necessarily believe in it. A good leader knows how and when to push back. And so I realised the artist and the scientist metaphor of duality:
The artist is your ability to create emotional connection - the most powerful component of leadership in my understanding. You can be a person of authority yet if you lack the ability to emotionally connect with people - you're just someone yelling orders out. I think of this as a subconscious effort stemming from the limbic brain. You can pretend to be charming and interested but this will feel insincere if you aren't truly interested in connecting with people. To be a both good and effective leader; we need a little of this ability to create social distance, so that we can make the hard decisions and reassure our people that we have their best intentions at heart.
The scientist is your cognitive ability to grasp complex data, be objective and formulate the right bearing for travel. Through deep analysis and pattern spotting; your thinking brain (the pre-frontal cortex) determines what the team needs to do to be successful in the long term.
This requires a conscious effort to do (as humans, we're subject to our unconscious biases). Recognising when our subconscious brain is taking over and 'leading' our thoughts is a skill in itself.
But what does this mean?
For me, it means I need to invest time into both components - but figuring out how much time to give to each development is the tricky part. Leaders are born and made; they spend their lives being influenced from a young age, making mistakes and learning so that they are equipped with all the necessary ‘shaped clubs' for different challenges ahead.
Those with a lack of specialist clubs or over reliance on certain clubs, show up in all of our daily interactions. So I’m constantly striving to diversify that full golf bag to make me better leader.