I have recently started tuning out the noise of the political discourse when watching the evening news clips. I find myself asking how we got here and in turn how we have an educated, successful business man elected as president, who does not seem to relate to the people of our great country. I can’t help but feel a sense that the leader of the free world is emotionally ignorant. It has me reflecting on the book by Dr. Daniel Goleman, “Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More than IQ.” The term, “emotional intelligence” seems so basic, yet even the most significant leaders can have a hard time grasping it, which stalls their influence and inhibits their success.

Working in professional services most of my career, I can say that our profession has traditionally led with this same emotional deficit. We have learned to “rule” based on our tenure, position of power, or through force. There has been a lack of transparency, operating from personal agendas and blurred vision, especially in firms with multiple offices, industries and service line specialties. We have found ourselves working in a “silo” mentality, or individual approach, versus a “one-firm” approach. And much of this leadership style comes from learned behavior from generations prior. Positions of power and the belief of only sharing on a “need to know” basis has led to a lack of inclusion of all stakeholders in shaping and achieving strategic goals and almost no real investments made in the development of emotional IQ in our talent.

Changing workplace demographics is forcing change to this style of leadership. In my colleague Brianna Johnson’s Accounting Today article, “Beyond the Boomers: It’s Time for X, Y and Z to Come Together,” statistics highlight the increasing number of generations working alongside each other in organizations. With this generational blending comes emphasis on new motivations and expectations. Today’s workforce places a higher importance in the areas of work-life balance, technology, learning and self-development. These strategic focal points are huge game changers for leaders.

Motivations have shifted from title and position to areas that require more personal investment. Talent expect promotions to occur based on talent, not tenure. Leaders are recognizing that our up-and comers want to be led through inspiration and inclusion, forcing us to transform how we lead in our firms, and how we develop our future leaders. Leaders must embrace that being self-aware is critical to leadership development.

A paradigm shift is taking place. Firms are increasing their investment in people development and experiential learning programs focused on self-awareness. More important than the investment itself is the intentionality that firm leadership are placing on how they want the future leaders of their firms to think and behave.

I recently spoke with a Managing Partner who has a high-potential team member who meets all the baseline requirements for making partner. The individual is technically proficient, strong with client service and not afraid to go out and sell. This future leader in many other firms would potentially sail through the partner vote. However, this Managing Partner wants more for and from the future leaders of their firm. His firm understands the value of investing in people, for the present and future of their firm. He knows that this individual can be a more effective and inspirational leader and people developer. His firm is committed to supplying this up-and-comer with access to tools and learning that will develop her into the leader she WANTS to be, and the leader the firm NEEDS her to be and he has registered her for a leadership development program to ensure this happens.

This is one example of a firm that is challenging the norms of firm leadership. They are pushing the boundaries of change and creating a culture of people developers, from the top down. We are excited to see firms intentionally investing in developing future leaders that possess technical competence, self-awareness and the ability to appeal to and motivate others.

What is your firm doing to push the boundaries of change in the way you lead and develop your future leaders? Please share with us!

Until Next Time,