Infinity Leadership

“To Do” or “To Be”? That is the leadership question…

I began this morning with my daily question – What is most important today? I use this question to focus my attention on the most important tasks of the day. As I completed this morning’s list I felt pretty uninspired. It had been a tough night with both kids waking us up at different times the night before and I was feeling tired and frustrated. Through this lens, the list before me looked daunting and not much fun. I looked around… my wife was cooking some eggs, my 4 year old was eating his Weetabix, and the baby was quietly chewing on his fist. In that moment two things occurred to me:

  1. My state of mind today will influence everyone else around me, and
  2. Today will be an uphill struggle for me (and therefore everyone else) unless I change my state of mind

Then the idea came to me… I needed to write a “To Be” list.

So, I gave the “To Do” list I had just compiled a new title – “What are most important things I need to do today?”

Then I started a separate “To Be” list entitled – “What is most important about how I show up today?”

The new list was much more inspiring and my state of mind began to shift the moment I started to write it! Here is this morning’s “To Be” list:

  1. Be positive
  2. Be disciplined
  3. Be connected to your higher purpose – ‘to be a positive influence on the people around me’

My “To Be” list provided the fuel I needed to spark up a positive conversation with my wife, and to have a bit of fun with my two boys before tackling my “To Do” list head on. Incidentally, item 3 on my “To Be” list resulted in me adding a task right at the top of my “To Do” list… and here I am, energetically writing an article that, I hope, has a positive influence on you.

As I began writing this piece, I realised that there is a link between my “To Be” list and Emotional Intelligence.

Goleman’s research showed that, in high-IQ roles, emotional intelligence becomes a much stronger indicator of exceptional performance than IQ. In other words, successful leaders who pay attention not only to what needs to be done, but also to how those things are done, are likely to achieve better results for their business than their peers.

Holding the right balance of attention between tasks (the ‘what’) and emotional intelligence in relationships (the ‘how’) is one of most difficult of all leadership capabilities. It requires strong neural networks that connect logical with emotional regions of our brain – regions that many people have worked hard to separate! So how do we develop this capability in leaders?

Leadership development that engages logic alone is not enough to create or reinforce the necessary neural networks. Attending a lecture on new and interesting leadership theories is valuable at one level, but it will have little impact on shaping the networks that connect logic with emotion in your brain. Neuroscience has shown that “Brain cells that fire together, wire together” (Hebb’s Law). So, if a leader wants to become more effective they should consider strengthening networks between logical and emotional regions of the brain by immersing themselves in development experiences that activate both simultaneously.

So, “To Do” or “To Be”? I hear you ask…

In my view, an exceptional leader will pay attention to both.

Supplementing your “To Do” list with your “To Be” list could be a very good place to start!