It’s only natural that people expect a lot from their leaders. They always have. But today expectations run higher than ever, even as the challenges that confront leaders multiply. Effective leaders are now expected to not only achieve amazing results, but to sustain them. And often they’re expected to do so in a more competitive global environment, with a constant eye to shareholder value and strict regulations to adhere to.


Great leaders often demonstrate key “outer-core” competencies like effective decision-making, great communication skills, and the ability to effectively manage talent and help individual employees reach their goals. Many of these qualities can be developed through training, coaching and personal desire. However, these impressive outer core competencies that the world sees are actually a result of more important “inner core” competencies such as character, self-image, thinking patterns, emotional make-up and level of optimism. A leader who is strong, vibrant and effective in the outer core is first strong, vibrant and effective in their inner core.


As the “Wheel of Intelligent Leadership” depicts, a leader’s inner core strength, vibrancy and maturity reflect directly in nine traits, each of which exists on a continuum ranging from “mature potential” to “immature potential.” Each trait and its relative maturity are translated into the outer core, meaning that mature leaders almost always have a stronger potential to exhibit the kinds of positive leadership behaviors that drive stronger team and business results.


Decision-Making and Intelligent Leadership


Uncertainty is difficult, and making big decisions can be nerve-wracking because we tend to second-guess ourselves. Instead, we try to avoid uncertainty by analyzing every possible angle of a situation instead of realizing that decisions must often be made in the face of uncertainty and risk. Some analysis is necessary in the decision-making process, but the intelligent leader knows (or at least has a good idea) whether the unknowns are actually important to the decision-making process. When an unknown isn’t important, the intelligent leader accepts the uncertainty and proceeds in the way he or she thinks is best.


Emotional Leadership


Intelligence and technical skills are basic necessities when it comes to effective leadership. The leaders that truly shine are the ones who also have emotional leadership and emotional intelligence. Emotional leadership allows a leader to recognize, resonate with and learn from their own mental states and others’. Emotional leadership requires keen self-awareness (but not self-centeredness), self-regulation, passion for what one is doing, empathy for others and excellent social skills. Some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, but emotional leadership can be developed just like any other skill. However, emotional leadership cannot be mastered unless the inner core is strong, vibrant and mature.


Communication and Intelligent Leadership


All the technology tools in the world won’t help if a leader doesn’t have anything worthwhile to communicate. As with other personal characteristics, some people find communication easier than others do, but communication skills can be developed and fine-tuned. However, to be a truly effective communicator, the intelligent leader speaks and listens. Great communication is as much about how something is said as it is about what is being said, and the intelligent leader is able to gauge the situation and know which tone or attitude is appropriate and learns from their mistakes.


Intelligent Leadership for Talent Management


Talent management is infinitely more complicated than it was a generation ago. It may be easier to locate people who have the right mix of skills and experience, but hiring them is much harder because of the many options highly coveted professionals have. The intelligent leader knows that successful talent management is a balancing act that involves hiring new talent to bring in new skills and perspectives, while developing existing talent and keeping current employees engaged and passionate about their work. Today’s intelligent leader cannot take for granted that talented employees will simply stick around out of loyalty. Instead, leaders must constantly work to make their organization a place where talented people will want to contribute.


In the 21st century, charisma and technical chops aren’t enough for effective leadership. Today’s intelligent leader must be more well rounded and informed, must continue to learn new skills and hone existing ones, and must be more connected to the rest of the workforce and the world. Anyone can unlock the great leader within himself or herself, and if you’re interested in learning more, I invite you to check out my speaking schedule and get in touch. I would be delighted to help your organization kick off its intelligent leadership initiative and reach goals you may never have thought possible.


Like this post? Check out John’s previous guest post, “4 Ways Leadership Coaching Can Affect Customer Satisfaction.”


John Mattone

Bio: John Mattone is an authority on leadership, talent, and culture. An acclaimed speaker and executive coach, he advises Fortune 1000 senior leaders on how to create cultures that drive superior operating results. He is the author of seven books including Cultural Transformations, Talent Leadership, and Intelligent Leadership. Mattone is the creator of numerous business assessments, including the Mattone Leadership Enneagram Inventory. Follow him @JohnMattone.