Executive Education

The Unspoken Rules of Leadership

unspoken rules of leadership

When someone is tested by a challenge, there are usually two ways that people respond. They either rise up as a leader, take initiative against the problem, and rally others against a course of action, or they look to someone else for guidance. 

If you want to be a leader, a better mentor, or even a better teammate, then it’s crucial to understand some of the unspoken rules of leadership so that you can incorporate them into your professional career. In a recent Business Over Breakfast webinar, affiliate professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and internationally recognized author, professor, and speaker, Jamie Turner, shares some of his expertise in leadership, management, and persuasion. He highlights the important, and sometimes lesser recognized, skills required to be a successful leader.

Understand the Science of Leadership

Turner begins by highlighting that leadership is not entirely based on intelligence. In fact, he points out that Harvard Business Review reports that only 5% of leadership ability is driven by cognitive ability. Alternatively, 53% of leadership ability is actually driven by maturity, ambition, sociability, and curiosity.

In order to understand leadership potential, Turner proposes the question: Are you mature, ambitious, sociable, or curious?

The answer he states is obvious. Everyone holds some of these characteristics as part of their personality. Turner goes beyond this and lays out some important techniques to improve your leadership skills by sharing his thoughts on the four pillars of leadership.

The Four Pillars of Leadership

Leaders are faced with many different types of challenges that require strong mental flexibility in order to find creative solutions on a regular basis. However, by understanding the four pillars of leadership and how they relate to yourself and to others from an inward and outward perspective, aspiring leaders can actively work on improving their leadership traits.

1. Mindset

One of the most important areas to focus on as a leader is developing your mindset in alignment with positive leadership habits.

“Leaders understand that they can control their thoughts and their actions, but they cannot control the outcome,” Turner says. “If you think about that, you can control how you think and you can control how you act, and when you release yourself from the outcome, it prevents you from being a micromanager. The key to being an effective leader is to start thinking the right thoughts, and make sure that they sound ethical, pure, and proper, then control your actions. Remember that any time you are confronted with a situation, then you’ve got a few choices that generally go in two directions, either negative or positive.”

Although it’s counter-intuitive, Turner points out that effective leaders work on their mindset first and their skill set second.

2. Mentoring

Mentoring is the second pillar of leadership, and it’s an important habit of successful leaders that requires outward action in one-to-one situations. As a team leader, one-to-one interaction becomes an important aspect of creating strong connections with your team, and by taking a more considered approach to mentoring, leaders can inspire their teams more effectively.

“The very first thing that we are going to tell you is to ‘think backwards’,” Turner says. “Thinking backwards is to get inside the mind of the person that you are talking to, and work backwards from there to understand what their motivations are, what their desires are, what their aspirations are. Once you understand that, then you can work backwards from there and mentor them much better.”

Turner also highlights the importance of working on your communication skills as a leader. This includes understanding your communication style and how you use tone in your voice in order to effectively connect with your team.

3. Management

Management skills are a critical pillar of leadership ability, and they influence your ability to understand how you interact with the rest of your team as a leader.

Turner points out that there are typically four kinds of leaders at the top of major companies:

  1. People who provide vision
  2. People who provide data
  3. People who provide warmth
  4. People who provide details

He also notes that regardless of the type of leader you may be, it’s always crucial to include some form of vision in your leadership style. There has to be a destination for your team to move towards, but from there, you can help your team understand that vision through your own leadership style. 

With greater comprehension of your leadership style, you can work on developing your management skills to help guide your team effectively.

4. Marketing

Marketing is a critical pillar of leadership because it affects how you express yourself and your leadership objectives to others. This is true in many types of situations where effective leadership is necessary, but one good example is in leading a meeting. 

Turner explains how you can apply a marketing mindset to lead successful meetings.

  1. Be clear about what kind of meeting it is.
  2. Over-prepare, then relax.
  3. Every so often, pause, and do a quick re-cap. Get consensus at that time.
  4. Provide clear action steps at the end.

Essentially, it’s about creating effective communication by understanding your audience and what inspires them and then providing them with a clear path to a decision aligned with your leadership objective.

Take the Opportunity to Learn More

While the pillars of leadership are important areas of focus to develop your leadership skills, there are many more skill sets and techniques to understand and explore as part of a comprehensive leadership style.

Emory Executive Education offers leadership courses that provide the opportunity for professionals to significantly advance their leadership skills.

  1. Managerial Leadership Program

The Managerial Leadership Program will help you develop the skills and awareness necessary to lead confidently, empower others, and drive business success. Finish with an action plan that will allow you to expand your influence, deliver results, and be a stronger leader. This intensive leadership development program is designed to help you build team leadership skills and to empower you and your team to achieve greater business results.

  1. Executive Communication & Leadership Presence

Executive Communication & Leadership Presence shows you how to build confidence and inspire action among internal and external audiences with an effective, consistent messaging strategy and tactics for becoming a more observant and effective communicator. Learn how to guide your organization through any challenge or obstacle.

  1. Leading & Inspiring Change

Leading & Inspiring Change is designed to help you become a change agent and better understand reactions to change while elevating your overall skill set. You will learn how to create buy-in and direct major strategic shifts within your organization.

About the Author

Business education has been an integral part of Emory University’s identity since 1919. That kind of longevity and significance does not come without a culture built on success and service. Emory University’s Goizueta Business School offers a unique, community-oriented environment paired with the academic prestige and rigor of a major research institution. Goizueta develops business leaders of today and tomorrow with top-ranked undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and a portfolio of non-degree Emory Executive Education courses. Together, the Goizueta community strives to solve the world’s most pressing business problems. The school is named for the late Roberto C. Goizueta, former Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.