“The level of your Leadership IQ will have a direct impact on the performance capacity of your people now, and in the future.” —Cheryl Scanlan

Which list do you see yourself on? That was a bit of a trick question. The truth is that most of us spend a bit of time on each list. What yields a lower Leadership IQ is when you are not aware where you reside “most” of the time. The lack of awareness provides diminishing returns because you are not measuring the impact, whether positive or negative, that you are having on your people.

Building Capacity into Your Team

It’s no secret that a strong leader will take the time to invest in professional development so they can become better at what they do. However, next level leadership investment involves a commitment to learn how to help others go to the next level in what they do as well. Just yesterday, I was on the phone with a client who has a very refreshing approach to this. He spends a fair amount of money on the development of his employees and the results speak volumes about the health of the business. He could sock that money away for himself, but he is more interested in longer term, generational investment than he is in buying more toys that he first owns and then, own him. A wise leader, like this client, understands that it’s not just his/her ability to get the ball over the finish line. What’s important is how a leader supports and equips the team members to get the ball over the finish line that matters most.

This creates a multi-level advantage for your company. You grow yourself, you grow your people and your company grows as a result of the first two actions. Not only does your company grow in profits, it grows in strength and capacity at all levels. Then, as a whole, you have the ability to adapt to new, different or adverse circumstances, to remain resilient when necessary and innovative as you face the future. No one could have prepared us for the current crises that are wiping many companies out of business. However, while some are dying, others are thriving.

I recently spoke with an executive who told me that their company is the strongest that it has ever been. At first glance, that would seem impossible since before COVID-19 their whole sales team traveled to visit clients to sell the product, then back again to install the product a few weeks later. Well, the pandemic stopped all travel for a month and the entire sales team was sent home. They had no idea what would happen next. The team kept meeting with clients, only they met virtually and began closing more contracts than they had when they were flying all over the country. Once the contract was closed, the equipment was sent out and they walked through the set up with the client via video call sessions. The client was happy and the company saved an enormous amount of money they would have spent on travel. This did not happen by accident. It happened because the company did their part to equip the team to be confident partners in serving the clients and contributors of ideas before they needed them.

I asked them if they would go back to the old way of travel once the pandemic was over and their response was a strong “NEVER.” That company is now positioned to be a legacy company that will survive long after the founders are gone. The Founders are high Leadership IQ people who understand what it means to develop themselves plus how to acquire the skills they need to develop their people. From day one of the business, they were building capacity in their people by giving them opportunities to give input, to contribute ideas, and to share ownership, not only for outcomes but for direction and growth. They also allowed them to share in the problems, mistakes and failures of the business.

Insecurity can be the Enemy to High Leadership IQ

Now, let’s talk about what gets in the way of high Leadership IQ. Often it’s insecurity. It is normal to have insecurities, but it’s not normal to allow these insecurities to drive behavior. When the business leader’s insecurities are driving the business, the employees will typically respond by monitoring their own behavior to keep the boss happy – these behaviors might include, but certainly are not limited to:

1. saluting you even when they disagree

2. telling you what you want to hear to protect you and them from more stress or job loss

3. avoid reporting bad news to ensure you don’t blow up

I worked with a COO who was asked by the CEO to begin to look for someone else he could pass his knowledge on to in the company. The COO did not understand the request and immediately assumed something negative. He wondered if they were getting rid of him or if he had done something wrong. Neither was true; the CEO was simply looking down the road and seeing growth coming, while realizing that he needed to prepare the team for that growth. The COO felt insecure when asked to pass along his knowledge. The high Leadership IQ leaders are in a constant state of empowering others by passing knowledge along to key players so when the time comes for growth, they can point to the person who can replace them as everyone goes through changes in roles or promotions. On both accounts, a potential growth point for the CEO and COO could be to elaborate on special requests for executive team members so no one is left guessing as well as to ask clarifying questions when a request seems like a puzzle piece rather than the whole picture, respectively speaking.

As leaders and co-leaders, taking proactive steps by empowering one another with ample time to communicate around important exchanges is critical. The old adage “tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em, tell ‘em again, and finally tell ‘em what you told ‘em again” can be a helpful guide for effective communication within a company. Except in our situation, we ask them, ask them again and then ask them one more time to ensure everyone is on the same page.

If you sense you have reached a ceiling of complexity in which the company doesn’t seem to be able to grow – I humbly suggest you look not to market share, product development, organizational structures. First, examine how often your behaviors fit in the low or high IQ Leadership list and start there. Too often business owners blame employees for poor performance, when the issue resides with the business owner’s struggles. Nothing wrong with the struggle. However, grave damage can happen in professional and work relationships when leaders operate in denial, avoidance, gaslighting, projection and blame shifting.


Finally, here’s a question from the book Scaling Leadership:

What is the one change you could make in the way you lead that would unlock your leadership and take it to the next level? Scaling Leadership

High Leadership IQ means developing yourself and developing your ability to increase the capacity of your people. When you elevate your Leadership IQ, you build into people and build up a business that will last and live beyond where you are now – that’s important especially in these uncertain times. If you were called away today, could your business run successfully without you? If the answer is yes, congratulations! If the answer is no, or you are not sure, let’s consider having a conversation.

In my experience, I have seen that it IS possible to make it a strong yes without hesitation.

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