After speaking to leaders about their experience with intense leadership and what differentiates toxic intensity from healthy intensity, the answer was invariably: humanity.
So what is humanity?
It is awareness of the impact of one’s intensity on others. It is understanding that whatever is your focus, passion and perseverance, you are unlikely to achieve your mission on your own. You have to inspire and empower others to be on the journey with you. It is an ability to build genuine connection with your team.
Is your passion and focus so big that you are prepared to hire into your team people whom you consider better than you in certain aspects of work and let them get the credit for their work?
Or is your ego driving your focus so that you receive the full recognition?(That would be a feature of toxic intensity).
The other day I was speaking to one of my former bosses in banking.
He told me that one of the reasons for his success was that he was always hiring people whom he considered better than him. And some of them were really intense. It takes courage and commitment to your mission to attract people who are different from you and give them space to flourish.
More recently I was interviewing a senior female leader in the US banking industry, and she told me that moving to healthy intensity takes conscious effort to increase humanity: i.e.
- genuine curiosity to listen and to hear others,
- proactively asking for feedback about oneself and one’s behaviour, when one’s intensity, focus, perseverance, and passion to push for the goal starts taking over all the space and limits contributions of the team.
She shared with me two questions that she uses in team meetings to stay open to contributions of others:
She starts the meetings with the question: “Please share with me what should I care about? “
She finishes the meetings with the question: “Which question did I not ask that I should have asked”.
Intense leaders often have a strong energetic presence which can take over space in a conversation.
The more intense the situation becomes and the bigger the desire to push through, the easier it is for an intense leader to switch to toxic intensity if one is not present to one’s impact on others.
To have questions ready which require from you full presence and curiosity, will create a space for your team members to express themselves.
Lots of love