Introducing the Six Intelligent Leadership Questions

The Six questions have helped Stephen Brookes throughout his various careers and, more recently, he has used this successfully in determining research objectives.  In the Selfless Leader, the six Intelligent Leadership Questions (ILQs) are used to both explore and explain leadership behaviours.  In this first section, we use the six ILQs to explore what is meant by ‘Selfless Leadership’.

As you progress through this e-learning platform so you will get to know how to use these six ILQs in improving your leadership practice and those whom you lead.

Six Intelligent Leadership Questions to describe Selfless Leadership

the WHAT question
The WHAT of selfless leadership is a collective vision.

This is the first intelligent leadership question. The explicit theme and style of selfless leadership is that leadership is the property of a community and not that of an individual. Selflessness is a quality that is often lacking across most cultures and institutions, as opposed to self-centred impulses. Selfless Leadership is the central concept of the collective nature of compass leadership. It concerns leading-in-the-round.

Selfless leadership leads for all and not just the selected few or, indeed for the individual leaders’ own ego or motivations. Selfless leaders are the right people who do the right things, for the right reason, in the right way for the right people and in the right places. Accountability will be the defining foundation for assessing if selfless leaders achieve these commendable principles.

The WHY question
Leaders serve the public good

Leadership is purposeful in that defines the vision and how practice aims to achieve the outcomes of the vision. The individual will always be at the core of leadership practice, but it is the motivation that will drive the leader’s actions.

The purpose (or the ‘why’) of selfless leadership is that leaders put the wider interests of those who they lead above their own interests. Selfless leadership brings together a range of value-based leadership practices and theories. Although not exhaustive, this includes relational, empathic, authentic, empowering, spiritual and ethical leadership.

A selfless leader values truth across their lives and character. As such, they bring these values into their leadership. This build absolute trust with all whom they interact with.

The WHEN question
That time is Now!

The time for leadership is now! The only constant in life is change and leadership needs to be forever adaptive to the broader changes that are taking place and impacting on the operating environment. Selfless leaders are in the game for the long haul. Eventually, selfless leaders leave a lasting and positive institutional and social legacy.

They influence people by their continued leadership and demonstrable commitment to the endgame. The payback will be considerable, but this will be by means of an honoured reputation. Successful selfless leaders’ achievements will be emulated long into the future. Short term gains are important but long-term patience is a virtue. This approach will define the difference between expedient outputs and socially desirable outcomes.

[1] All is flux, nothing stays still (Heraclitus Greek philosopher)

The "HOW" Question
The How question is the Modus Operandi of Leadership

The modus operandi (the means adopted) identifies and bridges the gap between the vision and the socially desired outcomes through intelligence-led approaches. Selfless leadership aims to transform the vision to achieve outcomes in a manner that is both ethical and authentic. All aspects of leadership are linked. Success will be influenced by the extent to which dynamic interactions take place.

The practice of selfless leadership is therefore supported by the process of “Leading through 360° Intelligent Networks, Knowledge and Skills.” [1]

In developing leaders our process promotes an Applied Leadership Challenge (ALC). The aim of ALCs is to align a collective vision for leading in the public interest. ALCs apply learning to practice through intelligent leadership within complex network contexts and at all levels of leadership. The process balances challenge with a climate which supports constructive dissent. Selfless leaders will welcome constructive criticism and actively promote the cultural acceptance for this alongside the feedback channels.

[1] LINKS360® is a registered trademark owned and licensed by Compass Leadership Limited and supports the frameworks and inventories outlined throughout its activities.

The WHERE question
The where of leadership is everywhere!

Leadership takes place across networks within the context of complex and adaptive systems. Selfless leadership seeks to enable and empower others to engage in collective leadership through all levels of the institution or networks.

Selfless leaders should create a space for adaptive leadership activity by the creation of a holding environment. This could be either a physical or virtual space in which adaptive work can be done through relationships. Leaders can then consider both time and perspective and achieve a balance between both the strategic direction and operational activity. This is what Heifetz calls ‘getting on to the balcony’ [1].

[1] HEIFETZ, R. A. 1994. Leadership without easy answers, Cambridge, Mass. ; London, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

The WHO question
Those who are closest to the problem are more likely to solve them

Selfless leadership includes the importance of individual leadership development and practice but embracing and building this within the collective. The role of the selfless leader is to ask the intelligent question and then enable and empower collective others to add to this question and to come up with solutions. Those who are closest to the problem are more likely to solve them.

Having set the question, selfless leaders will first ask of themselves and their teams, the intelligent question. For example, “what is the right thing to do?” and then, “how best can we achieve this?” Achieving the outcome in a way that is consistent with shared values drives the team’s collective ambition and goals. Selfless leadership engenders trust by relinquishing control and granting freedom to every team member to take necessary action. Risk management is proportionate, and every effort is made to avoid bureaucratic obstacles and data paralysis.

The Selfless Leader