“Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room. But with experience we become expert at using our behavior and our training to interpret – and decode – what lies behind our snap judgment and first impressions.” –Malcolm Gladwell
Your subconscious mind constantly records, connects and stores unrelated knowledge, experiences and feelings. Later it combines this information into hunches that structure our future behavior and current state of mind.
We are truly a product of our environment. However, we do often possess the autonomy to dictate certain parts of our experience. We are predisposed to exhibit certain innate character traits, but Julie Winkle Guillioni believes that we can work hard if we want to improve our leadership skills. With enough experience, we can create that ‘gut feeling’ that’s a necessary intuition of great leaders.
Julie Winkle Guillioni, performance/training consultant and author of Help them Grow or Watch them Grow, Career Conversations Employees Want and The Burning Leadership Questions, and Are You a Flame or Are you an Ember? told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that we should analyze our behavior as a flame or ember if we truly hope to manage effectively.
It’s widely assumed that leadership is innate or in one’s DNA. But Guillioni wants us to reevaluate how leadership is formed. “It can absolutely be learned,” said Guillioni. “Leadership is a set of behaviors and just like any skill or behavior. I think some of us are predisposed to do things with ease and others of us have to work a little harder at it. The only sustainable competitive advantage organizations have is their people, and leaders are the ones who are really at the head of that charge, making sure that folks are aligned, prepared, and able to meet the ever-changing challenges.”
Guillioni talked about how important it is to also maintain principles in the workplace and what they consist of. “It’s knowing what’s right and following through on that, despite what anybody else might be doing in the situation, despite whether anybody’s looking over your shoulder and seeing what’s going on. But really having that internal moral compass that is so deeply embedded that you just can’t not do the right thing.”
We frequently make snap judgments of those around us. We subconsciously think back to our past experiences to quickly evaluate a situation and make a ‘gut’ decision. Even as children we employ this method and ‘size-up’ our surroundings. While not nearly as nuanced as when we’re older, Guillioni still uses these judgments to create models regarding her surroundings. “As a kid, I looked at two people as either flames or embers. They’re two extremes and they’re kind of archetypes for sort of exploring. And we’re all a little bit of both.”
Speaking on the ‘flames’ who light up rooms Guillioni admits what she aspired to become a ‘flame’. But, she said, there simply can’t be a world of ‘flames.’ Their counterpart, the ‘ember,’ is just as vital in facilitating a working environment.
“To be able to fire up the flame in those situations where we have to network or where we’re charged with inspiring a group or speaking in front of others, certainly makes sense. But those ember components are really what build the long-term sustainable relationships. People can count on you as an ember, year after year, project after project, to come through and demonstrate those powerful moral characteristics,” she said.
“Embers, or the ember part of us, do that hard scary stuff that other people might shy away from. They step up and take that unpopular action when it’s required. They confront poor performance; they have those hard conversations and do what’s right, even when it’s really uncomfortable to do so. There’s always a way to communicate in a candid way that’s still kind and compassionate, but tells the truth so folks know where you’re coming from and how you feel about their behavior or performance or whatever it might be,” said Guillioni.
When asked what the most important characteristic is in leaders, whether they’re flames or embers, Guillioni replied, “I think of all things, maybe fairness is the most important. It is such a fundamental need that we as humans have. It’s crucial to being good leaders and human partners on the planet.”