Modern Leader

As the wants and needs of employees continue to evolve, so must the leadership styles that engage, empower and inspire them.

There are certain traits, behaviours and characteristics that remain, and always will remain, completely synonymous with great leadership. However, there are also several attributes seen as crucial in today’s business climate that were previously at best considered preferable, and at worst not considered at all.

From my experience of working with thousands of employees and leaders across all types of businesses large and small, a modern-day leader requires a blend of four key skills – intellectual intelligence (IQ), emotional intelligence (EQ), cultural intelligence (CQ), and adaptability intelligence (AQ).

Intellectual intelligence (IQ) is the most traditional of these four and, despite its importance being played down over recent years, still plays an important role. Employees must have faith in the competence of their leader if they are to follow them, and demonstrating knowledge and a deep understanding of the business and wider market goes a long way to building this confidence.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a topic that has been growing in awareness and popularity since Daniel Goleman published his best-seller in 1995. The value in recognising the emotions of ourselves and others, and self-managing to build relationships is clear for all to see.

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is a newer idea. This principle continues the EQ theme of understanding people, but extends to digging deeper to truly empathise with another person’s perspective. In a world of remote working that continues to break down borders and ramp up international collaboration, a focus on creating a diverse and inclusive environment is key and increasing CQ can help to begin that journey.

Adaptability intelligence (AQ) has suddenly come to the forefront of people’s attention and not surprisingly, given the current changeable climate. With many organisations unsure about what their business model will even look like in three months’ time, leaders must have the agility to flex at a moment’s notice and the ability to bring their teams on that journey with them.


So, what can we do to grow and develop each of these four areas? Based on what I’ve seen work, here are my three top tips for each area, that I believe can have the greatest impact on leaders developing and honing these skills.


  1. Develop a growth mindset Have a genuine desire to continually learn more and aim to become a subject matter expert in your field. Research different sources, ask questions and don’t be afraid to look silly finding out more. Step outside of your comfort zone, practice new skills, and learn from your mistakes.
  1. Proactively ask for feedback Get used to receiving constructive feedback to the point where you enjoy it and see it as a gift. An opportunity to learn about yourself, how you are perceived and where you can improve. If you don’t know about it, you can’t change it, so ask people to be honest with you about how you can be a better leader within the business.
  1. Challenge assumptions Research different perspectives to form an opinion based on evidence and facts. Invest enough time into understanding situations, digging into the root cause of issues and exploring the different possible solutions, rather than rushing into action based on assumptions (your own or others’) which may not have the desired impact.


  1. Understand self and adapt Take time to reflect on your own personal values and what things trigger an unwanted emotional response or behaviour from you that may damage working relationships. You can use Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference model (below) to understand how your chimp brain affects your judgement, and challenge the assumptions made as you come back down the ladder in order to adapt your behaviours.
  1. Understand others and adapt Use listening skills and empathy to identify the true feelings of others in your team. Try to understand their values and triggers and be considerate of these during your interactions with them.
  1. Build your positive intelligence Shirzad Chamine’s positive intelligence is an extension of emotional intelligence focussed on mental fitness, a measure of the strength of your positive mental muscles (sage) versus the negative (saboteurs). Take time to self-assess and understand which of the ten saboteurs are most prominent in you.


  1. Recognise own biases and impact Although bias is often unconscious, there are things you can do to increase self-awareness – Project Implicit’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) can be very enlightening in this regard and is well worth a look. Once you become more aware of your biases, you can attempt to recognise your triggers arising from interacting with that particular group of people and any actions that could be deemed as discriminatory or non-inclusive.
  1. Develop cultural awareness Develop cultural awareness by expanding your network, by showing a genuine interest in others and by researching more on the subject. Julia Middleton’s Ted Talk on this subject is a great place to start, and Hofstede’s 6 Cultural Dimensions allows you to compare countries in terms of their preferences for one state of affairs over another.
  1. Create a diverse and inclusive environment Review recruitment practices, career progression decision-making processes, and day-to-day working practices to ensure equality and inclusion. Focus on developing a culture where employees feel a sense of belonging and being valued for their individuality and the unique perspective they can offer.


  1. Be proactive towards change Don’t be impacted by change, make it happen! If you can be someone that regularly challenges the status quo and looks for new and improved ways of working, you will be in control of the direction of change. You’ll also get used to changing situations and will feel more comfortable with uncertainty.
  1. Build creativity Innovation is what sets outstanding organisations apart from the rest. Challenge the norm every day and think outside of the box, rather than going with the usual, safe ideas. Use brainstorming and creative thinking techniques regularly to solve challenges and create a culture of creativity where team members are encouraged to share new ideas.
  1. Focus on the big picture Don’t lose sight of long-term missions or objectives. Although the landscape and strategy may change, the approach must still meet the end goals and align with your own personal and company values.


Like anything, what you put in is what you get out. The tips covered above are not overnight fixes, they are deep-rooted skills that need to be developed over time. Don’t try to tackle everything at once, focus on a couple of key areas that resonate with you and give them a try!



PeopleUnboxed would love to help you develop your leadership skills or those of your team. Please get in touch to find out more about what we offer, such as sessions on EQ, D&I, Unconscious Bias, CQ, Resilience, Innovative Thinking and much more.


The 4Ps of Candid Conversations


The “Four Ps” model can help us to plan for a difficult or candid conversation so that both parties find it beneficial.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn how to plan for a difficult or candid conversation so that both parties find it beneficial
  • Understand how to use the 4Ps to deliver a difficult message
  • Consider how this can help manage under-performance in a structured manner

Assertive Disagreement


When you disagree with someone, it is often best to be direct and clear, as it avoids an unfortunate misunderstanding. People can shy away from disagreement as it can sometimes feel confrontational. The assertive approach introduced in this module helps you to express your disagreement in a professional, constructive manner.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn what assertiveness is
  • Learn a process to put your case across without getting emotional
  • Provide context for how to use the model in a real-world environment

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument


Because no two individuals have exactly the same expectations and desires, conflict is a natural part of our interactions with others. This self-test assessment will tell you more about your predominant style of handling conflict and what this means.

Learning Outcomes

  • Provide a starting point for your development
  • Identify your conflict handling style
  • Learn about the five conflict handling modes

AID Feedback Model


Providing feedback that encourages open dialogue and communication enhances your credibility as both a teammate and as a leader. AID is a simple feedback model that can be used for positive moments and those that need corrective action.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn a simple model for providing feedback
  • Identify your own role in each of the stages
  • Discover the benefits of creating a feedback culture

Action-Centred Leadership


Good managers and leaders should have full command of the three main areas of the Action-Centred Leadership model and should use each of the elements according to the situation.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discover John Adair’s action-centred leadership model
  • Learn how to adapt the model for your own work situation
  • Investigate the danger of becoming out of balance

Question Types


Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communication and information exchange. Using the right questions can improve a whole range of communication skills; the information we receive back (the answer) will depend very much on the type of question we ask.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn why asking the right question is at the heart of effective communication and information exchange
  • Discover why the right questions in a particular situation can improve a whole range of communication skills

Dr. Mehrabian’s Communication Model


We are always communicating, even when we are not speaking. Other factors communicate what we really think and feel, which can be explained by looking at Albert Mehrabian’s communication model.

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn the impact of mixed messages when communicating
  • Understand that communication is a blend of words, body language and tone

Situational Leadership


Leaders need to tailor their approach based on the person they are coaching, their experience at the task and their level of enthusiasm for completing it.

The ability to adapt your leadership style to cater to different tasks and your people’s needs is called situational leadership.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership model
  • Recognise directive and supportive behaviours
  • Understand the four leadership styles in line with situational leadership
  • Understand the development levels of team members, based on competence and commitment
  • Become confident with flexing your leadership style to the individual and the situation