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  • Teresa Carey

Cutting through the Madness – Refining the Final Four Leadership Skills That Will Last Beyond March

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Even If you’re not an NCAA basketball fan, you’ll likely understand what tournament time means to those of us who are enraptured by it. From the start of 68 teams in initial competitive play, progressing into an ultimate Final Four through blood, sweat and tears, it keeps fans in a frenzy. In all frankness, it’s part of the needed fuel to take us from winter into spring.

You just never know who’ll end up in the Final Four. Year after year, it’s, well, madness. For some, approaching a bracket and trying to decide on the winners is a bit like sifting through the 4.8 billion leadership books available, then attempting to determine which author-proclaimed best playbook will triumph.

Fortunately, we can zero in a bit more accurately in assessing leadership. Yes, there are 15 (not 16) sweet leadership skills that comprise emotional intelligence within a leader. From a courtside seat, while all 15 play an important position, I’m confident in saying there’s “a final four” that ultimately determines a leader’s maximum effectiveness.

Self-Awareness: Without this linchpin in the game of leadership, optimization as a leader is a nonstarter. We all have strengths. We all have blind spots or watch outs. Without the “knowingness” and accurate perception of self, it’s easy to foul out in the first half. For sustainable success at winning through each position and stage of growth, the strongest leaders look in the mirror, acknowledge and face what needs to be developed, and show up for practice every day.

What are your top three strengths? What one area most sabotages your leadership? What are you most afraid of learning and facing about yourself?

Expression and Assertion: If self-awareness is the foundation, what a leader chooses to do with this first play will take them through each quarter of the game. How a leader communicates and expresses emotion and actions sets the tone for the entire organization and culture. Based on a survey of 400 companies with a composite of 100,000 employees, the loss per company for poor communication is over $62 million annually – a price that is too high for sloppy ball handling. We all have trigger points. Knowing how to express thoughts in a strategically interdependent way is the ticket to build a positive leadership brand that balances expression and assertion.

If you started making and modeling improvements in overall communication, through healthy expression and assertion, where would you start?

Relationship Building: Strong relationships emerge from the strength found in the first two skills. There are few things more off-putting than an ego-driven leader who doesn’t choose to be more self-aware or to communicate and relate in a healthy, emotionally mature way. Conversely, when a leader is not only smart, but humble and hungry enough to admit they need help, respect and trust follow. A winning leader excels in interpersonal prowess, ensuring greater team engagement, loyalty, and hustle.

How can you adjust your weekly rhythm to include more time for interpersonal investment to truly know your bench?

Decision Making: With a solid perspective on self and others, leaders have a full court view of game and season winning strategies to make more sound decisions. Problems can be better solved with the right people and plays. An objective approach can help leaders see things as they truly are. Strong decision-makers need timeouts to huddle with accountability partners, mentors and an external coach to help see and test the reality of decisions.

In what problem solving and reality testing plays should you apply a full court press to achieve better decisions? Are you also taking the needed time-outs?

In NCAA basketball, the 2022-23 season will soon end. A tourney winner will triumph, and a brand-new season and bracket will emerge next year. In the game of business, it’s only the end of the first quarter. There’s a lot of game time left. What will you do in the final three quarters to ensure a winning year?

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