Having interviewed and coached hundreds of leaders, I have seen the best and worst of leaders. The worst? Well, they're easier to spot because their immaturity stands out, affecting their teams and organizations.
Quite truthfully, the lack of maturity in most leadership settings is becoming increasingly obvious. Most organizations are so results-driven and short-term focused, they don't put enough emphasis on the actual emotional maturity of the people they hire and promote that will benefit them long-term.
The problem with hiring or promoting people strictly based on things like drive, charisma, and achieving results is that we often place selfish, immature individuals into important positions.
What sets mature leaders apart
Taking a chapter out of cutting-edge brain science, maturity requires living and working with both operating systems of the brain -- the right and left hemispheres -- functioning at peak capacity. According to Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder's new book, Rare Leadership in the Workplace: Four Uncommon Habits That Improve Focus, Engagement, and Productivity, the two sides drive two completely different operating systems -- the "fast track" and the "slow track."
This is where it gets interesting.
"The fast track is responsible for regulating emotions and reading the world around us. The slow track helps us solve problems and perform tasks. Most leaders have been trained to solve problems and get work done but have not been trained in relational skills and emotional regulation," state the authors.
These basics of brain science are what anchor the four R.A.R.E. habits of mature leaders developed by Warner and Wilder: Remain relational, Act like yourself, Return to joy, and Endure hardship well.
1. Remain relational
According to the authors, a key aspect of mature leaders that sets them apart is their ability to remain relational when they deal with problems. "No matter how big the problem, there is always a way to handle it in a way that values the relationship and not just the solution," state the authors. To build trust in the people you lead, remaining relational is a leadership habit that must be consistently demonstrated.
2. Act like yourself
To "act like yourself" means acting like an adult. This means having the strength to stand up for yourself but also for those under your care. "In order to act like yourself, you need to know who you are. Many of us were not raised with a healthy sense of identity and some repair work may be needed. The leaders we trust and respect are the ones who have a well-developed sense of identity and as a result, are free to serve others and take care of their people," state the authors.
3. Return to joy
The authors say most leaders are running on two types of fuel: the relational fuel of joy and the non-relational fuel of fear. As a motivator, fear is meant to give us energy in short bursts, which is not sustainable for our lives or businesses. Joy, on the other hand, is an endless motivator that should be prioritized when negative emotions threaten to shut down the fast track.
"Joy is not a common topic in leadership -- but it should be. Many leaders are results-oriented, bottom-line thinkers who don't see the need for sappy emotions like joy. But there is nothing sappy about joy," state the authors.
4. Endure hardship well
"The great leaders of history are often held in high regard specifically because of their ability to navigate the hard times they faced," state the authors.
In summary, the authors argue that maturity can transform a workplace from a toxic environment to a place people love to work. And what separates the competent managers people have to follow from the rare leaders people love to follow is emotional and relational maturity.
"No one is born with maturity, and it is not simply a choice you make -- it is something that must be earned. Most of us want solutions we can implement today, but practicing maturity and implementing new habits can span months or even years. It is a capacity we develop over time that requires the help of others."