Executive Briefings: The Model of R.E.A.L. Leadership

By Thomas White for Huffington Post

In my work, I meet business leaders from all over the world who have advice, stories and personal tips to provide. I sit down with these leaders to give them the opportunity to provide current business advice and give a glimpse to their personal stories as a business leader.

This week I interviewed Joe Hart, President and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, an organization whose founder pioneered the human performance movement over 100 years ago and has continued to succeed and grow worldwide, through constant research and innovation building on its founding principles. Dale Carnegie Training has more than 3,000 trainers and consultants, operating in 300 offices in over 90 countries impacting organizations, teams and individuals. Dale Carnegie Training’s client list includes more than 400 of the Fortune Global 500, tens of thousands of small to mid-sized organizations and over 8 million individuals across the globe.

Dale Carnegie does a lot of research in regard to leadership. What are the traits that make up a great leader?

Dale Carnegie Training initially conducted research on this subject in 2015 in the United States and Brazil. We were so intrigued with what we had found that we expanded the research to 13 additional countries. Some of the key questions we found included: what are the types of traits that really motivate someone to want to give their best and what are the things that demotivate people. From this research we have characterized these to ‘R.E.A.L.’ or reliable, empathetic, aspirational and learning.


What makes a leader Reliable?

It refers to someone who is internally reliable. Internal reliability is someone being authentic. As people, we have great intuition, and we can tell when somebody is being consistent with who they are. They are internally reliable. But with external reliability people want to sense a level of integrity. Does the leader do things that they say they are going to do or do they say one thing and then do another?

Of the four traits, this one is absolutely foundational for the other three. It doesn’t matter if you’re empathetic, aspirational, or you’re an active leader, if do not have reliability, you do not have the core trust that you are building with people. If you do not have this trust with the people you work with or who you interact with then the other traits just will not matter.

What does it mean to be Empathetic as a leader?

Being empathetic means to really want to reach out and to be others-focused. It means to demonstrate a desire to listen, to care, to recognize the importance that other people have and to really give them the respect of hearing what it is that they have to say. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” So, an empathetic person is trying to learn, trying to listen and trying to demonstrate caring for the people around them.

There’s been a transformation of how leadership has been viewed over the decades. In the past, one might expect a leader to have all the answers, to show strong leadership qualities. Today, especially when you look at the millennial generation, people want to contribute to find out the answers. They want to have meaning in their work. They want to know the work they’re doing is valuable and that they are valued as a person. Someone who comes in and simply says, “Here’s what we’re going to do and you’re going to do it,” that is an immediate dis-engager for high percentages of people.”

What does a leader need to do to be someone who is Aspirational for the people that they are working with?

Leaders tend to focus on the bottom line. The finances are important and critical to the success of any business. However, to focus on those exclusively without a broader picture is not necessarily enough to connect with a lot of people. If a leader understands that people really want to have meaning in what they do, then simply hitting financial targets may not be enough. A leader not only needs to be focused on the details but also on why we are doing this at all and why what we are doing is important.

The financial parts and having targets are all important, but at the same time, to have something broader and something we can connect to that makes us feel like, “Yes, I’m really a part of something bigger and important, and I can go home and feel really good about that.”

How critical is it for a leader to also be a Learner?
It is very critical. Being a learner connects with empathetic in the sense that the learner says “I don’t have all of the answers”. The learner recognizes that mistakes are going to happen and they learn from that. They don’t necessarily like it but, they will embrace it and they won’t hesitate if they’ve made a mistake, to admit it, to address it and to move on. It’s about taking action. It’s about making mistakes. It’s about experience and judgement.