How Top Leaders successfully Navigate Change (part three): Tapping into Emotion


How can leaders respond to the accelerating pace of change in business? Learning means you can take on and use new information, and making sense of it is critical, but what if you simply don’t care to improve? 

Caring is critical to executive potential, if only because executive roles become all-absorbing: CEOs are CEOs all the time. If unmotivated by their role, they can easily burn out just doing their jobs. Motivation points to what you have potential for

Motivation is why people actually do what they do. There are two types: what you consciously think is important (explicit) and what energizes you emotionally (implicit). The former helps make choices -“What do I need to do now?” and the latter propels and focuses people over time - “What do I want to do overall?” 

Top implicit motives (everyone has all three):  

  • Achievement: the primary motive of entrepreneurs, sales people, innovators, and process managers: doing things better 

  • Influence: the primary motive of leaders, coaches, change agents, and managers 

  • Affiliation: the primary motive of humanity in general – wanting to be part of a group and/or get along with others in a personal way 

By exploring one’s own motives objectively; for example, learning what you truly enjoy, or seeing how you spontaneously respond to ambiguous situations; we can separate motives from conscious values - which may or may not align.  

We’ve seen leaders start with a role well-suited to their motives and succeed so well that their role becomes unsatisfying, e.g., from startup CEO to major company leader means moving from an Achievement-based role to an Influence-based role.  

Implicit motives remain stable without significant effort, so it’s important to know the relative balance of your three as you choose a role. Otherwise one may have CEO ability but lack the necessary motivation. Learn your motives, and you can make the best use of motivation and organization: making clear choices based on your head and your heart. 

Take a look at how we have helped people of many motives align themselves for growth.


How Top Leaders successfully Navigate Change (part two): Putting it Into Practice


The ability to learn means you can take on and use new information, but how do you put it into practice?  

There are three key cognitive abilities - beyond basic IQ - that senior executives rely on to master rapid change: 

  1. Analytical, cause-and-effect thinking for the long haul. Most high-ranking leadership roles require analytical thinking, but we find the best senior leaders can follow a logic chain out much further than the matter at hand; even years ahead. 

  2. Conceptualizing. Crafting a concept or vision that enables others to act with clarity despite complexity is a major advantage. This capability first emerges among middle managers but reaches strategic levels in senior executives making sense of a global, evolving market. The very best can make you say, “why didn’t I think of that?” 

  3. Lateral, creative thinking. Contrary to what people think, looking for alternatives and possibilities instead of converging on a reasonable answer is a game-changer. This isn’t just a bolt from the blue; you can teach people to maximize the natural creative ability of the human animal. 

The combination can far exceed than the sum of the parts, e.g.: exploring broad options (#3), following each through to conclusion (#1), and prioritizing and organizing the best solution for the most crucial problem (#2). Brought together, these power strategic thinking. 

Business hones analytical thinking from the beginning; conceptual thinking sifts out those who can prioritize as managers from those who get lost in complicated business situations. Lateral thinking is both less emphasized and most readily developed, since everyone is creative, and greatly increases innovation. We’ve put executives in safe places to encourage intellectual exploration and ran them through exercises with diverse people to promote creative, lateral thinking through comparison and contrast with others’ experiences and ideas.  To see what we’ve done already, go here.


Wai, Jonathan (2013): Investigating America's elite: Cognitive ability, education, and sex differences. Intelligence 41 (2013) 203–211.