3 Core Domains to Be a Good Leader – Despite Paradoxes

According to an HBR article, research from the Neuroleadership Institute has found that leaders must excel across three core domains to be successful: 

  • Being future-focused, 
  • Being good with people, and 
  • Being able to drive results


It is necessary for leaders to have an eye on the future to prepare for what is coming next. With daily fires to put out, managers often wait until faced with tomorrow’s issues and future changes rather than prepare their team today. 

Scanning the future is counter to how our brains evolved to listen for and value immediate needs – i.e., watching for and responding to threats, plus as the article notes “…thinking about the future is difficult in the best of times” especially considering all we have to deal with to get through each day.

Although the norm is this ‘tunnel vision,’ creating the habit of reflecting on future trends is a skill that can be mastered. A quick tip is blocking off time each month to consider 3 – 6 months into the future. With this vision, a plan can be formed with your Team to get ready for what is coming.

People Skills

The importance of people or ‘soft skills’ was highlighted in our article, 7 Tips on Essential Skills. We mentioned that employees are usually promoted to leadership positions because of technical skills, not because of how they relate to people. Yet building relationships and people skills are essential qualities to be a great leader.

In fact, a survey mentioned in the HBR article indicated that for leaders who were strong in both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader by employees was 72%, much higher than either of the skills alone (14% and 12% respectively!). 

Focusing on both technical and people skills can be as simple as asking employees their thoughts regarding a reasonable outcome for a project or asking what a reasonable project deadline would be.

Drive Realistic Results

Leaders balance between vision including future focus and attention to details. This is no easy task, and the juggle can cause a paradox.  Focusing on people and seeking perspectives from others are helpful.

Turn on the Light Bulb

In the past we highlighted qualities necessary to become a great leader, such as

  • Self-awareness,
  • EQ,
  • Humility,
  • Respect,
  • Listening,
  • Authenticity, and 
  • Trust

These qualities are foundational to organizational and individual well-being as well as psychological safety. The first six qualities can be cultivated through reflection and practice. The last one, trust, must be earned. Though not easy, trust can be fostered and earned even when lost. 

During leadership sessions, we stress this and compare earning employee trust to someone who trains their dog by swatting him/her with a newspaper. When such training is stopped (soon we hope!) the dog may still be hesitant to come to the owner, fearing they will be hurt again. However, overtime, the dog and employees (!) may become comfortable and learn to trust. 

More on this topic later!  In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to let us know your experience with trust and fostering the other six qualities of a great leader.  HBR Blog on 3 Core Domains

Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

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