Leadership success lays in the fourth dimension

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Feb 2016

01 Feb 2016 • by Changeboard Team

Three dimensions of leadership

Up until now, we have been taking an incomplete view of the situation. People talk about leadership behaviours, or authenticity, or servant leadership, but these are all just single dimensions of a multi-dimensional problem. Real progress comes from taking a more sophisticated multi-dimensional view.

There are three fundamental dimensions of our lives: I, WE and IT. Or put another way being, relating and doing. Understanding and operating well within all three dimensions is critical to success because some problems can only be fixed in the dimension in which they arise. If someone’s relationship is failing (a WE dimension problem), you won’t solve that with the temporary IT dimension fix of buying your partner a sparkly gift. It may serve as a distraction (and often a powerful one at that) but it doesn’t solve the underlying relationship issue – it can’t because the solution is in a different dimension to the problem.

It’s actually impossible for you to ignore one dimension, they exist whether you like it or not. Think about critical decisions at work. How you feel (I) impacts directly on what you decide (IT). Have you ever struggled to make the right decision when you’re under a huge amount of pressure? Your biology – an anxious, racing heart, for example – will hamper your decision-making as you experience that ‘frontal lobotomy’ when your body prepares to fight or flight in the face of a stressor.

Now, think about how much more clearly you’re able to think when you are calm, confident and in control. There’s no racing heart, no tension and your faculties are at their greatest potential. Paying attention to our I dimension and being in the right emotional state enables us to perform in our other dimensions of IT and WE.

Transcending to the fourth dimension

You reach the fourth dimension of leadership when you increase your sophistication in the other three dimensions of I, WE and IT. That means first waking up to the fact that there are three dimensions, then increasing our maturity in all three dimensions but particularly in the I dimension. This requires us to own up to those aspects of ourselves that we would rather ignore. If we do all that then we will show up in a completely different way; more authentic, more compassionate and more fulfilled.

Academics have written about the I, WE and IT dimensions separately, but my new book (4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development) is the first time they have been brought together and put in the context of work and business. In 4D Leadership, I pull together the most important lessons that can help you increase your altitude in all three dimensions. When you become more mature in the I dimension and increase the sophistication and subtlety of your relationships in the WE dimension then you are so much more capable in the IT dimension. The kind of capability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in the VUCA[2] world, it’s what will set the great leaders apart from the rest.


See Alan in action

Hear Dr Alan Watkins talk about the four dimensions to creating competitive advantage at Future Talent 2016. To find out more and how to get your ticket, click here.


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