The New Decade’s Must Have Skill By Dickie G. Sykes

During my years in the corporate world, I was surrounded by extremely smart people.  I worked in an industry where many of my colleagues had advanced degrees in construction management or structural or electrical engineering. They were left-brain builders of buildings — the kings and queens of New York. Their rise to the top was due to hard work, strong technical skills, their alma maters’ reputations and social networking.

I’m not talking about the kind done on the Internet. They used face-to-face Jack Daniels and martini sipping in bars and restaurants in addition to butt slapping and joke telling on golf courses. Their leadership skills were determined and rewarded by concrete, measurable and immediate results: adhering to schedules and saving clients time and money. Every now and then, discussions of talent development, emotional intelligence, social responsibility, philanthropy and sustainability where brought up in mere grumblings or whispers. To enter the ranks of executive management today leaders must not only talk about those issues, they must fundamentally understand that tomorrow’s leaders must tap into characteristics long underutilized. 

In Daniel Pink’s book, ”A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future” he wrote: “We’re moving from a mindset that values logic, analysis and cold, hard facts to a way of thinking that prizes “softer” characteristics like creativity, inventiveness and empathy. These skills have become first among equals in a whole range of business fields.  The good news is anyone and everyone can tap into the abundance that exists in the right side of our brains.”

Hmmm…I distinctly remember the subliminal messages of corporate America: “Soft” skills never lead to line positions because they do not generate revenue and what doesn’t generate revenue is not valued or respected. In a 2009 “More magazine” article titled “The Visible Woman,” the mother of a Harvard graduate told her daughter not to go into anything that isn’t a line position. Now, they’re telling me people who exhibit right brain characteristics will rule the future.

Thankfully, throughout my career, I never internalized those subliminal messages and fully utilized and exhibited the characteristics of both sides of my brain. In hindsight, I was, and continue to be, right brain dominate. I don’t believe left brainers will no longer be a highly valued commodity; however, in order to become a future leader, exhibiting both brain hemisphere characteristics is imperative. 


The Future of Leadership:
(1)     IQ + EQ will be the gold standard

Future leaders will no longer be judged solely on IQ but on a combination of IQ and EQ.  Emotional Quotient describes the combination of self-awareness, authenticity, resilience and understanding the emotions of others.

These qualities make great leaders. Success will require more than a high IQ, which tends to be the traditional measure of intelligence.  In a “Business Week” column by Jack & Suzy Welch they stated: “A misstep we’ve both taken is hiring a candidate who’s smart and capable but just too lacking in emotional intelligence, EQ. This particular young man had a lot of the right stuff, but when he started telling us he had never made a mistake in his life and didn’t expect to, we knew we’d heard enough.” 

(2) Top performers must have broad experience

Top leaders will need to take on assignments that are completely outside their comfort zones. Those identified early as leaders will move through a succession of jobs as they work toward the top. Like never before, they must be prepared to manage, train and lead a multicultural, multi lingual and multigenerational workforce with customers and division leaders located all over the world.

The best international companies are investing millions of dollars in not only technology but in human capital. In an information-base economy, companies send top performers on global assignments to learn operational procedures and cultural norms. They ask company leaders to serve on non-profit boards. They’re thinking about social responsibility and all right brain stuff or dare I say after the fall of Wall Street, The Right Stuff.  Modeled after the Peace Corps, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps develops employee leadership skills and sparks socioeconomic growth in the developing world. IBM and other companies want top performers to have global perspectives because future growth and expansion will occur outside the United States. 

(3) Top performers must foster greatness in others

Tomorrow’s leaders are global ambassadors who understand man’s common humanity. They’re inquisitive visionaries who create team buy-in, keep up with technology, foster greatness in others and assembly top-notch teams to move their philosophies forward. Top performers will be judged on how well they produce future leaders. They know they must expand their visions of leadership and give their diverse teams training, flexibility, responsibility and perform due diligence with succession planning. They give responsibility but know the buck stops with them.

Tomorrow’s leaders will have developed and utilize the characteristics of both IQ and EQ. They’ll be academically smart, resilient, compassionate, worldly, authentic and self-aware- the cumulative characteristics that make a great leader.

(4) Modern day examples of leadership

Still not sure what IQ+EQ looks like? Look up or Google Timothy Russert, Tony Dungy or Anne Mulcahy and read their biographies.  Better yet, talk to people who worked for them. Tim Russert, managing editor and moderator of “Meet the Press” and NBC News’ Washington bureau chief died on June 13, 2008 at age 58.  When Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan interviewed Russert, Russert said, “You have all these Ivy League smart people around you, you don’t need me.”  Moynihan replied, “What they know, you can learn, but they can’t learn what you know.”

(5) Leadership lessons

Leaders will admit to having made mistakes and exhibit courage and fortitude to correct them. They’ll ask for partnership and drive change. Great leaders know they cannot do everything and must work with and get along well with others. They must be team players who know how to manage, lead and prepare others for great responsibility. 

Remember: the evidence of a great leader will be determined by those who rise along with him.  Big Tim, as he was affectionately called, Anne Mulcahy and Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, brought many up the ranks with them. They were liked and respected by even their fiercest competitors. There are seven African American coaches in the NFL currently and Tony Dungy brought in three of them. Anne Mulcahy, former CEO and current chairman of Xerox Corporation worked side-by-side with subordinates and was known for her ability to create ‘followership.’  Enough said.

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About this Author: Dickie Sykes is a former construction executive and CEO of DGS Consulting LLC. She reinvented her career and relocated her business from New York City to Atlanta, Georgia. For more information on DGS Consulting, contact or visit the company’s website They can be reached by phone at 404 567-5790.