Two Plus One Principle

I’ve observed and worked with many successful leaders across business, government, and philanthropy.  Many of them develop a towering strength over time.  But I’ve noticed that highly successful leaders develop a second strength which is unusual for their field.  This, coupled with emotional intelligence, propels their success.  That is the Two Plus One Principle.

Identify and Develop Your Core Strength

Ronald A Williams, Chairman and CEO of RW2 Enterprises, LLC described the concept of the “T-shaped” executive when I work for him at Aetna.  Ron used this image to describe how to develop as a leader.  He said the trunk of the T was your towering strength.  The top of the T represents your experiences utilizing that strength.  Some leaders fail because they have not developed a towering strength.  Others fail because they lack the diversity of experience necessary to lead an organization.

For any given field or endeavor there is a skill, capability or mindset that will enable you to be successful.  Your first step is to identify it.  A banker would have financial acumen at their core.  A dancer would have physical intelligence at their core.  An interpreter would have linguistic intelligence at their core.

Recognize what capability will serve as the foundation for your success, then outline the experiences and education necessary to hone that strength.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to be better than 85 percent of the population?”  The exact number is not important, the key is to recognize what you need do well and be able to put it into words.

Develop a Unique Secondary Strength

Developing a secondary strength, one that allows you to bring a new perspective to your role, can set you apart from others.  Creative people often combine at least two strengths or mindsets, one of which is unusual for that business or industry.  If your field is very technical, with math and science at its core, you can differentiate yourself by incorporating art or music skills.  Which of the following intelligences, if developed, would make you stand out:

  • Spatial / Visual
  • Physical / Kinesthetic
  • Musical / Rhythm
  • Linguistic / Speaking
  • Analytical / Mathematical
  • Interpersonal / Emotional
  • Naturalistic / Biology

Emotional Intelligence is the Plus One

Emotional intelligence turbocharges your strengths.  Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, defines emotional intelligence (EQ) as the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, the ability to motivate ourselves, and to manage emotions effectively in ourselves and others.

The ability to understanding others and taking an active interest in their concerns is a cornerstone to innovation.  The ability to sense others’ needs and feelings and support their development will enable you to attract and motivate teams of people.  Emotional intelligence is key to forming partnerships and developing alliances.  Successful partnerships are a result of mutual respect, understanding, cooperation and trust.  All these attributes take time to develop, but emotional intelligence skills like active listening, negotiation, and conflict resolution can accelerate the process.

Bottom Line

Accelerate your career by developing two towering strengths, one of which is unique to your industry or role and add emotional intelligence to get to three.  Success often comes from bringing a different perspective or mindset to a problem, area, or field.

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Two Plus One Principle

I’ve observed and worked with many successful leaders across business, government, and philanthropy.  Many of them develop a towering strength over time.  But I’ve noticed

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