How is the Chess Queen Like a Great Leader?
How is the queen of the chessboard like a great leader? Both follow the law of requisite variety. Quite simply, that means that in the realm they rule, they have the most control because they are the one with the most flexibility.
In the game of chess, the queen is the most powerful game piece because she can move any number of squares and in any direction. Great leaders have the ability to relate to many different types of people, even with those think differently, who have different personality styles and who are from different cultures. Great leaders excel at behavioral flexibility.
I’m not a chess player, so with the celebration of American Chess Day on September 2, I honor the Queen who uses her power to protect the king and win the game. And I honor great leaders who use their power to bring out the best in the people they serve.
According to Dan Pink in To Sell Is Human, we are all in the business of influencing, all the time. Influencers are the ones with the greatest flexibility of behavior, or with the greatest number of choices when interacting. These are the people who control the interaction and the outcome. Great leaders and influencers can modify their actions and reactions until they get their desired outcome.
As a business professional, you need flexibility of style, too. If you want to achieve a different, you must have the ability to modify your behavior on the fly. Otherwise, you will always get what you always got. Is that what you want?
Develop Behavioral Flexibility
So how do great leaders do it? And, how can you develop behavioral flexibility so you can relate to all of your stakeholders? These are just suggestions, but you can put them into practice now and they will always benefit you.
- First, Be aware of your own state. Are you in a good place to connect with another human being? If not, shift your mindset before interacting.
- Be authentic and empathetic to build trust. Especially now. As humans, we are wired to connect and your state affects everyone you interact with. This is an opportunity to develop deeper connections. Ask “How are you?” before asking “what have you done?”
- Communicate with tolerance and acceptance. Don’t make assumptions or judgements. Be open-minded and respectful.
- Find opportunities to practice an attitude of gratitude.
Accept criticism with gratitude. People who are rewarded feel appreciated and valued. They work harder and are more willing to help others. They even go above and beyond by doing tasks that are outside of their responsibility.
- Finally, if what you are doing is not working, vary the behavior and do something else. Anything else is better than continuing with what doesn’t work. Keep varying your behavior until you find something that works.
In chess, the goal of the queen is to protect the king. In leadership, the goal is to influence with integrity so people collaborate as they move collectively towards common objectives. When you master the art of communication flexibility, you will be a more effective and successful leader.