How to Expand Your Leadership Capacity

Guest post By Brian Gast:

What’s your leadership capacity? I was 35 and the CEO of one
of the fastest growing telecom companies in the US. I had created $400 million
in value from an idea, was managing a 1,500 person company that everyone wanted
to work for and a public company that was a darling of Wall Street.

Then things got tough. Competition increased and my patience
with my team decreased. I began to avoid real problems and became isolated from
my board. I didn’t know it at the time but my capacity to lead was a lot lower
than I thought. It took getting fired to wake up and realize that I was not
going to sustain effective leadership by relying on an MBA and my natural

Anyone can stay calm and communicate clearly when things are
going well. How do you respond when you have to have difficult conversations
with a person who thinks very differently than you do? How about working for an
unsupportive boss or inspiring the troops when slumping profits show no sign of
improving? Such conditions test your leadership capacity. Is your capacity
where you want it to be?

Leadership capacity is a way to measure a leader’s ability
to be effective in a wide variety of situations and conditions. The greater
your ability to access the appropriate behavior at the appropriate time, the
greater your leadership capacity.

Executive Development
and the Quadrant Model

Consider this four quadrant model as a tool to assess and
increase leadership capacity. Let’s start with a brief description of each

Acting          This quadrant houses your
ability to get things done, to deal with hard facts, to enforce boundaries, and
to make and keep agreements.

      This quadrant helps us
analyze, maintain objectivity, see patterns, and reflect on options and

        This is where we find our
Emotional Intelligence, our ability to connect with others, to have empathy, to
maturely express our emotions, and to understand the affect our relationships
have on our lives.

Being           This quadrant is the home of
our Executive Presence, that intangible vibe we bring when we enter a room. It’s
also where we access our vision and our ability to see the big picture, ask for
what we want, observe contradictions and inconsistencies, and express gratitude
and praise.

Each quadrant has a mature or healthy state and each has
“shadow” sides. The shadows reflect either too much or too little of the
qualities of a quadrant. For example, too much Thinking energy can result in
Analysis Paralysis or being a manipulator. Too little Feeling quadrant capacity
and you become numb, stoic or distant.

Your Success Becomes
Your Undoing

Successful leaders get bigger jobs because they’re strong in
the Acting (working hard and strong) and the Thinking (high IQ and good
political instincts) quadrants. Most leaders derail later in their careers for
the same reason. They either overuse these two quadrants or they neglect
developing their presence, emotional maturity or interpersonal skills.

Another limitation to potential is a leader’s inability to
move from one quadrant to another when events warrant different skills or a
different way of being. I see this when a leader is convinced that his team
needs to work harder when actually it is in desperate need of support, inspiration
and a vision.

Not only are single or double quadrant leaders lacking in
leadership capacity they are often lacking in the area of personal fulfillment.
They may lack the ability to affirm and support themselves internally or to
believe in themselves enough to set healthy boundaries around how much they
work. This means discontent at home gets brought to work and vice versa.

Know Thy Bubble, Know

I describe the four quadrants and their shadows in my book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives
Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t
. The book also talks
about how we come about our shadows. We live encased in a Bubble that distorts
the way we see ourselves and the world. Our Bubble is filled with limiting beliefs.
Executive development is the process of understanding this Bubble, the blind
spots it creates, and examining the beliefs that drive our behavior.

How to Increase Your
Leadership Capacity

The first step in increasing leadership capacity is to take
an inventory of where you are on the Quadrant Map. In which quadrant are you
strong and balanced? What are your shadow behaviors? Do you avoid conflict? Lose
your temper? Show off? If you aren’t sure, ask someone you know who will tell
you the truth. Ask that person, “In which of these four areas do you see that I
have a blind spot, a persistent (not necessarily frequent) behavior that gets
in the way of my effectiveness as a leader?”

The next step is to create a vision for becoming a Four
Quadrant Leader. Write down what that looks like and begin to create a roadmap
to get from where you are to where you want to be. I notice that leaders who do
this kind of planning begin to build their own Court of Support, a circle of
peers and coaches that will challenge them to grow.

Maybe it’s time to invest in expanding your executive
capacity. You will not only experience benefits in your career and business but
also in your relationships and level of personal fulfillment.

Brian Gast is an executive coach, top team alignment expert,
author, and speaker. He is the author of the book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to
Fulfillment and Others Don’t (released October 2012)
. You can reach Brian
at 303.707.1340,