A Q&A with Sharon Olivier

Sharon teaches, researches & consults Strategic HR; Leading in the 21st century, Ego, Eco and Intuitive intelligence in leadership, Engagement, Polarity Management, Diversity and Inclusion, The neuro-science of reframing unhelpful patterns, and Heart Intelligence.

Sharon Olivier

Hi Sharon, can you tell us a bit more about your research and teaching experience?

Of course. My main research focuses on Strategic HR, Leading in the 21st century, Ego, Eco and Intuitive intelligence in leadership, Engagement, Polarity Management, Diversity and Inclusion.

Before Ashridge, I spent 20 years as a Senior Leader, OD consultant, Learning Facilitator, Coach and Speaker. Clients have included Ipsen Pharmaceuticals, NATO, Lufthansa, Egyptian Banking Council, VW, Audi, BMW, Land Rover, De Beers and more. My intensive engagement with clients helps me to gain the most relevant and first-hand understanding and knowledge in this discourse of my research and consultancy.

In terms of my education background, I did my MA in Organisational Psychology. I am also a Master Practitioner in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and a PNI practitioner (psychoneuroimmunology). I enjoy designing leadership experience but also doing short key notes on topics such as the Future of HR and what has to change in leadership to lead the 21st century organisation.

Can you give us an overview of what Eco, Ego and Intuitive leadership is?

A new leadership narrative is required which involves the acceptance of the world as complex and unpredictable. With this in mind, our research involving over 150 leaders from diverse industries unveils three fundamental ways leaders respond to an increasingly uncertain world, we call them Eco, Ego and Intuitive intelligence.

To be more specific, eco intelligent leaders are less self-dependent and more interdependent. They recognize that today’s workplace is less a hierarchy and more an ‘ecosystem’ of interconnected teams, individuals and systems, and are skilled at enabling the organisational ecosystem.

Ego intelligence, on the other hand, is defined as one’s sense of unique identity, boundary and separation, but also includes its ability to shape ideas and create focus. Ego intelligent leaders are the shapers, having a tendency to rely heavily on what they can accomplish as individuals, on their personal ability to stay on top in a highly competitive work environment.

Intuitive intelligence builds on the necessity to ‘sense into’ the bigger picture and the ability to capture the emerging patterns and interdependencies, future threats and opportunities. This type of intuitive intelligence is especially important for creativity, decision making, and innovation.

Why is Eco, Ego and Intuitive Leadership important to today’s world of work?

Loosely speaking, the three elements we mentioned here all echo the challenges we are facing in the new world of work. Each of them has their own gifts and shadows or downsides.

To break them down one by one, Eco leadership is essential and really inspiring in the age of AI, as we are engaging increasingly with big data, machine learning. This skill emphasises the ability to ‘adopt’ from various resources, both external and internal, and embrace the co- creation, inter-dependencies and co-existence.

As for Ego leadership, I know many people may see it in a negative way. We think of egotistic leaders being self-centred and narcissistic. However, there is a positive side: an ego gift as it were. Leaders with this intelligence are good at creating focus, setting goals and mobilising resources to achieve objectives through decisive action. They ‘make things happen’ and because of their ability to take control, bring focus and reassure their staff.

In terms of Intuitive leadership, it is most necessary when organizations face the challenge of transformative change. When the moment of ‘thinking outside the box’ takes place, the ability to capture the bigger picture, to rely on one’s intuitive wisdom to spark creativity and fresh ideas can be a game changer, especially, in this volatile business world.

Is it possible for a leader to have all three intelligences?

This is a really good question. The short answer: no. Our research found that it is unlikely for one leader to be strong in all three intelligences. However, Eco, Ego and Intuitive Leadership can be contained or distributed within the leadership team. We noticed, in the more successful teams, these three intelligences were well blended and used synergistically, enabling the organisations to excel. This highlights the importance of the shift from the ‘leader’ to distributed ‘leadership’.

Let me give you an analogy to understand it better. We see these three intelligences like a prism of primary colours of light, each having a separate value but when blended together, become pure white light. Any one of them suffers negative consequences to the organisation when overplayed to the expense of the other two. No doubt, it will be a long and challenging process to change the long-established patterns of leadership. Ultimately though, truly agile leadership teams will need to embrace all three to thrive in this VUCA world.

Sharon teaches on the following Open Enrolment programs

HR Strategy and Impact

The Transformational Leader

Ego, Eco and Intuitive leadership… a new logic for disruptive times

Get the full research report here

Hult International Business School
Hult International Business School
Ashridge Executive Education