How Hardship Creates Leaders

I’ve been working with a group of young leaders lately. One was talking about his background – high-achieving, top schools, good grades, an early career in a prestigious company filled with other top performers from fancy schools. This leader was frustrated to now be working in a company where, as he put it, “average” performers were the norm.   Looking at this leader’s perspective from where I sit, older and having endured many hiccups and setbacks on life’s journey, I am bemused by the young leader’s notion that being on top of the world is sustainable – and even desirable. Yet I also understand it. We’re all socialized to think […]

The Distorted Lenses Through Which We See

Humans are meaning-making creatures. The processing units in our minds instantaneously take the information that comes in through our senses, and attach meaning to it. Over time, the meanings we have attributed to our experiences get clustered together into beliefs. We think, when observing the world, that we are seeing what is, but we are really seeing our interpretations of what is.   Because meaning is created from experience, the more seasoned you are, the more powerful are your mental models – and the more invisible is that meaning-making step. As a leader, you rely on your mental models to identify patterns, see implications, decide what to focus on – […]

Ethics Training to Address Senior Military Officers’ Bad Behavior? Not so Fast!

The New York Times reports that Defense Secretary Panetta has ordered a review of ethics training, in light of recent scandals involving CIA Director Petraeus and others. Officers have been investigated or fired for behaviors including “sexual improprieties, sexual violence, malfeasance, or poor judgment.”   What’s wrong with the training solution? The leap to ethics training as a solution reflects a common organizational bias towards training as the solution to all problems. And, as with most situations where this bias exists, training isn’t likely to make much of a dent in the problem.  The training solution is predicted on invalid assumptions: –       that the officers don’t have a clear set […]

Why Being Smart is Over-Rated

When I work with an executive coaching client, I interview co-workers to get input into the person’s current leadership style. I start by asking about the person’s leadership strengths, and I’ll often hear some variation on the theme of “super-smart.” Whenever I hear this, I get ready for the other shoe to drop, and it usually does when I ask about the person’s leadership limits. Then I hear, “discounts other people’s points of view,” or, “can’t relate to people who aren’t as smart,” or “always has to parachute in and fix people’s work for them.” We learn to over-value being smart. We learn the value of being smart early in […]