You might be a narcissistic leader if…

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What comes to mind when you think of great leaders? Visionary? Charismatic? Big personalities? Create transformative change? If that’s your picture of a great leader, then it involves narcissism.   Surprised? Have you always thought of narcissism as a purely negative trait? The best theorist of narcissism and leadership is probably Michael Maccoby. For a fuller description of narcissistic leadership, see his HBR article. In it, he argues that many larger-than-life business leaders have been narcissists – Jack Welch, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs. Narcissism can have downsides, but it has its upsides as well. And we all have some narcissistic qualities. What’s key is being what Maccoby calls a “productive” […]

Building Others’ Commitment to Your Success

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Beneath the surface of any leader’s daily actions lies a set of assumptions about what will make the leader successful. Some of the assumptions I’ve repeatedly seen include:   I need to have others in the organization give me/my group credit for our contribution and value. I need to show my competence and strategic thinking. I need to focus on the task being done “right”.  I need to overcome opposition to my goals and strategies.   The pitfalls of these typical assumptions about success When leaders hold these assumptions as true, they remain focused on their own goals and achievement. They may accomplish the goals they’ve set for themselves, but […]

Get Beyond the Illusion of Control

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If you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. – Hillary Clinton   To make sure we’re discussing the same term, let me offer definition one from Merriman-Webster.  “Control – to direct the behavior of a person, to cause a person to do what you want.”  I define it with a bit more color as the ability to get people to do what you want, when and how you want – and to act like they want it too.  As the above title suggests, I believe that control is […]

The Value of Uncertainty

2_6_14 The Value of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape – Andy Stanley   “Often wrong, but never uncertain.”  I’m always troubled when I hear that phrase about another person.  The world I see around me is never that certain, it’s never black and white.  In every situation, there are different viewpoints, and different paths you can take.  People who shun uncertainty, who never question their own approach, typically create more problems than they solve.   Some people try to manage uncertainty with simple, direct action.  The classic example is Alexander and the Gordian Knot.  This legend has Alexander faced with the problem of untying a knot that has no beginning.  […]

The Importance of Purpose

11_29_13 The Importance of Purpose

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning   For me, Frankl is on the short list of history’s most important and inspired thinkers.  In his masterwork on meaning, he writes extensively about the unique capacity people have to choose how they will respond to circumstances, and the critical role that meaning plays in life satisfaction.  However, I believe that he talks most eloquently about the importance of purpose.   People today often describe a life that feels like one continuous fire drill, reacting to emergent issues and […]

How to Find and Grow HIPOs

10_19_13 Find and Grow HIPOs

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) recently identified key skills they see as essential for success in the future workplace.  These skills include… identify meaning beyond what is expressed, assess information for importance, translate data into abstract concepts and use data-based reasoning, understand concepts across multiple disciplines, identify actions beyond rote or rules, and participate as a member of a virtual team. The Teleos Development Model© identifies five different “perspectives” or development levels.  The “systems” or strategic perspective is critical, because that perspective enables the development of these (and other) powerful skills that improve performance and enhance leadership.  The challenge comes with trying to make the shift into this perspective […]

The Distorted Lenses Through Which We See

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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 – […]

The Golden Rule of Interviewing

Golden Rule of Interviewing 8_17_13

You probably know the old saying – he who has the gold makes the rules! But, with interviewing, there is another golden rule, one that can affect your ability to get the job you want.  Managers will hire anyone when they believe the person will create more value than they cost.  No matter what other questions you get asked during an interview, you must make sure to answer the most important questions – HOW WILL YOU ADD VALUE TO OUR COMPANY? This question may seem obvious, but I think you may be surprised at how rarely it appears in interviews.  Nowadays, companies use a wide range of selection methods including […]

Have You Created An In-Group On Your Team?

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If you are managing people, it’s likely that you are observing your reports in action, noticing what they do well and what they don’t, and forming judgments about their capabilities.  These are important activities, when done in the service of assigning activities that fit individuals’ strengths, providing relevant feedback and coaching in areas of weakness, and creating development plans.   However, it’s not uncommon that a manager will use this information to conclude which of her reports are competent and which are not, and, on that basis, to value and reward those different reports’ contributions accordingly.  Have you, perhaps, done this with your own reports?   Why Your Judgments About […]

What’s Good About Having A Bad Boss?

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So you have the boss from hell? Seems that lots of people have had this experience. A recent study claims that 65% of Americans would like a better boss – almost twice as many as would like a pay raise. Here are some typical “bad boss” complaints I’ve heard. takes credit for your accomplishments throws projects at you without explaining them, and then explains why your work is “all wrong” when you bring back the finished job yells, attacks, bullies you micromanages inaccessible when you need help plays favorites overly demanding, doesn’t honor your work-life boundaries   A Different Way To Look At It The experience of living with a […]

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