What does real leadership look like?

by Jill Griffin

I was at dinner recently with some friends and out of the blue, one of my dinner companions asked a compelling question: If something dangerous happened here in this restaurant, who do you think would step up and lead us out of here to safety?

Companies all across the globe are asking a similar question every day. If we want to go somewhere, if we want to be successful, who can we count on to step up and take us there? An endless stream of studies have been conducted, libraries of books have been written, and yet leadership still seems to be a bit of a mystery.

Can leadership be taught or is it a talent we are born with? Most companies have some kind of assessment that you have to pass to be moved into leadership. That seems democratic — anybody can take the test and so that means theoretically that anybody could pass it. This avoids the good old boy network— no more getting the job because of who you know. At least in theory, that’s how it works. And the chances of finding the right person should be better with some science sprinkled into the process. Continue reading

A neglected but essential leadership trait — why self-control really matters

By Prudy Gourguechon

Boiled down to its essence, self-control is the ability to think before acting. Self-control, or discipline, is an essential character trait that every leader with heavy responsibilities must have.

Nevertheless, self-control rarely shows up on any list of the essential traits that make a good leader (with the notable exception of Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence). Vision, passion, communication skills, decisiveness, confidence, clarity, even empathy all pop up regularly on these popular lists, but not self-control. The explanation for the neglect of self-control and discipline? Consideration of leadership qualities tends to look at behavior and results rather than character or fundamental psychological capacities.

While the corporate world tends to ignore self-control, professional investors study and value it. Seasoned investors know they are prone to mistakes in judgment when emotion overrides rational decision-making. They also know this can and will happen to all of them. They remain vigilant and search for ways to prevent emotion-driven mistakes including “jumping on the bandwagon,” reacting out of fear or excessive caution or being unduly influenced by greed or envy. I am a fan of the television series Billions, which in one way can be seen as one long meditation on self-control. For both of the show’s protagonists, Bobby Axelrod and Chuck Rhoades, self-control is their greatest asset. And losing control leads to their ultimate undoing. Continue reading

To Take Charge of Your Career, Start by Building Your Tribe

by Gianpiero Petriglieri

Show me a person who sees uncertainty as opportunity, and I’ll show you a person who has mastered the new world of work.

A person like Juliet (not her real name), for example, who described a stressful stretch of her career as “disgustingly exciting.”

Juliet had left full-time employment in the public sector to pursue her passion for sculpture. Her skills were tentative. She had no experience in setting up a business to sell her art. She was often alone. “It felt completely honest, and completely truthful, completely real,” she said. She felt the thrill of freedom — and the precariousness that came with it. “I was so poor. Sometimes I didn’t even know how I was going to go grocery shopping. Something would come up. A random person would buy a little sculpture, and I’d go shopping.”

For many people, struggling to make ends meet — even while doing what you love — would be the stuff of nightmares. But for Juliet, the two went together. She was adamant that if she had been successful too soon, like some of her peers, her work would not have been as fierce and original as it turned out to be. Years later, she would decline the offer of a salaried residency at a prestigious college for fear that the comforts and demands of an institutional affiliation might take the edge off her work. Continue reading

These 5 Barriers Prevent You From Being a Better Leader.

by Alison Davis

Here’s What to Do Differently

I spend a lot of time asking employees about how leaders can be more effective communicators. Just yesterday, in fact, I moderated a focus group with employees at a fast-growing consumer products company.

The people in the group provided the same feedback I hear time and time again: Leaders are pretty good at sharing information, but they’re lousy listeners.

As a leader myself, I know how hard it is to slow down and actually pay attention to what your team member is saying, especially when you’re thinking about the 87 other issues you have to address and you’re pretty sure you already know how to solve the team member’s problem.

But you can’t be a great leader if you’re a terrible listener. As Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning write in How to Communicate, “Listening is a commitment and a compliment.”

“It’s a commitment to understanding how other people feel, how they see their world. It means putting aside your own prejudices and beliefs, your anxieties and self-interest, so that you can step behind the other person’s eyes.”

And listening is a compliment because it says to the other person, “I care about what’s happening to you; your life and experience are important.”

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Seven leadership secrets you should already know

by Cindy Wahler

Not all of us naturally know how to lead. Some leaders have received training, had a mentor or are just plain naturally intuitive leaders. However, many wing it and hope for the best. If you want to be a great leader, here’s what you should know.

Accept a lateral transfer.

My clients sometimes complain of boredom. Here is a direct quote: “I can do this in my sleep, and if I was near retirement, that would be a good thing, but I’m not.” The conversation naturally then moves into a desire for a promotion.

When a lateral transfer is proposed, many leaders seem to balk at this notion. It is as though they’re insulted. Here’s the thing: A lateral transfer promotes your versatility. By accepting a lateral transfer, you showcase that your skills are transferable, you can learn new things and you can build relationships with a whole new set of stakeholders.

Do not exercise command and control.

The good news is that you have been assigned a cool initiative. Leaders, rather than viewing this as a collective exercise, sometimes decide they are in charge and go for the glory.

Remember, diversity of thought brings richer solutions. You will never be rewarded for being the sole architect, even if the project successfully gets off the ground. Your brand should be about bringing different views to the table and never about what you solely think is the best.

Demonstrate emotional resilience.

Things go wrong. Of course, this creates frustration and anxiety. Your job is not to be reactive. Rather, be that leader who guides your team through the storm. You may not have the answers right away. With careful consideration and dialogue, you are sure to find the solution. Be known as the leader who can navigate through tough times.

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