"First rule of leadership: everything is your fault" - Hopper, from A Bugs Life

By Dan Stifter | Jan 7, 2015

Everyone looks in the mirror and think they’re looking at a natural leader. But according to Gallup, 82% of managers are pretty much complete failures. Only 1 out of 10 are really right for the job. While “managing” is different than “leading,” it’s a close enough proxy to demonstrate that there are very, very few good, much less great leaders out there. This essay is designed to steer you toward that 18% of people that turn into great leaders. Enjoy!

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max DePree

Accept & Seek-Out Change

Want to be a better leader? I strongly believe in Jack Welch’s perspective that “if the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight.” In other words, if you’re not changing as a leader, the continuously changing environment will sneak up behind you like a vampire that doesn’t look anything like Edward and suck the life out of you.

Embrace Alternative Skill-Sets

Many people think desirable leadership behaviors are things like aggression, extroversion, self-confidence and competence. Yet study after study shows that the two most important behaviors are sensitivity and being articulate. Look at the Max DePree quote – defining reality really doesn’t take up much time, most of leadership is about communicating and executing the plan. Communicating and guiding the vision and helping your team achieve more is the essence of leadership.

Leadership Isn’t About Others Conforming To Your Views

What’s the solution? Personal insight and growth. When you were 12 years old you probably wanted to be a “leader” so that you could just tell everyone what to do. Unfortunately, the real world is nothing like that. Autocratic bosses are so North Korea, and that’s clearly not a winning strategy. The first true step of leadership is understanding yourself, how others perceive you, and learning how to use your skills effectively. And you may not like doing it, but that all starts with a journey of personal reflection and growth.

Know Thyself

There’s a ton of on-line tools out there to help you figure out your Emotional Intelligence. EQ has four components: self-awareness, social awareness (empathy), self-management, and relationship management (social skill.) Self-awareness must come first. “Know thyself” isn’t about being master of your domain, it’s about truly understanding how your behaviors are perceived by others. Want to be an effective leader? Find out how your actions are perceived.

Steve Jobs notoriously lacked self-awareness. It literally got him kicked out of the company he founded. He never became great at managing his EQ, but he had to get better to be successful and ultimately of course he grew enough to get to the point where he took Apple from being a relatively small niche company to the most valuable company the world has ever seen.

Parting Words…

Becoming a leader is a life long pursuit; it is not an event, it’s a process. If you continuously develop yourself, your business will prosper.

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