CLICK BELOW TO REDISCOVER HUMANITY

A DECADE+ OF STORYTELLING POWERED BY THE BEST WRITERS ON THE PLANET

Leadership In Pictures #5: The Myth of The Perfect Leader

business_110008020-012914-intby Doug Wilson, Featured Contributor

This is the last in a five part series entitled Leadership In Pictures.

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]Editor’s Note: See Doug’s earlier Articles in this Series:

WHEN ONE READS current leadership articles it feels like Diogenes roaming the earth searching for the truthful man (or woman). Writers bemoan the fact that they cannot find one person who consistently exhibits sound leadership principles techniques and who applies them with wisdom and grace. To paraphrase the words of Peter, Paul and Mary, “Where have all the leaders gone”.

There is a problem. Leadership is in disrepute. Articles regularly enumerate the myriad failures of leaders. By almost any measure (trust, performance, talent development, etc.), today’s leaders do not live up to their lofty calling. One would have to believe that leadership ranks are filled with either self-serving egotists or incompetent buffoons. How did all these incompetents get promoted into leadership positions? (It is interesting that many desire those coveted positions and believe that they (and only they) could demonstrate how great leadership should be properly performed).

Leader Are Not Perfect

The truth is many of the articles on bad leadership are accurate. Every leader makes mistakes, sometimes really bad ones. But the articles are based on a false assumption. They assume that great leaders are perfect leaders. The truth also is: THERE ARE NO PERFECT LEADERS! Every leader without exception takes actions that can be labeled as “bad” or even incompetent. No leader is so consistently great that every decision and behavior is always aligned with the textbook answers. (And who knows what the standard is: WWSSD? What Would Simon Sinek Do?).

Leaders Vacillate

The reality is that leadership styles and behaviors vacillate over time. Leaders are human. They get tired and they make mistakes. They do not always read situations correctly or even think through every leadership action. They sometime face pressures no one else understands. Bottom line? No leader is perfect and no leader is totally consistent.

Leaders Face Contradictory Objectives

Every leader is concerned with productivity and results. No organization can survive without quality products or services. Simultaneously, leaders are concerned with people. No organization can succeed without talented, engaged people. But people have needs. Employees want and require direction, engagement, communication, and recognition. Consider the following diagram.

L1These two, usually contradictory, responsibilities of the leader beg for leadership time and attention. While the optimal solution is to integrate both dimensions into every leadership action, leaders are not always able to do this. Over time leaders’ behaviors (their leadership styles) swing from one responsibility to the other. (Sometimes leaders do things knowing in their heart it is not the best thing to do.) If behavior goes too far in one direction, the leader bypasses an acceptable “control limit” and their behavior becomes “pathological”. Because styles vacillate, if one observes a leader’s specific behavior at a given point in time, any leader can be labeled as either too production or people oriented. Perhaps that behavior could even be labeled as pathological. As a result, people walk away convinced this is a bad leader after viewing one action or behavior. (Obviously there are a few leaders who always operate outside the acceptable control limits. That is a discussion for another day).

Leaders Face Multiple Contradictory Demands

But a leader is not concerned with only two responsibilities (people and productivity). Rather there are multiple, polar opposite demands vying for time, attention, priority and action. Consider the following incomplete sample of leadership responsibilities:

L2Leaders must juggle these multiple responsibilities. As they do, the opportunities to criticize a leader’s behavior increase exponentially.

Leaders Lead Those Who Do Not Want Consistency

Leadership is often evaluated from a personal and individual lens. Employees view the “greatness” of a leader by assessing how willing they are to be flexible with that employee’s personal needs. The labeling of great and not-so-great leadership rests in the eye of the beholder. Consider the following:

L3

Individuals see leaders as great based on the leader’s understanding and flexibility around the employee’s personal needs and situations. But those same employees expect leaders to be unbendingly consistent with others’ situations and request for exceptions.

So the standard becomes:

  • Flexibility with others? Bad leader!
  • Flexibility with me? Great leader!

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

Guidelines For Assessing Leadership Greatness

  1. Leadership cannot be fairly evaluated in the short term. Except for decisions concerning illegal, immoral, unethical or unsafe activities, leadership greatness is not achieved in one moment of time. (Note: heroes are revealed in a single moment but not leaders).
  2. True leadership greatness is demonstrated in the “and” (the integration), not the “either’-or”. The more a leader vacillates between extremes rather than integrating the two dimensions, the higher likelihood the leader will be viewed as “bad or incompetent”.
  3. The better a leader integrates two polar opposite responsibilities, the more narrow the upper and lower control limits become. Therefore, better leadership creates higher employee expectations resulting in less flexibility for the leader to vacillate before crossing into “bad” leadership practices. Therefore it is easier to become disappointed with a great leader (who’s actions stray outside the narrower control limits) than an incompetent one.[/message]

L4Criticizing Leaders Is Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel

Leadership is the one position that can be faulted in every situation. A leader will be criticized for what they did or did not do. They will also be criticized for doing the right thing but doing it in the wrong way. Many times leaders feel they cannot win. The truth is no leader will ever be universally acclaimed; there will be always be those that are critical of any leader’s actions.

The Bottom Line

Leadership has never been easy and it is getting tougher. Read all the posts on LinkedIn. Study and practice for a week or two all the “how-to’s” and techniques that “thought leaders” and “Influencers” write about leadership greatness. Advice abounds but none of that advice will make a person a great leader.

Remember this. Leaders are developed in a pressure cooker over a long period of time and achieving greatness requires the greatest of all teachers: trial and error. That means really good leaders will make mistakes.

So if you want to find an action of a leader to criticize, have at it. The opportunities will be many. But if you are looking to evaluate a leader’s greatness, you will need to wait a few years to make an accurate assessment.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Copyright 2015 9 By 9 Solutions All Rights Reserved


CLICK HERE TO GET TODAY'S BEST WRITING ON THE PLANET DELIVERED TONIGHT

BIZCATALYST 360°
BIZCATALYST 360°https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/about/
WE ARE THE AWARD-WINNING PUBLISHING DIVISION OF 360° NATION —PRESENTING OUR LIFE, CULTURE, AND BIZ MULTIMEDIA DIGEST AS A HUB OF CREATIVE EXPRESSION AND PERSONAL GROWTH. WITH AN EMPHASIS ON ACTION, OUR VAST GLOBAL CONTRIBUTOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERS PEOPLE TO TRANSITION FROM KNOWING WHAT TO DO TO ACTUALLY DOING IT —ALL COMPLEMENTED BY SYNDICATION RELATIONSHIPS WITH A CHOICE GROUP OF EQUALLY INNOVATIVE MEDIA OUTLETS. TODAY AND EVERY DAY, WE SIMPLY DELIVER THE VERY BEST INSIGHTS, INTELLIGENCE, AND INSPIRATION AVAILABLE ANYWHERE —DOING IT OUR WAY BY PLACING OUR WRITERS AND OUR AUDIENCE AT THE FOREFRONT. IT'S MAGICAL. IT'S EVERGREEN. AND QUITE FRANKLY, IT'S JUST GOOD STUFF. PERIOD.

CHECK FOR TICKETS / JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE


   

4 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Doug, I enjoyed your article with some surprise having had a similar discussion with someone earlier today. I’d like to add a few points to build on your assessment.

    First, we live in a time when most everyone anywhere can safely comment on the field of action from the bleachers without any consequence or need to get into play themselves. I see many comments and conversations on social media sites revolving around leadership, about that “other person” who is the terrible leader. Many have never been in the crucible of leadership that you write of, but they sure know a great (or terrible) leader when they see them. It reminds of the sports fan who calls in anonymously to the radio show after a game and suddenly is more expert than the manager or referee who “blew the game”.

    Second, I hear employers regularly talking about trouble recruiting and retaining ready workers when many people seem to have lower standards for themselves with higher expectations for everyone else (including their leaders). A study reported in the news this week found a significant escalation in the percentage of youth who see themselves as exceptional, maybe reinforced by a society that has given them trophies, rewards and commendations for doing the simplest things. As employees they bring that self view to the work environment where your point of perspective becomes even more complicated.

    • Joe, you are correct. there are many cheerleaders on the sidelines yelling platitudes at a few who are in the arena. The cheerleaders have never played the game but seem to always know what to do. Like you, I will take a person that has been in the conflict and faced the battles. Thank you for your comments. I have taken some heat about this approach so it is good to know the theme resonates with someone with your experience.

    • Remember what Mark Twain wrote, “The man with a new idea is a crank, until the idea succeeds.” If you didn’t generate any heat, it was a cold concept. Be warmed by the fire you produce and press on with what you believe.

DAILY INSPIRATION. DELIVERED.