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Leaders: Be Bad Long Enough to Become Good

(posted: February 15th, 2012)

Leaders are meant to be looked up to; to have a powerful role and impact people. However, it seems that leaders are not fulfilling their roles the way that they should be.

The most recent National Leadership Index compiled by the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership shows that overall confidence in leadership remains significantly below average for the third year in a row among most of the major sectors of society. This included business, Wall Street, government, religious, education, and news media.

Overall, only 38 percent of Americans think leaders are doing a good job, according to the research published in late 2010.

To continue answering the questions above, we go to another book in our series called the Leadership Book Review.

How Would You Be Rated As a Leader?

Those statistics are astonishing to me.

Where would your team rate your leadership? Are you in the 38th percentile or the 62nd percentile?

So much is changing in our "world of leadership":

  • Technological advances.
  • Multi-generation work forces.
  • Challenging financial times.
  • Uncertainly around what the future brings.

No wonder we are struggling. Call me the eternal optimist but I see change as challenging, but positive, not negative. I hope some of these changes will force us to raise the bar for all leaders; young or old, experienced or not.

What are You Doing to Grow and Change as a Leader?

There is no question that for leaders to remain effective and influence, they must evolve.

"There is an opportunity for real leaders to shine; those who are inspiring, humble, bold, visionary and courageous."

Valerie Burton

Each of us has influence. but it's up to us to determine how we use it.

Two great leaders who have had to face change and challenges and have certainly influenced many people as leaders are, Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs.

There are a number of ways Steve Jobs influenced those around him as shared in one of my recent blogs. Both Steve and Howard had the opportunity to come back and "save" their companies and both influenced their teams by immediately focusing on the vital few and helping instill confidence in the future.

"Without confidence, people will not perform."

Howard Schultz

I believe one of the most important strategies to help you become a more effective leader is the show confidence in your mission and vision, whatever that it may be.

"If the vision is compelling, the journey is the reward."

Steve Jobs

Change Is Not the Most Difficult Part

Conventional wisdom says that change is hard. But change is not the most difficult part. Far more difficult than implementing change is figuring out what works, understanding why it works and knowing what to change and what not to change based on that understanding.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple he didn't so much revolutionize the company as he returned it. He returned his company back to the principles he'd used to launch the company from garage to greatness decades before.

"The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency."

Jim Collins

The amount of change is both gigantic, and for most people, accelerating. Most change is just noise and requires no fundamental change in ourselves. As leaders of that 38 percent, how can you most effectively turn up the right "noise" and turn off, or at least down, the meaningless noise?

"Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work."

Steven Kramer, Harvard Business Review

If you truly want to help increase your employee's confidence in you and in themselves, help them see their own progress in meaningful work. Help them focus on the clear goals that contributes to the mission and vision you have clearly articulated. Then make sure you are there as a resource to provide support around progress and setbacks.

Yes change is arduous. At the same time, if you are to remain effective, you must evolve. You can't afford not to.

Tip Of the Day

Anyone can do anything they want under these three conditions:

  1. You want to achieve it
  2. You believe you can achieve it
  3. You enjoy trying to achieve it

The third condition is the most important. "Trying" is the day to day reality, and trying to achieve something is very different from achieving something. It's the opposite actually. It's not achieving it.

Are you part of that 38%?

If not, do you want to start impacting people again? Ultimately, do you want to be a great leader? Then you'd better enjoy begin a bad one long enough to become a good one. Because that practice is what it's going to take to eventually become a great one. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Challenge Yourself
  • What best practices are you implementing to remain a great leader?

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