Leading Blog


Want an Ideal Team Player? Find an Introvert

Find an Introvert

WHILE the introverts at the office may not be top-of-mind when it comes to assembling a project team, you could be overlooking valuable contributors. Too often, the ideas of introverts are drowned out, yet when sought out, can have true merit.

Management guru and prolific author, Patrick Lencioni, wrote about the three characteristics of an ideal team player – hungry, smart, and humble. That third trait, which includes sharing credit and defining success collectively rather than individually, is one most often associated with introverts.

A measure of an effective team is that it utilizes all team members’ strengths. Introverts are keen observers, listeners, and deep thinkers. Without unlocking the introverted voice, teams won’t achieve their true potential. Teams involving both introverts and extroverts get exponentially more accomplished. It’s like having one group that can see close up and one that can see into the distance.

Here are five approaches to more inclusive team meetings that insure introverts’ input:

1. Implement a 1-minute rule. Ask that each team member speak for 1 minute on a work-related topic. In structuring team meetings so that everyone has a chance to contribute for the same (short) amount of time, introverts are ensured the same opportunity to be heard as their extroverted counterparts.

2. Pair up. Pat Wadors, chief talent officer at ServiceNow, structures team meetings to be more inclusive by pairing up team members. They can privately check in with each other via chat or a program like Slack to see if either needs more explanation or context. Extroverted team members can advocate for introverts if they want to make a comment and are having trouble interjecting their thoughts. Additionally, the buddy system helps to increase compassion and understanding among team members and build one-on-one relationships.

3. Create team member user manuals. Consider the creative technique of asking team members to write their own user manuals that help others understand how they like to work. It can include their collaboration style, ideal times of the day for group and solo work, their motivations and stressors, and their interests in and outside of work. User manuals are a great tool for introverts – who often prefer written communication – to let the rest of the team know their preferences.

4. Consider teams of two or three. Introverts often prefer one-on-one or small-group meetings to larger ones. Instead of all-person team meetings all of the time, consider breaking up your team into smaller groups. These groups of two or three can focus on specific tasks. Encouraging these smaller groups to take walking meetings may also make it easier for introverted team members to speak up. Walking while talking helps to get introverts out of their head and facilitates the flow of ideas as they think on their feet (literally).

5. Foster transparency. Consider using a design or system map to get both introverts and extroverts involved. According to Service Design Tools, this is a representation showing in a single frame all the different actors involved and their mutual links – such as flows of materials, energy, information, money, documents, and more. You can display it and add or remove Post-it notes to provide supplementary information.

Too often, introverts are expected to yield the floor to extroverts who are very comfortable with speaking up. Teams who include everyone’s voice will engage the introverts on the team. The team will find a well of resources in their quiet, calm contributors as well as their expressive, energetic ones.

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Leading Forum
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PhD, is an author, Certified Speaking Professional, and one of the top global leadership speakers on introverts. She helps organizations harness the power of introverts. Her new book is, Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance. Watch a short video about it here. Her previous bestselling books include The Introverted Leader, Quiet Influence, and The Genius of Opposites. Her books have been translated into 18 languages. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Fortune. Learn more at jenniferkahnweiler.com.

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Fearless Organization Changing Your Nature

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Leading Thoughts for October 22, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Entrepreneur and investor Sam Altman on the importance of value:

“All companies that grow really big do so in only one way: people recommend the product or service to other people.

What this means is that if you want to be a great company some day, you have to eventually build something so good that people will recommend it to their friends—in fact, so good that they want to be the first one to recommend it to their friends for the implied good taste. No growth hack, brilliant marketing idea, or sales team can save you long term if you don't have a sufficiently good product.”

Source: The Only Way to Grow Huge


East Rock Capital co-founder Graham Duncan on taking responsibility for your life:

“One great portfolio manager I know told the story of being driven somewhere by an analyst on a rainy night when a truck swerved and almost ran them off the road. ‘Why is stuff like this always happening to me?’ the analyst instinctively responded. But to the portfolio manager, that response reflected a terrible mindset, whether on the road or in the market: a sense that the world is acting on you as opposed to your acting on the world. It is a mindset that is hard to change. But from what I’ve seen, great investors don’t have it. Instead, they’ve come to understand which factors in the market they can control and which factors they cannot.”

Source: The Playing Field

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Three Questions We Have of All Leaders

Three Questions We Have of All Leaders

WHENEVER we work with leaders, we have our own important worries—things like fairness, the amount of change we’re being asked to embrace, and our own personal goals. When you think about it, we have three prime questions when facing any leader. Whether they’re asked aloud or merely observed, we evaluate leaders on these questions when deciding whether we want to follow along and to what extent: Who are you? Where are we going? Do you see me?

Because leadership requires working together, it’s important for leaders to demonstrate humility (feeling and displaying deep regard for others’ dignity) to create healthy working relationships. Let’s look at how humble leaders provide positive answers to the three prime questions people have.

Who are you?

When people first meet us, they want to know who we are. This natural curiosity applies to leaders in a more penetrating way because leaders have power and influence. Two of the most important aspects of who you are that affect others’ dignity are how your ego appears when you interact with people and the level of integrity you display.

Ego is commonly defined as our opinion of ourselves, especially of our own importance or ability. We notice whether leaders emphasize or minimize the status difference between us. Leaders with a balanced ego are aware of their power but confident enough in themselves that they prefer to minimize its unnecessary display.

In contrast with a balanced ego, leaders who display high ego tend to emphasize their status around others. They may even display arrogance, such as boasting about achievements, name-dropping, or being condescending to others. Their behaviors can harm others’ dignity by hoisting their own sense of self-worth above that of others.

Integrity means being honest and having strong moral principles by behaving in ways that reflect a high standard of personal conduct, not only in work but also in our personal lives. In the context of work, integrity implies that the leader is authentic and honest in communication, ensuring that actions are consistent with words. This includes timely responses to inquiries and follow-through on appointments, and expected communication. It allows others to trust the leader to guide them well.

Where are we going?

People also want to know about the direction a leader is setting. Remember that leaders need to convert many types of stakeholders into followers, whether they’re peers, customers, employees, suppliers, legislators, or community citizens. Setting direction well means establishing a compelling vision and ethical strategies.

Although business leaders are rightfully concerned with competitive advantage and profitability, employees and customers typically have other concerns or priorities. People want to feel proud of both the work they do and the cause(s) they serve. Visions are compelling when they serve a greater good.

Strategies are designed as the best paths to desired outcomes, but some leaders engage in unethical practices. There are news reports of leadership misdeeds almost daily; leaders who pursue unethical approaches display a significant lack of regard for the dignity of others.

Instead, people want to know that the way their organizations operate is ethical. Ethical strategies can be developed by carefully understanding business opportunities and aligning others to pursue those approaches. Leaders who do this respect others’ dignity.

Some of the best strategies used by humble leaders involve competitive pricing, fair employee compensation, collaboration and integration of operations to minimize waste, and alignment of direction across the organization in ethical pursuit of business opportunity.

Do you see me?

“Do you see me?” may be the most critical question people have when asked to work with a leader. It implies: Do I matter to you? Am I merely a pawn for you to use in achieving your goals, or do you care about me as a person with my own interests and needs? How you treat people matters, and two of the most important behaviors are generous inclusion and developmental focus.

At its simplest, inclusion means inviting people to be part of the real action. Inclusion goes far beyond calling people together for staff meetings that simply provide face time or share routine reports. Instead, generous inclusion requires thinking about whom you’re engaging, on what activities, and in what way—and genuinely inviting people to contribute to key decisions. This requires careful listening. It’s also an important part of embracing organizational diversity.

Developmental focus implies long-term thinking. The power you hold can be used to support others’ growth, neglect it, or sabotage it, and people are aware of this. Your role as a leader can and should involve helping others learn in many ways, such as understanding the values of your specific organizational culture, how to do their job better, and how to improve their knowledge, so they have a better chance to advance.

Creating a Healthy Workplace

The most promising path to optimizing organizational performance is to get people to put their very best energies behind a shared plan. Getting this type of alignment is easiest when people feel inspired by their leader. What leaders say and do is scrutinized, and their behavior answers the three prime questions others have.

When the answers are favorable, people grow inspired, are eager to join in the quest, and give it their all. Leader humility has a lot to do with how productive we will be together. Therefore, leader humility has a lot to do with how effective a leader can be.

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Leading Forum
Dr. Marilyn Gist is an expert on leader development. Her academic career spans the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the University of Washington, where she held the Boeing Endowed Professorship of Business Management; and Seattle University, where she was formerly associate dean at the Albers School of Business and Economics and executive director of the Center for Leadership Formation. She speaks and consults with organizations worldwide, including Boeing, AT&T, Providence Health System, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and NASA. Her new book is The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations—Great Results. Learn more at MarilynGist.com.

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3 Types of Humility Humility Is New Smart

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The Entrepreneur’s Faces: 10 Entrepreneurial Types and Their Journey

Entrepreneurs Faces

THE leadership we need now can be found in the entrepreneurial mindset—the characteristics found in entrepreneurs. Authors Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp have categorized the nature of this mindset into ten types or faces in The Entrepreneur’s Faces. More than just static labels, there you’re your pathway into the entrepreneurial mindset and the solutions that can bring.

As if the changes in technology haven’t left many wondering what to do next, the reaction to the COVID-19 virus has left many leaders in a kind of limbo. The authors write:

We’re adrift – lacking the stabilizing force of the office, the social grounding of a shared workplace, essential interactions with colleagues. For many of us, the pandemic has interrupted our goals and stolen our sense of purpose. We need new ways to lead during the crisis – from how to reshape our careers or work, to how to craft a fresh collaborative model in this instantly all-digital age.

They look at these ten different entrepreneurial faces in the framework of the seven stages of the entrepreneurial journey they call The Arc. The Arc illustrates seven stages that all entrepreneurs pass through. In The Entrepreneur’s Faces we get an inside look at ten everyday entrepreneurs as they work through the challenges unique to each stage in the journey.

The Arc

It is helpful to see how they grow and approach the issues they face from their dominant “face.” Better yet, you can see how they adapted using other faces as needed as they moved through The Arc. Different situations call for different faces. Knowing where you are can help you determine what kind of partners you need to navigate to success.

Entrepreneurs Faces

The Awakening

It all begins with the Awakening. It changes how you look at the world and sets you on a path of discovery.

The awakening is about something unseen—a surging rush of confidence. You begin to believe you’re capable of more than you’d planned. More than others had expected. You begin to trust that the process is worthwhile and rewarding in an of itself. You become less concerned about what you will discover, and more confident that each day you are growing stronger and more capable, more prepared to capitalizes on whatever is next.

As the characters in the book show, your face will shape how you awaken. What follows is an excerpt from the book of the awakening of one entrepreneur, Allan Young.

Allan Young, born in San Francisco’s Chinatown, is one of the ten characters in The Entrepreneur’s Faces. Allan embodies the archetype we call the Leader. Intent and action bind at the tightest level in aspiring leaders. Despite humble beginnings, Allan set out on a conscious, focused, and ultimately inspirational journey to become a leader. Allan shed his earlier shortcomings and went on to help lead a wildly successful venture capital fund while still in college and later created Runway, one of San Francisco’s greatest tech accelerators.

Allan Young’s Awakening

Allan Young’s parents were Chinese immigrants. His mother was a seamstress. His father juggled two jobs, stocking the shelves of a grocery, and working in a hardware store until late. Their work ethic didn’t sink in. Allan was a screw-up. “I wanted to have fun instead of sit in class,” he said. “I’d cut school. Go shoot hoops, or hang out at the Chinatown library.” Yet his fondness for rebellion included a strong streak of intellectual curiosity. In the third grade, he learned to code in BASIC, and loved reading. But computers were for nerds. So he made “a conscious decision to play sports, to be a gangster.”

Allan learned the trick of swiftly pulling down the latch on the newspaper vending machines with a quick flip of the wrist. He saved a lot of quarters. Sure he read the sports, but he also pored over the business pages. Allan had a serious demeanor. He had a chiseled face, proud chin, intent eyes. His eyeglasses gave him a bookish bent, and he took advantage of the opportunity. He’d wander into a nearby Walden Books and stealthily wander back out with comic books and non-fiction books, business and tech magazines, from Forbes to The Red Herring and The Industry Standard. About the only thing Allan didn’t steal was fiction. He wanted to read about real people. “I wanted to learn how to think, to learn about guys doing stuff out in the real world.” He wasn’t so keen on normal schoolwork. His high school GPA hovered at a dismal 1.8. Often, he’d just leave Chinatown, and wander the city streets.

One day, having ducked into a luxury San Francisco hotel to avail himself of the facilities, he noticed a conference going on and poked his head in. “This older gentleman was talking in front of a group of people,” recounted Allan. “He was a speaker. People were crowding around him, asking about the boards he sat on, the stocks he invested in.” Allan stood on the periphery and listened, patiently waiting his turn. He couldn’t know this yet, but this was the moment the future leader would be brave, go deep in his search of knowledge, and his own destiny. When his time came he had a simple, extraordinary question: “How can I be like you?”

The man took the measure of this boy who’d clearly crashed his event, and then peppered him with queries. “Are you in school? Have you taken the SATs? What are your scores?”

The boy answered truthfully, and the man looked at him and said straight away: “You’ll never be like me.”

Allan was taken aback by his bluntness. “You don’t come from the right background,” the man continued. “You’ll never make it. Your only shot is to learn a little bit about discipline. More importantly, leadership. You should join the military.”

The words were tough, but the man had a message, and Allan realized that he was being both direct and generous. Don’t get caught up in all the “Rah, rah, and indoctrination of the military,” the man said. “Spend time observing the leaders. Take in the different types. See what’s effective. See how you feel toward them. Just watch it, watch it in slow motion.”

Allan listened and thanked the man, and later, as he thought about the chance encounter, he reflected that the man never told him to acquire a skill, such as learning how to fix trucks or airplanes. He was just telling him to sign up, and study the leaders. “If you can learn from that, then find an opportunity to practice leadership,” the man said. “Then you might have a shot at being successful.”

The Leader’s Journey: All too often we imagine we’ll be transformed by a mythical light bulb aha moment that sends us hurtling forward. But Allan, like so many of us, first had to climb out of a dark hole. He came from a working class family with no history of higher education. He was on the verge of dropping out of high school. But this one chance encounter would spin him in a new direction, one that would require sacrifice, and the adoption of a rigorous philosophy focused on radical self-education and on taking on the mantle and responsibility of a Leader.

The world needs leaders who are Awakening. Pain often comes before an awakening, but it leads to openness and discovery.

A Faces Quiz is available at TheEntrepreneursFaces.com

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Leading Thoughts for October 15, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Fritjof Capra on making change in a living organization:

“A machine can be controlled; a living system, according to the systemic understanding of life, can only be disturbed. In other words, organizations cannot be controlled through direct interventions, but they can be influenced by giving impulses rather than instructions. To change the conventional style of management requires a shift of perception that is anything but easy, but it also brings great rewards. Working with the processes inherent in living systems means that we do not need to spend a lot of energy to move an organization. There is no need to push, pull, or bully it to make it change. Force or energy are not the issue; the issue is meaning. Meaningful disturbances will get the organization’s attention and will trigger structural changes.”

Source: The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living


Christina Sommers and Sally Satel on the perils of overthinking:

“[There is] the common assumption that intense reflection on troubling thoughts and emotions is rewarded by a clearer vision. What [Stanford University psychologist, Susan] Nolen-Hoeksmea and others have repeatedly shown, however, is that overthinking tends to “impose a lens that shows a distorted, narrow view of the world.” Things that are wrong, not the solutions, are what come most sharply into view. “When you are sad,” Nolen-Hoeksmea explains, “your brain has greater access to sad thoughts and memories, and you are more likely to interpret events in a sad way.” Neural connections between memories with similar emotional color are activated even when we think about depressing incidents that have no apparent relationship to those memories.

As a result, pessimism snowballs, motivation flags, concentration suffers, and it becomes harder to make a decision. Negativity drives other people away, confirming our worst fears about being unlikable or uninteresting. Problems seem overwhelming. These distortions often lead to bad decision making or verbal outbursts we later regret.”

Source: One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Stay Indispensable by Cultivating These Key Ingredients

Stay Indispensable

IN 1984 a typical business competency would last 30 years. Today, it’s more akin to five. We’re changing jobs more than ever and pursuing multiple careers and projects simultaneously. Take a moment to consider how many jobs you’ve had and how many careers you’re yet to embark upon?

The ability to adapt and thrive at work, also known as your adaptability quotient, demands continuous learning and cultivation. The paradigm shift in work is, first and foremost, a mental one. As humans, what we crave are open, fluid, and personalized systems. And the world of work is gradually opening to provide just that.

Enter the shaper. A shaper is someone who gets energized by work. How they work provides for the highest creative expression of self. What shapers do every day serve themselves and the greater good. They are on a path that embraces their uniqueness so as to lead deep and fulfilling lives.

Taking a Cue from a Comedian

“No one is any one thing,” sums up Martin Short’s outlook on life.

He’s one of the few people in comedy who’s capable of laughing on both the outside and the inside. The youngest of five children, when he was 12 years old, his eldest brother died in a car accident. Six years later, his mother died of cancer, and two years after that his father passed away from a stroke. His wife of 30 years died of cancer at age 58. Despite all this, Short still demonstrates an unparalleled joie de vivre—he just keeps moving forward.

Whether performing a duet with Steve Martin, embarrassing Drake, or playing a host of oddball characters, he’s always experimenting and learning. He welcomes change and regularly takes risks. The comedic chameleon may well be the funniest man alive.

It’s this same strain of continuous reinvention that helps the shaper thrive.

Stoicism and Modern Modalities

Work is now a process and practice to improve. We must demonstrate the fortitude that comes with owning a growth mindset. We need to play, invent, and create—because in order to build more resiliency.

A marked departure from the rigid ways of the past, the new mode of work is much more fluid. It begs us to deal with more ambiguity and complexity. Modern ways of working require us to consistently tap into our cognitive powers, creative energy, and collective genius. The hallmark modality of the new world of work it this fluidity—the ability to move quickly and with dexterity amid constant change.

A learned practice that ebbs and flows being fluid is a sign of strength in times of uncertainty. Those that shine in the workplace move with a similar ease to water—flowing in harmony with everything they encounter. Cultivating this practice means seeking change, always improving, and expertly navigating towards a future that’s only coming at us faster.

Vital Ingredients

Many workers now function like Apps on a smartphone, sitting pretty on top of a company’s operating system (OS). They are selected, downloaded, updated, shared, and deleted on demand.

The robustness of this OS and the fluidity of the Apps have become an intricate dance to crack. The onus falls on us to safeguard our positioning. We want to ensure we’re featured on the homescreen, all the while protecting our freedoms.

While companies continue to shimmy and shuffle to attract talent, we continue to search for meaning and challenge. These are the vital ingredients to help insulate against existential dread and stay featured on the home screen:

Intuiting: Sometimes working things out by intuition and learning to trust our gut.

Noting: Bear witness, observe, pause, respond, refuse, and choose from a place of wisdom. Practice self-awareness so that we can direct our focus to those things that makes our minds soar and our hearts sing. Remain cognizant of our teammates and the entire organization.

Giving: Commit to something greater than ourselves. Dedication can’t be faked, and companies can smell it from miles away. Let the care we have and the quality of our work do the talking.

Relating: Connect with others for depth, not breadth. Building meaningful relationships is enlightened self-interest at work. It helps us build a safety net that provides the confidence to create our personal flywheel for doing our best and deepest work.

Expanding: See the world with wide eyes and remain open to possibilities, understand situations from another’s point of view, and let go of our egos to curiously engage with the unknown.

Discerning: Time is finite. The trick is to be ruthless in managing our energy so that it can expand and become boundless.

Integrating: Give life to a myriad of projects that we are valued for, and that fuel our inner working lives. Combine and recombine as needed.

Expressing: Be a good steward to our unique gifts. Create, experiment, and serve ourselves and others with gumption.

Navigating: The tenacity to engage with the unknown and constantly stretch our capabilities through training, novel experiences, high contrast conversations, experimentation, and feedback. Showing courage to step out of our comfort zones and never rest on our laurels.

Trusting: Nothing fruitful in the long term comes without integrity. Trust is earned with courage over time, and by reputation. There is no quick hack.

Sensing: At the individual, collective and global level, appreciating what’s needed in any given moment—and then having the audacity to show up wholeheartedly.

These qualities are embodied by shapers and are always in flux, regularly being flexed, and always improved upon. The intention is to become unflappable and adapt to change with grace. Like Martin Short, taking a diverse and nimble approach to work is one way to deal with volatility. And while having a solid skill set is a great start, it’s really the ability to move fluidly between different disciplines while learning new skills on the go that differentiate shapers from the crowd.

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Leading Forum
Jonas Altman is the author SHAPERS: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future. He is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur on a mission to make the world of work more human. As the founder of award-winning design practice Social Fabric, he creates learning experiences to elevate and grow leaders at the world’s boldest organizations.

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Sohn Sweet Spot Game Changer

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Leading Thoughts for October 8, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Hierarchies are not the problem, says Morris Shechtman:

“The criticism often leveled at hierarchies has nothing to do with the essential structure and function of the pyramidal model. These problems all come from one source, conflict avoidance. Hierarchies become dysfunctional when decision-makers don’t want to confront redundancy and incompetence and instead bury the problems in another organizational layer. Or they find it too painful to confront difficult but key people who use legitimate roles and functions in illegitimate, destructive ways. Hierarchies don’t do damage to businesses any more than alcohol creates problem drinking. Structures don’t create problems; people do.”

Source: Working Without a Net: How to Survive and Thrive in Today's High Risk Business World


Robert Pirsig on dynamic learning or being at one with the process:

“Sometime look at a novice workman or a bad workman and compare his expression with that of a craftsman whose work you know is excellent and you’ll see the difference. The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along. For that reason he’ll be absorbed and attentive to what he’s doing even though he doesn’t deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony. He isn’t following any set of written instructions because the nature of the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right.”

Source: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Five Qualities Genuine Leaders Have in Common

Five Qualities Genuine Leaders

COVID-19 reminds us that we live in a world full of uncertainty—and this will continue well beyond the pandemic. But it only intensifies something we were already seeing in the world of work: organizations need to adapt constantly to keep up with market dynamics. Unfortunately, this can take a toll on employees if businesses focus on efficiency but don’t create an environment where people feel they belong. And with today’s digital economy and globalized markets making organizations more and more decentralized, it’s getting harder than ever for workers to create meaningful relationships with others.

A recent MIT study underscores this. It surveyed top professionals from more than 120 countries about the skills needed for effective leadership in the decade ahead. It found that even more than in the past, leaders need to articulate a clear vision and strategy and provide a sense of shared purpose.

Employees are expressing this, too. Millennials and Generation Z crave purpose as well as ethical behaviors from their bosses. We saw that when more than 32,000 students in France signed a pledge to work for environmentally conscious companies, or when thousands of Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a government program that uses artificial intelligence to enhance military tactics.

Today’s workers also want autonomy and empowerment. They look for a work environment where they can decide how the job gets done. A Gallup study of the American workforce found that 42 percent of Millennials would switch to a job that allows them to work independently on a project of their choosing, and 63 percent to a job that allows them flexible hours.

This kind of workplace demands a different kind of leader: people who follow their inner convictions and passions, and who engage with others in an authentic and open way.

Leaders who behave like this are especially well-positioned to make a difference—let’s call them genuine leaders. They have a deep understanding of themselves, including their values, ambitions, and goals. They also lead with generosity: they care about others and empower their teams to fulfill their own ambitions. These leaders show you who they are as human beings, rather than hiding behind a mantle of power. They are not afraid to share their personal stories in a way that resonates with others and are able to shape a collective narrative that fosters trust and a common purpose—enabling others to find meaning in their own work.

When people work alongside genuine leaders, they become more willing to give their whole hearts and minds to the mission. They feel motivated to work with others, to innovate, and to strive for extraordinary results.

For my new book, The Expanding Circle, I interviewed three dozen genuine leaders across industries. While each of them has their own unique style for getting the job done, we can distill five common themes:

1. Achieving clarity of purpose. Genuine leaders have a deep understanding of their values, ambitions, and goals, and project their true selves for all to see. This self-awareness helps them lead with confidence and share their true passion and commitment. This authenticity helps create trust with others. It’s also critical to ensuring collaboration.

2. Crafting a genuine personal story. Humans are hardwired to learn through storytelling. By sharing a personal story that reflects their values and convictions, these leaders help others understand who they are and what they stand for. A story that resonates with others helps build trust and establishes a common ground for working together.

3. Seeking to understand others. Many people rely on their past experiences or even “intuition” to guess what others want. But intuition is a shortcut—and not a particularly good one. Genuine leaders spend time listening to others, asking questions, and exchanging ideas. They avoid prejudging others, which allows them to really see the people they are trying to reach—who they are and what they care about.

4. Shaping a shared narrative. Based on this deep understanding of others, these leaders develop a shared narrative, providing a common purpose and strategic direction: where we need to go, why it matters, and how we’re going to get there. This kind of narrative establishes a framework for teams to work together.

5. Empowering others. Fundamentally, these leaders see their role as creating the right conditions for all team members to take the initiative and contribute their best. They don’t try to micromanage or impose their own working style. They set the strategic direction and trust their team to get things done. And they create space for others to find purpose for themselves and develop their full potential.

As we move into this new decade, we need leaders who can tune in fully: to themselves, to others, and to the world around them.

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Leading Forum
Matias Obludzyner is a communications and leadership professional Matioblu Leadership & Communications in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Expanding Circle: How Genuine Leaders Connect with Themselves, Connect with Others, and Make a Difference.

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Triple Corwn Leadership Leader as Coach

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