Stephen M. R. Covey is a cofounder of CoveyLink and the FranklinCovey Global Speed of Trust Practice, and a keynote speaker. Stephen R. Covey is also the Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey distinguishes two major social paradigms that have embodied the search for success and the “fundamental principles of human effectiveness” since 1776: the Character Ethic and the Personality Ethic.
According to Stephen R. Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in the United States, from 1776 to WWI, leadership culture was based around building character. It was said that Character Ethic was the foundation of long-term success: leaders were thought values and habits to develop their basic character.
However, from World War I to Today, leadership and success teachings have been promoting Personality Ethic. Personality Ethic provides quick fixes to help an individual deceive their way to the top, to success and to leadership positions. Personality Ethic teachings work short-term, don’t fix issues but just disguise them.
Moreover, Covey claims that we possess several paradigms or maps of how we see things and a map of how things should be which comes from our values. These maps are the basis of our attitudes and behaviors. Paradigms, which are our frame of reference or assumptions, are affected by our conditioning through life, by the influences of our friends and family, of our institutions, our culture, of our historical backgrounds, systems of beliefs, life experiences.
As a result, our attitudes and behaviours are congruent of our paradigms. So therefore, attempting to change only our attitudes and behaviors, as instilled by the Personality Ethic movement, is completely useless and is short-termed. In order to implement change in our character or a “paradigm shift“, it is then necessary to directly assess our paradigms, to examine them, to test them against reality, to listen to others and to be open to their perception.
The term “paradigm shift” is coined from the Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. It means breaking with tradition, old beliefs, old assumptions, old paradigms. Paradigms shift can be toward a positive or negative direction, “instantaneous or developmental” and “create a powerful change”.
Throughout The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey suggests that we shift our paradigms back to the Character Ethic, that we start shifting our thinking from the inside and introduces seven habits to enhance personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
The Character Ethic is a general and fundamental truth, universally applicable, unchangeable and unarguable laws and “principles that govern human effectiveness”, that are “bigger than people or circumstances”, that innately exist in all human beings, are common to all civilization and that triumph time and time again.
Acquiring Character Ethic is the basis of high level of trust in companies, is a long process that should be natural ad cannot be a shortcut. First step to the process is admitting your ignorance or lack of knowledge.
What is a habit?
Character is the composite of embedded habit, and it is necessary to solve the problems we face from the inside out because private victories exceed public victories.
A habit is the intersection of knowledge, skills and desire and is a natural force like gravity. Breaking a habit can be a painful process, demands effort and technique, should be motivated by a higher purpose, a willingness to sacrifice our current desire for a future and unseen desire.
What are the seven habits?
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People moves us on the maturity continuum. It brings us from a state of dependence where we need others to accomplish something for us, to a state of independence where we are self-reliant, self-motivated, derive our self-worth from within and are freed from external dependence, to a state of interdependence where we are self-reliant and competent in our own right but able to work with others, and believe that together we accomplish more.
In addition, the seven habits are habits of effectiveness, a balance between the production of a desired result and the investment in the ability to produce or in the physical, financial and human, asset that produces. Covey believes that to achieve effectiveness , we must strike the P/PC balance, where P stands for Production and PC for Production Capability.
The 3 following habits are the habits of Private Victory. These habits are used to become more confident, to know yourself deeper and to acknowledge your contribution capacity, to define yourself from within instead of using society’s point of view to define yourself. Stephen R. Covey encourages us to develop the habits of being proactive, keeping our future goals in mind and of creating our vision.
HABIT #1: Be proactive
In management literature, being proactive means taking initiative. Here, it also means being responsible for our lives and our decisions, being able to choose a response when faced with a stimulus.
Proactive people, unlike reactive people:
- Are unaffected by their physical environment and are value driven. Their performance and attitudes remain constant whether it rains or shines.
- Are unaffected by their social environment. they don’t build their emotional lives around people weaknesses and don’t allow those weaknesses to control their lives and decisions. Instead they surrender their emotions to their values and don’t allow reactive language to affect them.
- Take the initiative. Act before being acted upon, provide solution to a problem and enable growth and opportunity.
- Look to focus their time and energy on areas that they can control or influence. Indeed, they don’t focus on others weaknesses and problems and uncontrollable events.
- Constantly work on their habits, change from the inside-out.
- Take full responsibility for their short-comings.
- Are free to choose their actions but understand that they cannot control the consequences of these actions.
- Govern their behaviors with principles, acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them and correct them immediately.
- Have integrity: they make and keep their commitments and promises.
- Monitor their language and the language of the people around them.
- Identify past and potential experiences to which they have behaved reactively and play out scenarios towards a solution.
HABIT #2: Begin with the end in mind
For Stephen R. Covey, beginning with the end in mind means using the “end of your life as your frame of reference or criterion by which everything else is examined”, starting with “a clear understanding of your destination” to “know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right destination”. To begin with the end in mind:
- Use habit #1 to be proactive to change preexisting thought, shift your paradigm, examine your deepest values.
- Be aware and conscious of your limitless potential, of your uniqueness.
- Be imaginative enough to visualize the unseen.
- Be responsible and response-able.
- Do not violate the criteria that you have set for yourself.
- Lead yourself daily in order to execute what really matters.
- Develop a “personal mission statement or philosophy or creed” describing your aspiring character, achievements, contributions, values and principles. The personal mission statement becomes your guide and standard, provides you with a sense of mission, helps define your short-termed and long-termed goals and allows change because your core has now become changeless. Basically, developing a personal mission statement makes you much more effective because your energy, time and strengths are dedicated to areas that matter to you. Personal mission statements are not to be written overnight but might take several weeks because they require deep introspection. Also, they have to be written alone and reviewed many times before producing a final form.
HABIT #3: Put first things first
Stephen R. Covey believes that all things are created twice, by design or by default. The first creation starts in the mind where you envision the future and you plan for a destination. The second creation is physical: you bring what you visualize into reality and you take the best route towards your planned destination.
For Covey, leadership is the first creation and management is the second. Indeed, leadership creates the way, opens the pathway, provides direction and a destination. On the other hand, management clears the pathway by “writing policy and procedure manuals, holding muscle development programs, bringing in improved technologies and setting up working schedules and contributions programs”.
To be able to physically create and implement your vision into reality, you have to:
- be proactive, understand that you are in control and are able to change your paradigm,
- envision your potential and your destination and be self-ware,
- have discipline to effectively carry out your plans, to stick to your values and to manage your time and life,
- prioritize, schedule, select goals and leave space for unanticipated events,
- delegate responsibility to skilled and trained individuals to focus their energy on high-leverage activities.
“Private Victory precedes Public Victory. Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others”.
On one hand, Habits #1, #2 and #3 are habits of Private Victory and are about developing your inner self, your character and your core values.
on the other hand, Habits #4, #5, #6 are habits of Public Victory, help in improving your relationship with others and working successfully with others.
Using the Personality Ethic, we might have a superficial and duplicitous relationship with others. Difficulty in relationships translates into tolerable chronic emotional pain that can turn into psychosomatic diseases. The symptoms of these emotional pains cannot be treated with quick fixes and techniques from the Personality Ethic.
Nevertheless, the Character Ethic provides a foundation for effective interdependence. The interdependence paradigm teaches us to:
- seek to understand others and stimulate their deep interest or needs,
- attend to kindness and courtesies,
- keep commitments and promises to people in order to build trust,
- clarify expectations from the start to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts,
- manifest integrity by being honest, loyal to those who are not present, by treating everyone with the same set of principles,
- help others “feel secure and safe and validated and affirmed in their essential worth, identity and integrity”,
- handle problems and see them as opportunities.
HABIT #4: Think Win/Win
Stephen R. Covey identifies 6 paradigms of human interaction:
- The Win/Win paradigm. People with this paradigm seek mutual benefits in all human interactions, believe that life is a cooperation and not a competition, that a “person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others”.
- The Win/Lose paradigm. People with this paradigm don’t create synergy or cooperation, use the authoritarian or commanding leadership style and are accustomed to low trust and competitive environments.
- The Lose/Win paradigm. People with this paradigm have no standard, no demands, no expectation, no vision, search for popularity and acceptance, are quick to please and appease, repress their emotions and feelings, and are easily intimidated by ego strengths of others.
- The Lose/Lose paradigm. People with this paradigm live by the “philosophy of the highly dependent person without inner direction”, who is miserable and thinks everyone else should be too.
- The Win paradigm. People with this mentality seek to win not necessarily wanting the other party to lose or win.
- The Win/Win or No Deal paradigm. If no synergistic solution is brought to the table that could satisfy both parties, then there is no deal. This paradigm provides emotional freedom.
Stephen R. Covey promotes the Win/Win paradigm and establishes that a Win/Win person possesses specific character traits: they have integrity, they have maturity which means that they are able to express their views with consideration to others, and they have the abundance mentality which means that they believe that there is enough for everyone.
Of course, not all decisions are Win/Win, but to know when to apply the Win/Win paradigm, you must understand the problem from another perspective, identify the other person’s issues and concerns, other acceptable results, and new possible outcomes for the situation.
HABIT #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood
To be able to influence and to develop effective interpersonal communication skills, it is better to diagnose a situation before prescribing or proving advice.
To understand another person’s emotional and intellectual paradigm, Covey instructs us to listen empathetically, without making assumptions, and warns us to not listen to reply, manipulate, control or sympathize.
Empathic listening takes time initially but saves time afterwards, is risky because you become vulnerable to influence. That is why we must develop a changeless core of principles, erected in Habits #1, #2, #3.
Furthermore, seeking to be understood requires maturity, an ability to present your ideas clearly, specifically, visually and contextually and an ability to consider all the facts and perceptions. To take preventive measures, schedules one-on-one before issues arise.
HABIT #6: Synergize
Synergy means that “the whole is greater than the sums of its parts”, and is used to create cooperation in our social interaction. To create synergy on a daily basis:
- value and respect social, mental and emotional differences to nurture people self-esteem and self-worth. Effective people acknowledge the limits if their perceptions, appreciate diverse interactions because they had to this person’s knowledge and understanding of reality, increase their awareness,
- build on strengths and compensate weaknesses,
- be open to new possibilities, alternatives and options,
- be open to learning and to other’s influence.
HABIT #7: Sharpen the Saw
Finally, Habit #7 sums up the entire book. Habit #7 is about investing, preserving and enhancing your preexisting assets and means exercising sound motivation and organisation in four different dimensions:
- The physical dimension is about caring for the health of our body by eating right and exercising.
- The “spiritual dimension provides leadership in your life”, is your core and your commitment to your value system.
- The mental dimension come from formal eduction, expansion of the mind.
- The social/emotional dimension that is centered on developing interpersonal leadership, empathic communication and creative cooperation.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a self-development book that has been on my shelf for longest while. It was written in 1989 but is still contemporaneous and can very much serve as guide to life, for personal and professional growth.
I avidly took notes in the perspective of actively applying every single tip and read it twice in order to capture the very essence of the book.
I recommend it to all leaders that are trying to integrate core values and to ingrain “good” habits into their character in order to experience success, to increase their effectiveness at work and to become the best leader that they can be.
I like that each paragraph are interconnected and that the author is personally implicated, is genuine with his approach and his drive to see us succeed and become more effective.
Covey calls out the books since World War I, promoting Personality Ethic, that provide quick fixes and band aids to deep-rooted problems. These books suggest techniques and principles to encourage leaders to put up a front and act like a leader would and not actually be a leader. Covey is also being very transparent about the dysfunction of the society these days, willing to manipulate and deceive their way to the top.
Finally, he reminds us that it is not all that shines that is glitter: the deception does not last very long and the leadership tower crashes because it has no basis and because the leadership house was built on sand.
If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other — while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity — then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust, and everything I do — even using so-called good human relations techniques — will be perceived as manipulative. It simply makes no difference how good the rhetoric is or even how good the intentions are; if there is little or no trust, there is no foundation for permanent success. Only basic goodness gives life to technique.
You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.
Self-mastery and self-discipline are the foundation of good relationships with others.
In The Success Formula: How Smart Leaders Deliver Outstanding Value, Andrew Kakabadse acknowledges the complexities of leadership and researches the factors for leadership success, in the fast-paced and complex global marketplace. The skills needed to succeed in the past are today insufficient.
Andrew Kakabadse suggests that creating value is the origin of success, the definition of success depending on the type of value the organization wants to create and on the way they want to create value.
What is value?
Creating value should be the “primary purpose of leadership”.
The notion of value stretches itself from going public to the number of stakeholders, from not losing money to making profit, from creating quality products to retaining customers, from contributing to society to connecting stakeholders, customers, suppliers, others individuals to the activity of the organization.
What is success?
“[…] success is the creation of value — economic and social benefits and outcomes that serve a purpose for the people they are intended to help, in accordance with a set of values that the organization subscribes to”.
What is considered failure?
Failure is the destruction of value or the unsuccessful delivery of value due to bad management.
Organizations propose value by holding on to their client and audience, and by explaining how they do well uniquely. Several scenarios can be played out regarding the value proposition:
- If there isn’t any value proposition clearly defined, leaders are easily derailed and pursue purposeless strategies.
- If the value proposition isn’t readjusted to fit the context, leaders are blindsided by the event and lack flexibility.
- If the value proposition is known to be used and a strategy has been implemented around it, but the value proposition has never been tested, then the value proposition of the organization is doomed to fail.
- Only if the value proposition of the company is continually being tested, interrogated and evidence pursued, that the organization can be successful.
How to create value? How to create sustainable value?
Leaders approach value creation differently by:
Approach #1: Replicating a previous strategy. This approach is the most commonly applied in organizations. However, this approach is flawed if the leader constantly employs the same strategy to different situations, without being allowed to evolve and adapt to new situations.
Approach #2: Intuitively formulating an unproven strategy. This approach is flawed if the leader doesn’t challenge the facts and doesn’t test his strategy.
Approach #3: Interrogating and proving a hypothetical strategy with evidence. This third approach is the most accurate because leaders need to gather evidence, data, engage with people within their context to be able to make decisions accordingly. This approach requires a combination of “diversity of thinking”, strategy, engagement and alignment to create value.
Subsequently, two leadership models derive from the three approaches for value creation:
Model #1: The creation of “perceived value”
This is an old leadership model, driven by the belief of the leader. Leaders who create perceived value tend to visualize the bigger picture and to put strategy first.
Model #2: The creation of “delivered value”
This is a new and current leadership model, driven by evidence. In this model, leaders maintain close relationships with the society of the organization (stakeholders, customers, …), gather evidence from them about the advancement of value creation and about the implementation of the strategy.
What is the success formula?
To make sense of value creation in organization that are either evidence-led or strategy-led, Andrew Kakabadse came up with three formulas:
STRATEGY x (ENGAGEMENT + ALIGNMENT) = VALUE PROPOSITION
Formula #1 makes sense of value creation in organizations driven by strategy and disengaged with their contextual reality.
(STRATEGY x ALIGNMENT) + ENGAGEMENT = VALUE PROPOSITION
The formula above represents a situation in which leaders implement a strategy, with which everyone is on board, at a human and cultural cost.
Formula #3 — The Success Formula
STRATEGY + (ENGAGEMENT x ALIGNMENT) = VALUE DELIVERY
The success formula represents an organizations where consensus is first achieved before formulating a strategy that will continually be tested.
What are the other factors for success?
Value delivery is the starting point of success. It is also necessary to seek out different point of views, different perspectives to build a composite understanding of the organization and to sustain success. “Diversity of thinking and engagement are the two sides of the same coin”. Diversity of thinking does not include gender, age, nationality but means “diverse in mind”.
Leaders who want to promote diversity of thinking within their organization must:
- have a “passion for diversity of thinking”. Leaders should be curious, enjoy learning about themselves and the world, should be “open to new experiences and perspectives”.
- have international exposure. Leaders are compelled to welcome and search for international exposures for organizational and personal growth.
- advocate for open communication to instill trust and to encourage positive attitude towards challenges. Open communication comes from exposure to different cultures, which teaches the leaders how to adapt to different environments and to work with different cultures.
- engage with the organization. Leaders can start promoting the culture of diversity of thinking within the corporation, be active listeners and respond to people accordingly.
- build their team. Leaders are obliged to select the right people to make the right decisions and to avoid group-thinking.
Diversity of thinking is at the center of the success formula. Leaders must encourage “diversity of thinking” by listening and showing respect.
How to create a culture of diversity of thinking?
In The Success Formula: How Smart Leaders Deliver Outstanding Value, Andrew Kakabadse put together seven “disciplines” to help create a culture of diversity of thinking, and therefore to fulfill the success formula.
Discipline #1: Evidence Collection
Evidence creates alignment and engagement and allow leaders to reach a balance of opinions. Gathering evidence is part of a transparent process, gives a realistic overview of the market and the position of the company or the market, and allows leaders to gain knowledge in their respective fields.
- deeply believe that the evidence gathering process can move towards success.
- start gathering evidence from day one.
- assemble hard evidence as well as soft evidence, and are comfortable with constructive criticism.
- emphasize on the quality of the evidence.
- actively listen and engage with divergent thinking.
- use evidence to back up their strategies and to debate.
- make time for debates even if evidence is a slow process and delays decision.
- seek evidence in a structured manner.
Discipline #2: Mission Delimitation
Defining a mission for the organization means defining a clear purpose for the organization in order to promulgate their core values.
Needless to say that the nature of these core values is critical: successful organizations promote “inclusiveness and an environment suitable for innovation, the building of trust, and the spotting of new opportunities”.
Discipline #3: Alignment Enhancement
Alignment, “the logic and structure to execute strategy”, is a vital element in fulfillment of the success formula. There are 3 types of alignment:
- “Alignment of thinking between the key players” in order to execute strategy. This type of alignment starts with the hiring process.
- Alignment of structure to gain in efficiency.
- Alignment of operational system, protocols, processes to facilitate the execution of strategy.
Discipline #4: Engagement Enhancement
Engagement, “the desire, willingness, motivation (or demotivation) to make the structures and the processes work”, is difficult to achieve because it is impossible to control people.
Corporations with the highest level of engagement are not led by charismatic nor visionary leaders but are led by humble leaders, with listening skills that treat people fairly, that are open-minded and that reward people for their effort.
Discipline #5: Leadership Style Improvement
In addition to being driven by evidence, to leading with purpose, leaders display 3 main qualities:
- a high level of IQ to respond to the challenges that the organization faces and build “pathways through demanding circumstances”.
- “a profound moral consciousness” which requires integrity and an accurate and sensitive understanding of the context.
- a “persuasive advocacy” which is an ability to “walk the talk and talk the walk”.
Discipline #6: Governance Balance
Governance has two vital dimensions: monitoring and mentoring that are linked to the performance of the organization.
“Monitoring is all about the controls, protocols, and procedures that provide early warning signals and enable the board to take action to prevent wrongdoing or bad decisions”. “It is mentoring that makes the governance difference. This stewardship requires time, commitment, and consideration of how and with whom to engage”.
Discipline #7: Wisdom Development
Wisdom allows the increase of alignment and engagement. Wisdom is “earned through years of experience”, “comes from reflection and a willingness to keep on learning”.
Wise leaders learn to conveniently engage with people, patiently work through issues and dilemmas, accurately solve problems instead of rushing through them.
The Success Formula: How Smart Leaders Deliver Outstanding Value is a robust academic research publication, with simple theories. These theories are illustrated with several real life, relatable, contemporaneous case studies from which leaders can grab inspiration.
Through one simple formula, Kakabadse was able to represent the complexities of todays organizations and highlight the difficulties of putting this formula into practise.
Furthermore, I believe this book is ideal for leaders:
- starting a business or company and are wondering how to create value and a competitive advantage within their company,
- looking to ensure a healthy workplace,
- looking to evaluate their organizations and detect potential issues,
- who have been derailed by a strategy-led organization,
- who are in organizations that are restructuring and want to promote an evidence-led culture in their organization.
Finally, I enjoyed the fact that Andrew Kakabadse stressed that evidence-led leadership does not happen overnight, that the leader’s job is not easy and every decisions have to be thought through, analyze and tested beforehand, and that the organization’s success is not only due to the leader but also to the contribution of the team, and that leaders have to showcase strong core values.
“[…] success is the creation of value — economic and social benefits and outcomes that serve a purpose for the people they are intended to help, in accordance with a set of values that the organization subscribes to”.
Whether it’s originated in our History or Culture, whether it’s from watching television or from frequenting our friends and family, we all have a clear picture in our minds of what great leadership is or should be. We also have in mind which competencies and qualities are ideally associated to great leadership.
Wondering if that picture you nurture in your mind coincides with reality and what makes leadership so important?
What is great leadership?
Leadership is the ability to wheel power, to influence people positively in order to be successful, to bring like-minded individuals together towards a common goal or vision and to translate that vision into reality.
Influence allows leaders to gain consistent support for their views and opinions while building relationships with other individuals, groups or organization on a daily basis. It also helps leaders improve teamwork, and gain more credibility, and respect.
Furthermore, influence is used to win others over, to persuade and convince without having to subject anyone to manipulation, force, command or control. It consists in a core competency in today’s workplace.
Why is leadership important?
Not everyone is a leader. Not everyone is given an opportunity to lead or not everyone has made the conscious decision to lead. Not everyone wants to be a leader because leadership requires time, knowledge, skills and emotional intelligence. Some people are actually leaders but not in all aspects of their lives. At last, others leaders emerge later in life.
Moreover, the importance for leadership and the motivation for leadership go hand in hand. Everybody is motivated differently by leadership: you can be motivated by a search for prestige, status, respect, deference, money, power, an increase in power of decision, a will to make the world a better place by servicing others, a strong desire to embody a vision and to bring that vision into reality.
In addition, without great leadership, chaos flares up.
The key competencies for great leadership
I believe that the nine competencies below are the foundation of great contemporaneous leadership:
- Demonstrating integrity and instilling trust in employees. Leaders must be capable of being responsible and accountable, of becoming an exemplar of wanted behaviors and values, treating others with respect, of doing the right thing, of walking the walk and walking the talk. According to Warren Bennis, “there is no difference between becoming an effective leader and becoming a fully integrated human being”.
- Learning continuously to be able to deal with personal and organizational complexities, to grow and become more effective, and finally to challenge the status quo.
- Share vision to inspire has purpose. A vision is what you want to create, to embody and achieve as a leader. The leader’s vision has everything to do with his or her purpose and is often reflected in his or her behavior.
- Thinking and acting innovation. Remarkable leaders know how to champion, plan and implement change successfully. .
- Possessing good decision-making skills. Leaders are able to identify problems and find solutions, and measure the outcome of those solutions.
- Maintaining strong communication skills. Leaders must be good speakers as well as good and active listeners. Communication skills increase the leader’s influence in the workplace. The best way to showcase your communication skills is to:
- delay your speech, analyze your audience by getting to know their background, situation, history, values, enhance your rhetoric and work on the delivery of your speech.
- describe the situation you want to change, its impacts and its solutions.
- ask for other people input by professional courtesy and be open for discussion.
- Developing emotional intelligence. Exceptional leaders get to know themselves before getting to know others, lead themselves before leading others, use their emotions at work but don’t let their emotions use them.
- Building healthy relationships and connecting with your followers. Indeed, outstanding leaders hold your employees to a higher standard, with higher expectations with the belief that their employees can meet them. They also provide feedback, invest in their employees personal strengths, value collaboration and team work in order to connect to your workforce.
- Developing others by mentoring and coaching them in order to sustain high performance employees, to train them for leadership positions and to strengthen employees weaknesses and to help “difficult” employees to fit into the corporate culture. A great leader is a catalyst, facilitator that allow each member of the team to shine. By then, employees commitment and productivity will be increased. Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (2009) said it right in Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow: “Perhaps the ultimate test of a leader is not what you are able to do in the here and now – but instead what continues to grow long after you’re gone.”.
The skills of leaders are transferable to every aspect or role of their lives: they are applicable to their community, neighborhood.
Acquiring all those skills all at once are not realistic: a leader must assess his or her strengths and weaknesses to know which competencies he or she already possess and which competencies to develop first.
Are you currently viewed as a potential leader?
You are viewed as a potential leader if:
- people regularly come to you for advice, for brainstorming or problem solving,
- you are progressively given more responsibility on a project by your boss,
- your boss asks for your opinion on a subject matter before an “above your pay grade” meeting
- or you are included in your coworkers social activities.
If you are not being perceived as a leader, start with these small steps:
- Respect the company’s culture, work protocols and procedures and perform well.
- Offer your help when there is extra work to do in the office. This will show that you are ready to roll up your sleeves for the success of the project, to apply yourself effectively without complaining.
- Volunteer outside of work. This will allow you to test your leadership skills, to inquire whether leadership is made for you or not, to learn new skills and mostly to make mistakes with less consequence to your career.
- Read or write articles about leadership development and take courses to increase your knowledge about leadership.
- Cultivate your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
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Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter by Robert Bruce Shaw
According to Robert Bruce Shaw, in Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, great leadership emanates from an ability to make great decisions which comes from making bad decisions and learning from them. The sooner in your career that those bad decisions are made, the better.
Of course, you make fewer mistakes as you progress in your career and as you experience the outcomes of the mistakes, but you never stop making them. In addition, mistakes are more costly as you move up the ladder in a company and can potentially derail your career.
In light of this issue, in Leadership Blindspots, Robert Bruce Shaw investigates the existence of leadership blindspot, an “unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success” and that becomes evident in the way your team, organizations and markets are perceived.
How to characterize leadership blindspots?
First of all, leadership blindspots are often associated to leadership strengths. They appear whenever the leader is utilizing his or her strengths at work. Second of all, blindspots don’t disappear, even if you are fully aware of them. Thirdly, blindspots are situational, adaptive and can be helpful. And finally, blindspots are able to impact other people and followers.
Advice for understanding and dealing with leadership blindspots?
Furthermore, blindspots come with a price and has to be recognized by the leader in order for him or her to find a balance. To do so, leaders have to weigh two conflicting needs:
- their need for acting with confidence, believing strongly in their vision, and having faith in themselves, their abilities.
- their need for assessing their limitations in order to avoid overconfidence or excessive optimism.
The complex balance between self-confidence and self-doubt is unnatural, contradictory but necessary, depends on each individual and each situation.
If there are too many blindspots, the leader can be overly confident and arrogant. If there are too few blindspots, the leader is somewhat realistic about the obstacles to face, is aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses.
Are there different levels of blindness?
There are three levels of blindness that a leader could experience:
- Lack of awareness level. This is the “most extreme form of a blindspot”. At this level, leaders are constantly surprised or blindsided by events.
- Faulty assessment level. At this level, leaders are in denial: they refuse to acknowledge risks, to analyze known weaknesses, and to understand the causes and consequences of their blindspots.
- Failure to act level. At this level, leaders know the risks, threats and weaknesses that lay ahead but fail to act on them for lack of skills and resolve. Those leaders are adept to the rule “when in doubt, do nothing” or rather remain in their comfort zones.
How to identify your leadership blindspots?
In order to identify your blindspots:
- review your past and present mistakes. Mistakes are indicative of blindspots, areas of lack of self-awareness, and areas of faulty patterns of thinking and behavior. It is advised to identify the most significant mistakes, their causes, patterns of behavior and thinking associated to these mistakes and the actions to be taken on the behalf of the leader to prevent those mistakes from reoccurring.
- Consider honest and useful feedback from your trusted advisors.
- Gain additional insight by taking the blindspot assessment survey.
Then, question the relative importance of your blindspots in your career and its impacts on yourself, the organization to distinguish which blindspot requires your immediate attention.
What are the different types of leadership blindspots?
Robert Bruce Shaw has classified leadership blindspots in 20 categories:
- “Overestimating your strategic capabilities”
- “Valuing being right over being effective”
- “Failing to balance the what with the how”
- “Not seeing your impact on others”
- “Believing the rules don’t apply to you”
- “Thinking the present is the past”
- “Failing to focus on the vital few”
- “Taking for granted your team model”
- “Overrating the talent on your team”
- “Avoiding the tough conversations”
- “Trusting the wrong individuals”
- “Not developing real successors”
- “Failing to capture hearts and minds”
- “Losing touch with your shop floor”
- “Treating information and opinion as fact”
- “Misreading the political landscape”
- “Putting personal ambition before the company”
- “Clinging to the status quo”
- “Underestimating your competitors”
- “Being overly optimistic”
Which factors trigger blindspots?
Blindspots often go hand in hand with the leader’s strengths and reappear unexpectedly when the leader does what he or she does best. There are few factors that lead to blindspots areas:
- “Experience gaps“. The blindspot stems from a lack of experience or from a habit of using past experiences to extrapolate a present situation.
- “Information overload” describes an inability to pay attention to everything that is happening when engaged in a complex and challenging task.
- “Emotional bias” corresponds to an emotional involvement in a particular situation or outcome that clouds judgement.
- “Cognitive dissonance” is a psychology term associated to a state in which leaders hold two conflicting views of their self-image. The “conflict is resolved through rationalizing one’s belief or actions in a manner that sustains one’s positive self-image” which reinforces the blindspot.
- “Misaligned incentives” are compensation systems that are “designed to focus attention and effort within an organization, with the result being that people focus more on some areas than on others”.
- “Hierarchical distortion”. The information transmitted to hierarchy becomes distorted, false, incomplete because:
- high-ranking leaders are sometimes detached from the lower levels of the organization.
- subordinates tend to sugarcoat information by deference or by fear of retaliation.
- high-ranking leaders pay less attention to less powerful people.
- “Overconfidence“. Leaders overestimates their own capabilities, skills and knowledge.
How to overcome blindspots?
According to Robert Bruce Shaw, it is not possible to completely suppress blindspots but it is important to recognize them and find ways to work with them?
To handle blindspot:
- Make an assessment of the problem on your own, stay on contact with frontliners, customers, markets and high potential individuals.
- Invest in metrics, processes and data that challenge the leader’s beliefs and basic assumptions.
- Develop an ability to recognize, prioritize blindspot warning signs.
- Consider feedback from trusted advisors.
- “Leaders need to test their ideas and discuss emerging threats with a diverse team of individuals who respect each other’s experience and abilities but are also willing to push each other to reach the best outcomes on the truly critical issues”.
In conclusion, leaders are flawed individuals with strengths, weaknesses and blindspots that are to be acknowledged. Blindspots often show up when the leader is using his or her strengths or reverts to their comfort zone, and cannot be completely resolved.
It is up to the leader to stay on the lookout for blindspots, to strike up a balance between self-confidence and self-doubt.
In Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter, Robert Bruce Shaw analyses leadership behaviors when it comes to blindspots and weaknesses. He illustrates every single one of his thoughts on blindspots with great and renown leadership examples and concludes each example with an analysis and lessons to take away. Furthermore, not only this book contains realistic and applicable examples, each paragraph of this book can be read on standalone.
In addition, Robert Bruce Shaw provides us with a tool —the blindspot assessment survey— for us to identify whether or not we possess blindspots and to what degree we have incubated them. I recommend this book to employees who are failing to lead and to boost their careers.
It has come to my knowledge that because of my belief system, I am an adept of the rule “when in doubt, stand still” which has not bothered my career but has increased my serenity. After taking the blindspot assessment test, I have received a low probability of blindspots as I am self-aware of my strengths and of my weaknesses.
Finally, Leadership Blindspots was intriguing to me because there are so many books about leadership strengths and developing them. I appreciated the fact that he mentioned the need for transparency (better visibility of mistakes thanks to the media) which put leaders are under a lot of pressure, all while trying to overcome their blindspots.
People who are smart and self-assured are often very skillful at justifying their thinking and behavior—to the point of being in denial about their weaknesses and the threats they face. Their intelligence can work against them when they convince themselves, and often others, that they are right even when they are wrong.
Successful individuals who sometimes stumble often do so because they have no one who can protect them from themselves.
The best leaders develop a range of compensating mechanisms that fit their personalities and the company cultures in which they work. In many cases these leaders don’t fundamentally change the way they think, but instead develop warning systems that surface important weaknesses and threats.
As a leader and as someone always searching for innovative ideas, I have to say that I have been struggling with staying focused on one topic at a time, controlling my train of thoughts and filtering negative emotions. Although I come from a very disciplined home, my mind is sometimes undisciplined: tens of thousands of ideas flash through my mind in a second, which makes it difficult for my team to follow me. By taking time out in the day solely for the thinking process, I have allowed myself to successfully manage my thoughts and become a self-disciplined leader.
Wondering how to acquire self-discipline or how self-discipline can successfully grow your career?
What is self-discipline?
Firstly, self-discipline is one of the most important component of leadership. Self-discipline develops in you set ways for your thoughts, actions and habits. Self-discipline means doing what needs to be done when you don’t feel like doing it. In addition, it means that you accept your responsibilities and accomplish your goals because they are the best profitable option but not because you want to.
Self-discipline implies self-management or self-control, self-motivation, self-reliance, self-confidence and self-awareness and eventually, remains the basis for trust.
Secondly, self-discipline is an acquired skill, has several degrees to it and is not achieved overnight. It has to be practised to become easier, to create routine and structure.
Lastly, early responsibilities in life, small tasks and assignments, given by parents or managers, allow people to gain discipline from a young age and shape their character.
Characteristics of self-disciplined leaders
Self-disciplined leaders are successful and ultimately become better at what they do. They are active, self-controlled, organized, are able to censor themselves and to build great relationships.
Leaders use self-discipline to sharpen their willpower and decisions making skills, to command respect from others and to lead by example, to achieve their goals regardless of their feelings, to gain profit and to look beyond hard work, to stick to their decisions, to evaluate themselves and place boundaries, to compartmentalize their emotions. Furthermore, self-disciplined leaders have no fear of the future, are respected and dependable.
Self-disciplined leaders practise thoughts management, emotional intelligence, time management, character building, self-awareness and team building until they turn those soft skills into habits.
HABIT #1: MIND MANAGEMENT
Your thoughts, negative or positive, become your reality whether you want it or not. Self-disciplined leaders have peace of mind, no matter the situation. For self-disciplined leaders, controlling your emotions is barely about becoming stoic, but about acknowledging your emotions, understanding them and keeping them in check before acting on them.
In order to control your thoughts:
- Nurture your mind with the right stimuli, with empowering thoughts and success stories. Remove distractions from your workspace. Block social media sites during working hours.
- Train your brain to handle different situations, and to prepare for both positive and negative outcomes.
- Meditate or turn to religion. Meditation brings a sense of contentment and allows you to accept and deal with your thoughts. In religion, controlling your thoughts is more about admitting God’s control over us and relinquishing our problems and emotions to Him. Which is why you need to keep your eyes on God and your focus on your purpose.
- Forgive yourself for past mistakes, let go of grudges and regrets, and keep moving forward.
HABIT #2: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Self disciplined leaders don’t allow their choices and decisions to be dictated by their impulses or feelings.
- enhance their logical and emotional skills to be able to make sound decisions,
- control their facial expressions,
- resist and reject negative feelings,
- handle stressful situations, conflicts and toxic individuals in a healthy manner,
- adopt positive attitudes and behaviors.
To discipline your emotions:
- Control your thoughts and don’t leave them on autopilot. Pay close attention to your habits, especially in negative situations. Identify which behaviors you consider undisciplined and those that reflect your values ans goals.
- Change your self talk.
- Meditate on a daily basis, a least 10 minutes a day, to quiet the mind, gain serenity and suppress regrets.
- Cultivate gratitude. This will help you transform negative circumstances into positives.
- Change your sources of data that you intake and abstain from vain entertainment.
- Change or increase your social circle to individuals who possess the qualities and skills that you wish to acquire.
- Manage your health by taking care of the essentials. Your mind and body are interconnected and the health of the one impacts the other.
- Sleep healthy hours and develop a steady night routine. Set an alarm at the same time everyday, put your phone in an unreachable area, don’t hit the snooze button.
- Acquire a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly instead of procrastinating and drown your negative thoughts with dopamine.
HABIT #3: SELF-AWARENESS:
Self-discipline allows leader to monitor their behavior in various situations and to assess their strengths and weaknesses, to find their purpose.
Without being aware of your strengths, you are unable to lead effectively. Trying to emulate another leader’s style, strengths destroys your natural talent, your uniqueness, your personality and your therefore your chances for success.
Furthermore, most leaders are blind to their own strengths and weaknesses. Some lead thinking that they possess a particular set of strengths and others lead blind to their own weaknesses.
Get to know yourself at a deeper level, increase your confidence, become more self-aware and quiet your ego:
- Renew your thought pattern, invest in your personal growth and don’t allow setbacks to mentally set you back.
- Reverting back to the memories of your childhood and recalling what you did well and with pleasure.
- Look for a common thread in the things that immediately and sustainably attract your attention throughout your life experiences.
- Read books and gain knowledge.
- Hire a professional to help identify your strengths and how to employ them.
- Take well-known online tests, such as StrenghtsFinder2.0 and StandOut, and cross-reference them.
- Asking the people closest to you.
- Surround yourself with supporting people. Stay away from yes men, undermining people or groups.
- Seek the truth about yourself and be unafraid of failure or the said truth.
HABIT #4: TIME MANAGEMENT
Successful individuals manage their time effectively to ensure that they accomplish their goals, allocate and maximize their time. In the workplace, missing deadlines irritates and disrupts everyone on the team and makes you appear non accountable. So, to manage your time effectively:
- Define an achievable specific goal and apply timelines to it to create overviews of the milestones you wish to achieve. If you don’t have deadlines, create some for yourself.
- Make time to achieve your personal goals, follow-up on schedule and meet deadlines. Do not procrastinate, find excuses to postpone your work or allow anyone to distract you and squander your time. Instead, stay busy and focused, and put in the hours required to accomplish your goals.
- Prioritize your personal goals and accomplish the most important ones before hand.
- Implement a routine and stay focused on the prize.
- Make time to be proactive. With an increase in leadership responsibilities, people start pulling the leader in different directions, and the leader ends up doing more of what people desire than what is necessary to be done. Carve out an hour in the day or choose a day in the week to isolate or insulate yourself and execute your tasks that matter.
- Make time for yourself. Carve out another hour in your day to recharge your batteries to be more productive and efficient as a leader for your team. You may have to arrive earlier to work.
- Respect other people time.
HABIT #5: CHARACTER BUILDING:
Not all hardworking and talented beings are disciplined. Therefore, not all hardworking and talented beings are successful.
On one hand, self-discipline helps in creating routine and structure, holding yourself and others to a high standard ( integrity and respect), remaining accountable for your actions on your job, executing your job in detail and delivering on time.
Self-discipline also increases maturity and builds stamina and resistance to walk down the leader’s path. That means that you can take a licking and keep on ticking.
On the other hand, self-discipline makes you resilient. You are empowered to stick to your decision, are able to get up when you are knocked down and to keep going when you hear “no”.
Building character is a gradual process:
- Be consistent with your values (integrity)
- Tenacity is also key. Don’t be discouraged or perturbed by obstacles, by failures, by the illusion that your goals are unreachable. Instead, resist the urges of giving in or giving up.
- Read, listen, watch motivational elements. For faithful people, turning to your belief system is a great way to stay on track.
- Draw lessons from your mistakes.
- Monitor what you say. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.
HABIT #6: RELATIONSHIP & TEAM BUILDING
Being disciplined allows leaders to command respect from others, to work well with their team members, to handle interactions with employees or customers judiciously.
In order to minimize supervisors intervention:
- Define your responsibilities or tasks, avoid stepping on anybody’s toes, delegate tasks appropriately,
- Play by the rules, treat your team members as adults and with respect,
- Look out for the best interests of the company and your team members,
- Coach your team, promote self-discipline amongst them, encourage innovative ideas without even if they fail,
- Share your performance expectations with your employees and help them direct their focus towards achieving their goals
- Address unacceptable behaviors immediately without punishing or humiliating the perpetrators,
- Model yourself as the best leader, avoid taking your job for granting or taking credit for team success or outstanding performance, and stay humble and .
HABIT #7: EXECUTION, MOTIVATION & STRUCTURE
Self-discipline brings predictability, consistency and order to the leader. Self-discipline captures the meaning of the word expectancy and provides the leader with latitude for risk assessment and management.
To create structure and improve task execution:
- If you are somehow already disciplined in executing task, share your timeline and your attention to detail with others and help them pick up the slack without micro managing.
- Clearly, your order brings a sense of control to the team. However, don’t impose your discipline to anyone else.
- Focus on starting tasks rather than completing them.
- Follow through on your ideas and finish what you have started. Also, track your progress: record the starting time and the end time of your tasks.
- Execute your plan in silence, and respect yourself enough to put your money where your mouth is and to come through on your promises
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.
When it comes to corporate, people retain certain preconceived ideas about it and corporate fights back setting unwritten rules that are not applicable and indulgent to everyone.
For recent graduates, that are unfamiliar with these rules, transitioning from college to corporate then becomes challenging. At every step of the way, they are being hit by reality and are starting to figure out some hard truths about corporate.
Wondering how to transition to corporate smoothly and how to correct your misconceptions about corporate as soon as possible?
Start reprogramming your mind and integrating these hard truths right now.
Misconception #1: Money is compensatory
Money pays the rent, the car note and the student loan but relying on your pay to cope with the long hours, the office politics and the difficult boss is a mistake.
Money will be compensation enough just for the first few months when you are able to pay the bills. But it will get meaningless where validation, recognition, purpose and fulfillment go a long way.
Developing a healthy work balance, assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and pursuing your purpose are in fact detrimental to career success.
Misconception #2: Your grades are no longer important and your performance in class has nothing to do your performance at work.
What is required of you in corporate, on your first jobs, is not really to understand the different aspects of your job but mostly to understand the task given to you and to execute them.
First of all, your grades will no longer validate you, you will be able to gloat and feel superior anymore. However, you will be having dreaded performance review, once a year, instead of irregular exams. In truth, you will no longer graded on your level of knowledge and your ability to memorize theories but on your ability to work in a team.
Secondly, the company takes all the credit for your work.
Finally, if you missed class back in the days, you could still have caught up with the class and get off with a warning. But if you miss work or are late often, then you become lost in the project and in office politics and you might get fired.
Because you will be judged annually on the collective performance of the team, here are a few tips:
- Search for the influencers on your team, get along with them and grow your own influence with them.
- Hold up your end of the bargain in the team and help others pull their weight, without taking credit for it.
- Keep your personal and ambitious goals in mind for motivation.
Misconception #3: Your diploma will automatically get you a job
In the past, your diploma from an ivy league college will get you a position with status and authority. Nowadays, people are looking for leadership qualities, character, personality, novelty and diversity.
You currently have to go through multiple job interviews, that are now psychological evaluations, competing with someone with the exact same credentials and outperforming yourself, before getting hired by a company.
Misconception #4: Your education will fit the job description
Companies lure low profile, cheap and gullible graduates with polished presentations, attractive job descriptions.
At an entry-level position, your job will be everything and anything the manager wants it to be. Your entry-level position often begins with menial work, beneath you and your education level. And in that case, you will have to put up with it and outdo yourself.
Executing menial work serves the purpose of building trust between you and your team, and of demonstrating your resistance towards hard work.
Misconception #5: You can figure it all on your own
When you arrive in a new company, keep it mind that you cannot figure it all by yourself and you have to be open to learning.
- Find a mentor to get advice and create a support system.
- Ask questions to your coworkers to increase your influence and your technical competencies. Learn all the information needed for you to succeed at your job.
- Takes courses, trainings and keep reading books to develop yourself and your knowledge.
Misconception #6: Your are indispensable to the company
It doesn’t matter which school you graduated from, at entry-level, every employee looks, talks, walks and acts the same. It is highly likeable that you will be treated all the same, interchanged at some point, moved around from team to team, from projects to projects.
Your status shouldn’t be taken personally. It is a rite of passage.
Misconception #7: Corporate requires common and usual skills
Graduates were required to learn and memorize theories. In corporate, you will be asked to execute soldier-like, be dictated what to write down. Find a way to understand what is asked of you without asking too many dumb questions.
Avoid open debates and correcting your managers like in the classroom.
Misconception #8: The company’s public image and values are legit
The company image and values are not always injected and reflected in the company’s workplace.
Most of the time, hierarchy is not always respected, power is unevenly distributed, roles are attributes unofficially and values are non-existent in the workplace. A toxic and individualistic company can publicly encourage team work and be elected “Best Company to Work in”. It’s all about product marketing.
Misconception #9: Blindly comply to your orders and assignments
Obeying at your bosses beck and call shows your loyalty, your ability to take and follow directions. It is also dangerous because you can take the fall and be thrown under the bus for any failure.
In any case, make sure that you:
- do what is asked of you to a certain extent.
- observe your boss’ methods, attitude towards you and others. His or her behavior might be part of his or her process.
- keep your eyes and ears open in case of bullying and of excessive treatment coming from your bosses.
Misconception #10: Everybody knows better
You might think that evolving to corporate means that everyone there has evolved and matured as well. Everyone is educated and trained for their job, but not everyone is self-trained, disciplined, polite and respectful.
You will definitely encounter toxic coworkers that can easily make your life a living hell if you don’t know how to deal with them.
Misconception #11: You can make friends in the workplace
It is strongly advised not to create deep level of friendships in the workplace because your coworkers are not to be trusted with confidential and personal information.
Misconception #12: Office politics are easy to navigate
Office politics are more difficult to navigate than it seems, especially at an entry-level position because you have to try to be liked and to get along with everybody, from the beginning, without showing that you are making that effort.
Outside of work, you were able to get into a fight with whomever you pleased without ripping any consequences. In the workplace, your ability to assimilate, to fit in and to get along with your coworkers will be tested during the first three months on the job.
What to do then?
- Be an easy-going, a non-partisan, untalkative, reliable coworker that everyone confides to.
- Don’t take unpopular opinions, even for your “ally” in the workplace.
- Show respect for other people opinions.
- Show deference —not submission— for hierarchy. Avoid stepping on toes and going above someone’s head.
- Develop character, integrity and a proper attitude.
- Use laughter to defuse bombs.
Misconception #13: Transparency and candor are welcomed with open arms
Don’t openly correct your managers in front of his or her superiors or subordinates or anyone really before being labeled as a “difficult” or “problematic” employee. Keep your thoughts, opinions and concern to yourself.
Misconception #14: Invest yourself in your job
One of the greatest and most common mistake of young graduates is to invest themselves and their time into their jobs. It is essential for you to:
- put yourself first.
- not invest too much in projects nor merge your identity with your role in the company. This way, if a project fails, you will not entirely feel the blowback.
- accomplish your required hours and put in a few hours here and there on special occasions.
- build a life for yourself outside of corporate that will be a buffer when the workplace becomes toxic.
Misconception #15: Promotion comes from hard work
It is a wildly known fact that promotion does not come from hard work but from the illusion of hard work.
To get promoted, it is necessary to:
- not outperform your colleagues. You have to slightly perform better than them otherwise you come off as a show off and your coworkers will hate you,
- not be overly efficient. Otherwise, you will be setting the bar high, be unprepared for unexpected setbacks and you will be setting a negative precedent for yourself,
- gain the right influence and acquire the right influencers.
Misconception #16: Promotion will get you respect and authority
Yes, a certain amount of authority and influence is acquired through a promotion. Nevertheless, people won’t follow you or perform beyond your orders and your stated authority. You will only be able to control your subordinates through monetary leverage.
According to John C. Maxwell in Developing the Leader Within You, it is only by building solid relationships with your peers that you will gain influence, increase your credibility and your authority.
You must not pursue a promotion just for the status and the title, without being prepared for higher level of leadership. You must develop self-discipline and character first and avoid attracting negative attention on yourself, at all cost.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.