People want smart Leaders, but raw intellect may hamper effective Leadership. How so? Based on studies by Marshall Goldsmith, Leadership Guru, smart Leaders make predictable mistakes:
Proving how smart you are:
Smart Leaders learn – from an early age – how demonstrate their brilliance. In fact, they get lots of recognition for being smart, from friends, parents, teachers, coaches – just about everyone. When smart Leaders enter the workforce, they continue brandishing their intellectual prowess. It is a conditioned reflex.
About 65% of their interpersonal communication is devoted to either: a) showing their brilliance (or listening to others tell them how smart they are), or b) talking about the stupidity of others (or listening to others make the same observation).
How should smart people get out of this habit? They should remember Peter Drucker’s advice:
“Our mission in life is to make a positive difference – not to prove how smart we are.”
Proving how right they are:
Smart people have more data at their fingertips – facts, figures, concepts and so forth. So, they are proficient at winning their arguments. This can be a ‘blind spot’. Why?
When smart folks blunder – which inevitably happens – the losses could be big, because they have quashed divergent opinions. Smart Leaders should ask themselves two questions:
• What if I am wrong?
• Is it worthwhile being right? In other words, does it matter?
If winning the argument is unimportant, why waste time showing how smart you are?
I already know that: It is tough for smart people to listen as someone telling them things they already know. Smart people usually say: “I already know that.”
Alternatively, some Leaders say “No, I agree with you.” This is a complex subconscious response: “No” means “Of course I agree with you. I already knew that. Don’t confuse me with someone who doesn’t know”. In general, Leaders should avoid starting phrases with “no”. Negation undermines the contribution of the other person.
Under these circumstances, Leaders should simply say: “Great idea!”, or “Interesting”, “That makes sense” and so forth. Again, the mission is to make a positive difference, not to show your brilliance.
Super-smart’ people can often make connections and see patterns that are invisible to others. Then, they assume others should see the same things. That’s not reasonable.
Smart Leaders should never make others feel ashamed for not making the same cognitive connections as the Leader.
Leadership is a transformative process – even for the best and brightest:
To be fair, these bad habits are shared by many people, but they are particularly irksome for really smart people, who are unaware of these ‘blind spots’.
It is a cruel irony. People move up organizations by being top achievers, and by being super smart. Often achievers are egocentric: “It is all about me”. Then they become Leaders. Suddenly it is about “them” – the team, division, or organization. What a switch!
Yes, there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom: Smart Leaders spend too much time showing others how clever they are, whereas wise Leaders transform average folks into heroes.
Art of Leadership
Larry Bossidy, leadership guru, found seven core leadership traits. The ‘magnificent seven’ are shared by the best CEO’s of top organizations.
Here are the ‘magnificent seven’:
Know your people and your business. The big CEOs understand all facets of their business. The ‘nitty-gritty’ is where it is at.
Insist on realism. These leaders benchmark their products and services against their toughest competition. Top CEOs want to know how good their products are, and how they can be better. Realism and truth are pivotal to success. Delusion is a waste of time.
Set clear goals. Clear targets get people moving forward. Goals must specify quantities and quality. Goals are outside the company’s grasp, but within their reach.
Follow through. The top leaders make follow through a daily commitment. Nothing falls through the cracks, and nothing is left behind. That is 24/7 execution.
Reward doers. Give biggest paychecks to top performers (even if those people are difficult or prickly at times).
Expand people’s capacities. Leaders put their people and themselves on a continuous path of improvement. Training and learning never stop.
Know yourself. Top CEOs know their strengths and weaknesses. They maximize their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant (by either by hiring complementary staff, or by learning compensatory strategies against their weaknesses).
Technology, charisma, and intelligence are important, but they aren’t as critical to success as the ‘magnificent seven’.
Sure, these seven habits look obvious. They make common sense. But, as humorist and philosopher Will Rogers said: “Common sense ain’t common”.
Master the ‘magnificent seven’ and watch your influence grow.
It is simple, but not easy.
It is tough to dump bad habits. The process starts with understanding:
Habits have three inter-locking steps:
• First, there is a cue, or a trigger (for example, the feeling of hunger);
• Second, a routine or behavior (in this case above it means eating); and
• Third, we get a reward (we are satiated).
Habits are self-reinforcing loops. The cue stimulates behavior, which generates a reward. That reinforces the behavior. Moreover, we develop craving for the reward, over time. About 40% of our activity is habitual. So, habits are integral to our psyches. As Will Durant said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit”.
True, you can break bad habits with self-control. Still, people respond better to rewards, than to control. In fact, that’s how humans evolved over 3 million years. We want food, companionship, security, power, meaning, and so forth. Humans move towards rewards.
Hence, changing habits starts with mindfulness. You need to understand the cues that trigger behavior, leading to rewards. Here is the three-step process:
Map out habit loops:
Figure out your cues. For example, if you over-eat, do you eat snacks whilst watching TV? Do you drink while eating? Do you snack between meals? Does stress make you eat?
Cues are important because the brain connects the cue to behavior, and to rewards. Craving comes from a neurological connection to the reward. The smell of a cinnamon may trigger a craving for a cinnamon bun. There are five common cues:
- others; or
- some previous activity.
Keeping notes helps: When, where, and how do you perform the habits? How do you feel when you indulge in bad habits? Do others play a role? Is the habit part of a bigger activity?
You need to be a detective, studying your behavior and recognizing the patterns. Treat yourself as a patient. The solution could mean changing behavior, whilst maintaining the reward. Or, you may find healthier, more productive ways of satisfying the craving. Each habit is unique.
Once you know your cue, the behavior, and the reward, you can restructure the habit. Then, you will need self-discipline to change your habits. Understanding starts with objective curiosity.
Formulate a plan:
Now, that you understand the process, you can devise a plan. When you feel the cue, you adopt a new behavior, but still get the reward. For example, you crave an energy boost in the afternoon. Rather than eating jelly babies, you drink green tea, or take a short brisk walk, or eat some fruit.
Changing habits means experimentation. It is tricky, too. Why? Because you are outsmarting your brain, by rewriting your neuropsychological programing. Remember all living organism look for stability – for homeostasis. So, changing habits is easier when new behavior has some similarity to what you are replacing. It’s easier to restructure bad habits than to eradicate them.
Try different combinations. You want to fulfill the craving without the bad behavior. Be tolerant. It could take some time.
Self-discipline is important. But the cornerstones of changing habits are curiosity and the desire to change.
Full understanding of our bad habits leads to roadmaps for self-improvement. You are the vehicle of your own positive transformation.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are on the road to improvement, you may stumble, as you move towards your goal. Keep at it.
Brewer, J. (2019). How to Break Up with Your Bad Habits: HBR Webinar. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/12/how-to-break-up-with-your-bad-habits
Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York, NY: Random House
Frank, T. (2015). 5 Lessons from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ws2WfeD6d8
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Step One: Get clarity! What does success look like? What roles or tasks are you delegating? Define the desired result. Make the goal 100% clear.
Step Two: Get commitment from the person accepting the new tasks or role. If he is not 100% committed to assuming the additional task, delegation is doomed to failure.
Step Three: Define an action plan to accomplish the delegated task or role. (Managers must be ready to accept ideas, or new ways of accomplishing the task. This is where the person doing the delegated task can propose changes in the process for improved efficiency.)
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