Strong Leadership Requires More Humility & Less Hubris

October 10, 2013

As our congressional “leaders” fail to settle differences to negotiate a deal to keep the United States government open and resolve the debt ceiling crisis, I am troubled by our failed leadership in Washington.

This leadership is failing because the representatives of “we the people” are firmly grounded in their positions (or those they are beholden to) rather than doing what is right for our country. This leadership is made up of politicians focusing on ideology instead of the practical matters of governing. This leadership is weak because they demonstrate far too much hubris and too little humility.

Hubris is running rampant throughout our society: Witness the fact that we pay so much attention to celebrities’ ideas on government matters. Cable news programs present well-quaffed talking heads’ spouting their opinions as if they are facts. And we as a people willingly choose infotainment instead of intellectual discourse.

CNN recently brought back Crossfire not because there is actually any useful information being exchanged, but because people shouting at each other apparently encourages the right demographic to tune in and watch.

This hubris, especially in the modern definition of the term, is about overconfident pride and arrogance. It reminds me of how the United States education system is falling behind many other nations in every category other than confidence. Our students may not know the correct answer, but they sure take pride in themselves anyway.

Pride that blinds does not demonstrate strong leadership. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

What if instead of accepting this hubris we demanded our leaders to act with more humility? Though often presented as a weakness in our society, humility is being studied as an important trait that can enhance leadership effectiveness.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, called Level 5 leaders those who attained the top spot in the hierarchy of executive capabilities identified in their research. Collins described these top leaders as those who “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”

Recent research by J. Andrew Morris and Rob Nielsen suggest that humility is multi-dimensional and includes self-awareness, openness and perspective taking—emotionally intelligent traits proven vitally important to strong leadership.

Humility is one of those traits that are found in the greatest of leaders throughout history, though are not necessarily found in those who rise to fame in business or politics. That’s because to be humble doesn’t necessarily play well in the media. Being humble does not enable egotism and perhaps most pertinent today, it doesn’t create controversy.

Though hubris may attract more attention because it appeals to our basest interests and may serve to confirm our suspicions regarding inept and corrupt politicians, I believe this can’t continue. At some point Americans will stop blindly supporting those politicians and candidates who demonstrate such a lack of courage. We will no longer support those who pander to us voters while serving their more powerful financial backers. We will demand authenticity and integrity.

In the same way business leaders must prove their abilities through results, the same should be said for our political leaders. Arrogance and overconfident pride are not traits that get results and they are not traits to effectively run a company or a country.

Valuing Diverse Personality Types in Workgroups

September 10, 2013

Today’s workgroups are made up of people from a variety of cultures, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds. They also include different personalities.

High performing workgroups are those that embrace and leverage these personality differences in order to achieve outstanding results.

In my line of work I use many diagnostic tools and assessments to help evaluate clients in the environment where they work. These can be useful as they provide valuable insight into how individuals differ from the people they work with most closely.

Each of these tools and assessments typically involve a four square grid where people are placed in one specific quadrant. Yes, they put people into boxes, but more importantly, they provide a common vocabulary in order to converse about what it means to be different.

Not better or worse, just different in how we think, respond and operate in the world.

This common vocabulary can then enable better understanding and ultimately movement with regard to changing behavior to help improve communication, engagement, collaboration, and overall efficiency in the workplace.

Whether using the popular Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, DISC profile or any number of tools, the fundamental principle of all models basically provide four types of personalities—expressive, analytical, driven and social.

Each personality type is valuable to the success of a team. All of them are vital to getting things done. And the team’s leader can come from any of them.

Most importantly, it is the dynamic interplay between these four types that make a team of people truly creative in finding and implementing effective solutions.

You can find examples of these four personality types in every workplace, even popular television shows. Think of Seinfeld where Kramer is the expressive, burst in to rooms, big personality; George is the analytical, wanting to know all aspects of a situation before making a decision to act; Elaine is the driven, assertive person who can never find a man smart enough and rich enough; Jerry is the social, friendly guy who brings together and maintains the cohesiveness of the group.

After first identifying our own type and realizing the gifts and challenges it provides, next comes understanding the value of the other types and appreciating how they can also contribute to team results.

Jim Collins, author of the best-selling Good to Great, says it’s not only important to get the right people on the bus, but to get each of them in the right seat on the bus.

Without making too much of an over generalization, different personality types lend themselves to different work. Those who are the analytical type may not be happy or successful in a traditional sales or public relations position. An expressive or social type may find a research position far too confining.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

A workgroup must take into account how the work is shared among diverse personality types. Just because one person has a certain job title or job function doesn’t mean he or she should be confined to that specific work. Let your team members determine how best to accomplish the work.

For any whole to be greater than the sum of its parts requires maximizing the potential of each individual and leveraging the efficiencies found in true collaboration.

In their book Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results, Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan write “extraordinary groups cultivate a positive mind-set about differences, choosing to see them as intriguing, informative, and essential—rather than irritating, divisive or threatening.”

Bellman and Ryan found in their research of extraordinary groups that this ability to express and work with these differences as critical to their success. Holding these differences in a way all individuals can move forward together rather than pulling the group apart is a core distinction between an ordinary and an extraordinary group.

To enable more creative and innovative solutions to business problems requires utilizing the creative potential of diverse personalities in workgroups. This means not only welcoming and respecting our differences, but also learning to collaborate with and maximizing the collective wisdom found in this mix.