Magnetic Leadership

June 2, 2017

For companies to thrive they need great leadership. So how do we define great leadership and what are the behavioral traits of a great leader?

In his best-selling book Good to Great, author Jim Collins wrote about what he called Level 5 Executive leaders who build enduring greatness through the paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. He describes these Level 5 leaders as both modest and willful, humble and fearless.

“Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well,” writes Collins. “At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly.”

What the business world needs more than ever now are Level 5 leaders. It needs men and women who understand how to attract and grow talented employees. Their focus should be on people before products and profits. Customers and shareholders will be satisfied only when employees are fully engaged and optimally performing.

In Roberta Chinsky Matuson’s book The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers, and Profits, she defines seven irresistible traits of magnetic leaders. These are authenticity, selflessness, strong communication, charisma, transparency, vision and resilience. Matuson also provides important questions to ask yourself in order to strengthen these traits.

Authenticity

Authenticity requires admitting you don’t know everything, being truthful and sharing your backstory. To increase your authenticity, ask yourself:

  • Do I bring my whole self to work or do I leave parts at home?
  • What have I done within the last week to build trust?
  • How often do I share my backstory with employees and prospective candidates?

Selflessness

Selflessness requires the humility to focus on another’s success. Strive to be more of a servant leader and ask yourself:

  • Are people following me because of what I can do for them or are they doing so because of what I can do to them?
  • Do I take more than I give?
  • What have I done today to put others before myself?

Strong Communication

Strong communication means focusing as much on the way you say something as you do with the words you choose. Consistent communication is directly connected to higher employee engagement. And strive to become a better listener. Ask yourself:

  • Am I fully present when people speak?
  • Is my communication clear or is it a bit cloudy?
  • How often have I reached out to team members in person, on the phone or via e-mail or Skype this week?

Charisma

Charisma means as a leader you are able to influence and inspire others. It is often defined by those who exude confidence and express positivity. Ask yourself:

  • Do I genuinely like being around people?
  • Do I express my ideas in a way that exudes confidence or do I radiate self-doubt?
  • Do I expect people will do their personal best or do I believe most people will merely look to get by?

Transparency

Transparency is linked to candor and this requires trusting others as the only way to build and sustain relationships. To increase your transparency, ask yourself:

  • How often do I filter what I tell people?
  • How frequently do I shield information from others for my own benefit?
  • Am I being transparent or a bit murky?

Vision

Vision is about seeing the bigger picture and then painting it for others to see. In order to assess where you are on vision, ask yourself:

  • Am I focused on everyday tasks or long-term outcomes?
  • How often do I take time out of my day or week to think about the future?
  • Who in the organization has potential that is not being realized and what can I do to help unleash that potential?

Resilience

Resilience is about the ability to carry on in spite of a hopeless situation. It is about the grit that enables one to get back up after falling down. To further build this resilience, ask yourself:

  • Do I take responsibility for my failures or do I place the blame elsewhere?
  • Do I pick myself up quickly after a failure and move forward?
  • Do I play it safe to avoid failure or do I take risks so I can grow?

Often it is the questions that matter most. The best questions can help us to understand and grow. Asking and answering honestly to the questions above can help determine how you measure up in order to assess your own magnetic leadership.

In the conclusion of her book, Matuson describes management as a destination while leadership as a journey. She writes that “the way you choose to lead matters more than your intentions, and that every day is a new opportunity to lead in a way that is memorable for the right reasons.”

Great leadership embraces the notion of continuous learning and growth. To be a magnetic leader, seek to become more of who you are and embrace these seven traits.

Leadership Lessons from New POTUS

January 13, 2017

We can learn a great deal from leaders who model excellent behavior and traits we want to emulate. Other times, when we see poor behavior and traits that demonstrate ineffective leadership, we can learn from this too.

With a new President of the United States, we have an opportunity to see a different kind of leadership, and in many ways an unprecedented approach to governing. Since he has no track record in government, we will have to wait and see whether this translates into an effective new model or a calamitous failure when it comes to leading our country.

In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, author Marshall Goldsmith along with Mark Reiter detail behaviors and traits that have contributed to leaders reaching their current status, yet may be the very things holding them back from succeeding further.

“The higher you go in the organization, the more your problems are behavioral,” write the authors. In my work as a leadership coach and organizational consultant, I have found that it is not so much your intelligence or overall aptitude that inhibits growth in a leader as it is your interpersonal skills. And the further you rise in an organization, the more time and energy you will spend interacting with others.

Of the 20 behaviors detailed by Goldsmith and Reiter, I have selected the following five from which I think we can derive some insight with regard to Donald Trump. Though my comments on these particular traits and behaviors can so far only be attributed to Trump as real estate developer, Presidential candidate and President-elect, I have seen no change to suggest he will be different once he is seated in the oval office.

Five behaviors or traits that undermine strong leadership:

Making destructive comments

Witness the disparaging remarks Trump has made towards women, Muslims, Mexicans, celebrities, the media, Presidential candidates, etc. and you can see that this pattern only serves to weaken his stature as a leader. A strong leader should not demean others in order to appeal to those he wants to lead.

Telling the world how smart we are

Trump’s short declarative statements that rarely contain words demonstrating a broad vocabulary run counter to his contention that he is “very smart.” Demonstrating confidence is vital to leadership, yet boasting too much comes across as arrogant and/or egotistical.

Speaking when angry

This could and should be updated to include “tweeting” to reflect Trump’s rampant use of 140 characters to vent when he feels slighted or intends to shift the focus away from more important issues. Composure is important in leadership and a measured tone is especially vital in matters of international affairs.

Withholding information

Whether it’s refusing to release his tax returns, not detailing potential conflicts of interest, or offering no specifics on an alternative health care plan, these all demonstrate not only a lack of transparency, but the intention to deceive. Effective leadership first and foremost requires trust and holding back information weakens this.

Refusing to express regret

Back in August 2016, the candidate finally expressed a blanket statement of regret for unspecified things he’d said. Though he had a lot of material to point to, Trump refused to specify what it is he regrets. Leadership requires the humility to admit having made mistakes, the knowledge to learn from them, and the discipline to not make them again. If you can’t acknowledge them in the first place, you are bound to repeat them.

Accepting that each of us is a work in progress and capable of life-long learning, leaders have the opportunity to continue their growth to reach their full potential. Perhaps the most important trait is the self-awareness in order to see how our behaviors may undermine our intentions. It is this self-knowledge combined with the insight of a potential disconnect with our values that can bring about the process of change.

As Goldsmith and Reiter point out in their book: “We all obey this natural law: People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”

I am hopeful that Donald Trump’s values are higher than those represented so far in his behaviors, and that he will soon recognize that the disconnect needs to be rectified in order for him to become a great leader. If not, perhaps we can learn how to become better leaders by acting counter to his example.

Leadership & Donald Trump

August 21, 2015

Donald Trump has garnered a significant lead in the early stages of the Republican presidential primary based—at least in part—on his bravado, brand recognition, and Washington-outsider perspective. Trump is also very good at saying provocative or ridiculous things that keep the discussion from more substantive issues.

It is very early in a long campaign and the polls surely reflect people’s dissatisfaction with the status quo. Trump does not speak for rank and file Republicans any more than Bernie Sanders speaks for the majority of Democrats.

However, Trump is building a serious following because he has many outstanding leadership qualities, including confidence, unrelenting tenacity, and fierce negotiating skills. These serve him well in business, but these alone are unlikely to translate into success in winning this campaign or in governing if he were to be elected to the Oval Office.

Let’s take a deeper look at the positive leadership he possesses.

  • Confidence – When it comes to leading, there may be no more important trait than confidence because without it one cannot make tough decisions. Self-confidence provides the foundation others need to see in order to follow. Trump may border on over-confidence at times and he may need to balance this with at least a little humility.
  • Tenacity – Those with tenacity are able to get things done because they don’t give up, and it enables them to stay in the fight when most others seek a way out. Tenacious leaders make good leaders because they are driven to win. No one separates winners from losers more quickly and vocally than Trump, but he should temper this with compassion in order to succeed in politics.
  • Negotiating Skills – No matter the leader, one needs to negotiate deals of some kind. Leaders with superior negotiating skills find ways to get deals done even when there is a standstill. In governing, however, you can’t simply throw more money at problems and exert sheer force of will get bills passed.

Trump has a history of demonstrating these three leadership skills that greatly contributed to his very successful business ventures.

On the other hand, Trump may lack leadership traits that are ultimately vital in effective leaders, especially those in politics. These include integrity, humility, and the ability to inspire and motivate people. Let’s look at each of these more closely.

  • Integrity – Though this term has become the “awesome” in overuse these days, we do want our leaders to have integrity. It’s hard to do the right thing when no one is watching even though, in this day and age, someone is always watching. Trump is constantly backpedaling with regard to the offensive remarks he makes towards a decorated veteran, Mexicans, women and fellow Republican candidates. One has to question whether he really has a soundness of moral character and honesty to lead effectively.
  • Humility – Being humble is never fully appreciated, but of utmost importance to lead effectively. Humility may appear to conflict with confidence, but it is really a counterbalance that prevents over-confidence. All too often, Trump speaks as if he has all the answers and doesn’t need others to help him solve complex problems. His egotistical nature may work in the commercial real estate business, but that won’t translate into governing domestically or effectively managing foreign policy.
  • Inspire and Motivate – The man who tried to trademark “You’re Fired!” is hardly the type to encourage and support others. Instead, Trump rules with an iron fist meant to scare others into performing. While this management technique may work in certain cases for short periods of time, it is not sustainable. And he cannot threaten American voters into voting for him at the risk of being fired. Trump is divisive in a way that provides nightly infotainment, but will not result in competently leading a nation.

In this country, billionaires can pretty much say and do just about anything they want. They can also buy whatever they want, including political influence. (Remember when democracy didn’t include the Koch brothers, George Soros and Citizens United?) But should a candidate be able to single-handedly purchase the highest office in the land?

There is no question Trump has been successful in business, however, that doesn’t necessarily translate into political success. Trump amassed a huge fortune from his various businesses and he has demonstrated many leadership qualities in this effort. But business success doesn’t necessarily translate into political success.

A Washington Post editorial about Donald Trump recently stated: “Anyone—we’re tempted to say any moron—can grab a torch and run in front of the mob. What takes talent is what you might call political anger management: to identify legitimate complaints and turn them into a constructive direction, on behalf of a governing prescription.”

Right now the leading candidates from both parties are polarizing figures: Trump and Hillary Clinton. What is unclear is whether either can be elected.

Leadership in politics, like leadership in business, requires a balanced approach and Donald Trump needs to shore up many areas of his skill set before he will be elected to high office and he can govern effectively.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5440388253″>Donald Trump</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>