The 5 Times Your Leadership Is Guaranteed to Fail

Lolly Daskal is another leadership blogger whom I have been following for some time. Her frequent posts have given me food for thought as I lead, and as I observe others lead.

In this post, she names five key characteristics of a good leader. Everyone has their own list, but I think that these five points are absolutely essential. Read this and see if you don’t agree.

The 5 Times Your Leadership Is Guaranteed to Fail

Posted on 17 May, 2016 by Lolly Daskal

Missed target

We all want leadership to be successful. But some circumstances are reliable pointers to failure. Learn what they are and how to avoid them.

Done right, leadership is difficult. It brings great rewards, but at great risk. You have to put yourself on the line—so when you do, you want the best possible odds of success.

In some situations, though, failure is all but guaranteed. Here are five of the most common. Get to know them so you can steer far clear.

  1. When there is no trust. Leadership is about credibility and reliability; to be an effective leader, your followers must have trust in you. That’s why it’s critical to always take responsibility for your actions. Make sure your people feel guided and supported in their work and show that they can trust your leadership.
  2. When there is no character. Leaders build excellence—helping their team become all that they are capable of. To reach that level of excellence requires leadership that is grounded in character. Excellence starts with leaders of strong character who model doing what is right, not what is easy.
  3. When there is no communication. No one ever became a great leader without first becoming a great communicator. Successful leaders connect with people on an emotional level every time they speak. Their words build relationships, teach, and inspire others. Great communication also means listening well and treating your team with candor and honesty.
  4. When there is no respect. You can’t lead anyone who doesn’t respect you, and it’s hard to lead those you don’t also respect. Respect must be first given before its earned. That means thinking about every small thing you do as a leader and how it is perceived. Leaders who know how to give the utmost respect will receive respect, in the form of loyalty and performance.
  5. When there is no ability. To be successful requires tactical and technical proficiency. In any organization it is the leader’s capabilities and performance that set the tone for the team’s engagement. Leadership is empty without an understanding of the work at hand, and the best leaders work constantly to improve their expertise.

How is your own leadership looking? Are you doing what it takes to propel it forward?

Lead from within: Decide what kind of leader you going to be—the kind who is content to think of themselves as the best, or the one of the few greats whose leadership achieves the highest levels.

The original post may be found here.

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Unwarranted Confidence, or Too Dumb to Know that I’m Dumb

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I was recently introduced to a fascinating psychological concept known as the Dunning Kruger Effect.[1] One reason it grabbed my attention was that John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, was the one who introduced it to me. You may not be aware that Cleese is a Visiting Professor at Cornell University, where he lectures on the creative process, among other things. Wouldn’t you love to take classes from him?

Cleese describes the effect: “in order to know how good you are at something requires exactly the same skills as it does to be good at that thing in the first place. Which means, and this is terribly funny, that if you are absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you’re absolutely no good at it.” He adds “You see, if you are very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you are very, very stupid? You’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.”[2]

The Dunning Kruger Effect is a phenomenon where unskilled individuals rate their own abilities much higher than they really are, simply because they lack the skills to properly evaluate their own skills. This idea has been validated in well-constructed studies measuring self-awareness of social, logical and grammatical skills. Statistical analysis showed that the effect held true in each of these unrelated areas. Another portion showed that when individuals received some training in the subject material, their ability to self-assess improved significantly.[3]

This has been compared to the “Lake Wobegon Effect,” as stated by Garrison Keillor: “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Without proper feedback, everyone views themselves as above average. And most of us realize that this is a mathematical impossibility. Of course, there is no research to substantiate this effect.

What does this mean for leaders? How can we apply this? If the unskilled cannot accurately evaluate their own performance, how can we expect them to function better? The leader must invest time and effort in training the people he leads if he expects his organization to move forward. It may be argued that only the leader’s investment in himself or herself is more important.

This training may also be delegated to other capable individuals. But the unskilled must have good mentors! And the mentors also need regular guidance.

I believe that this is why so many leaders choose to micromanage: to them, it seems simpler to manage everything themselves than to train their followers. In like manner, it is much quicker for a parent to do household chores than to take the time to help their children learn. But the time invested pays big dividends.

This is a lesson that a teacher should understand well. As our dental students begin to learn dental skills, I have noticed that it is difficult for them to evaluate their work, but as they progress, their evaluation skills tend to improve. And it is absolutely critical that they learn to accurately self-assess before they receive their degrees! I will never forget the morning a new third-year student received a start check to perform just his second restorative procedure on a live patient. With an air of confidence, he told the attending faculty “In my experience this is very straightforward.” I wonder if he still feels that way.

And added challenge for the leader is that the incompetent are generally unable to recognize competence in others. Based on the work of Dunning, it becomes imperative that we make sure that those whom we lead have sufficient training to do what is expected of them. If we fail to provide that training, we are preparing our organization for failure. Individual growth leads to organizational growth.

A good leader trains his people.

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.” 

-Benjamin Franklin

[1] Dunning, D., et al. (2003). Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence. Current Direction in Psychological Science, 12:3, 83-87.

[2] YouTube. John Cleese On Stupidity, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvVPdyYeaQU

[3] Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1121–1134.