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(Book Note) The Leadership Gap

Reading Notes

  • There are “seven archetypes” of leaders which have its own leadership gaps which are opportunity that can be leveraged for greatness.
  • When leaders face challenges, they often fall back on skills and behaviors that served them in the past, but that may not be enough in the present world.
  • Leaders tend to embody one of seven “leadership archetypes,” each with strengths and with “leadership gaps” that can inhibit growth.
  • Recognizing leadership gaps and working to leverage them can make a leader great. In layman term;
    1. “Rebels” are confident and capable, but self-doubt can turn them into “Imposters.”
    2. “Explorers” are intuitive problem solvers, but if they use their intuition to manipulate others, they can become “Exploiters.”
    3. “Truth Tellers” value radical honesty, but suspicion can transform them into “Deceivers.”
    4. “Heroes” take action for the greater good, but fear can convert them to “Bystanders.”
    5. “Inventors” prize innovation, but compromising their integrity can make them “Destroyers.”
    6. “Navigators” can discern the best path through hard times, but if they don’t foster trust within their organizations, they can turn into “Fixers.”
    7. “Knights” serve others for a cause, but if they’re self-serving, they can be “Mercenaries.”

All leaders or aspiring leaders, will face situations which we would resist our go-to strategies. Too often at such points, we tend to avoid the need for change. But in these situation where we should appreciate and grow, but only if we were ready to acknowledge and learn to leverage on our shortcomings, we will become greater leaders.

Leadership style and their respective leadership gaps can be grouped in seven basic, positive archetypes, and each with their own polarity of character, their competing side. No leader conforms, at all times, to any one archetype. But most people have a tendency toward a single type all the time.

Identifying and fixing leadership gaps begins when leaders explore aspects of themselves they might rather ignore or keep hidden.

The difference between mediocre leaders and great ones isn’t that the great ones never falter. Great leaders willingly face hard truths about ineffective patterns in their behavior and make appropriate changes. All leaders have the capacity for greatness but many believe that they must hide their imperfections, instead of defeating them. This creates leadership gaps, which deepen with time. But leaders who take ownership of their gaps can turn weaknesses into strengths.

The seven leadership archetypes (strengths and weaknesses)

1. “The Rebel” and “the Imposter”

This are referring to those of the bold, capable and willing to upend the status quo in service of a greater good.

For example, consider the history of Girl Scouts of America …

In the mid-1970s, the Girl Scouts of America hired Frances Hesselbein to revive their declining organization. She knew her success hinged on “questioning everything” about how the Scouts helped girls achieve their goals. She pushed for greater racial and socioeconomic diversity, modernized the Scouts’ handbook, and revamped the organizational structure.

Successful rebels sweep out the old to let the new in with calmness and competency in order to unite people. Rebels’ confidence allows them to lead and gives others the bravery to follow. True confidence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It results from rebels’ knowledge of their capabilities. And with such dependency, self-doubt can seriously undermine that confidence. Rebels who feel like frauds often second-guess their abilities. This fear of exposure creates a leadership gap and spawns the flip-side personality, the imposter.

Imposters (rebels in doubts) often doubt their right to lead, seek irrational perfection, become people pleasers, compare themselves with others and act in self-sabotaging ways. Closing this leadership gap requires leaders to focus on their own accomplishments to stop expecting perfection and to cultivate supporters who believe in them.

Great rebel leaders like Elon Musk and Gloria Steinem acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, work to improve their skills, accept their imperfections, adapt willingly to changing circumstances, believe in their causes, and act with confidence when things get tough.

Having been in such situation myself, looking at my previous achievement and ability helps in overcoming self-doubts. In truth, getting out of the slumps is not easy but with experience, you will be better.

“To have integrity, you have to know who you are, you have to know what you stand for and you have to know how to act in honor of your code.”

2. “The Explorer” and “the Exploiter”

Explorers solve problems and chart new paths by leveraging their intuition.

Safia Minney, the founder and CEO of People Tree, decided to create an ethical fashion company because she felt “fast fashion” harmed workers. Her resistance to being exploited drove her to find more ethical ways to manufacture clothing. Explorers like Minney create new methodologies and test the bounds of what’s possible.

Explorers’ driven by instincts and intuition rather than relying on analytical sense, they ask themselves what “feels right.”

Competent leaders who nurture their instincts can reap great rewards. Unfortunately, the same intuitive abilities that help explorers become good leaders can draw them into using “their intuition to manipulate others…to gain control.” Explorers who fall into this gap become exploiters. Although it might seem to be odd, when I think of the traits of explorer and exploiter, it remind me of the J.K. Rowling characters Gellert Grindelwald  and  Albus  Dumbledore. Both are great leaders and very adept at exploiting others to do their bidding.

Exploiters control others by using information as a weapon and making people fearful of upsetting them. Fixing this leadership gap requires leaders to turn their attention away from self-interest and toward the good of others. They must focus on cooperation more than hierarchy, stop exploiting others’ weaknesses and avoid double-talk.

“The moment you choose not to be a bystander is the moment you uncover the hero within.”

3. “The Truth Teller” and “the Deceiver”

The truth teller places a premium on honesty and applies radical openness in the service of other people.

For example … Truth tellers’ power stems from their commitment to honesty

When forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered anomalies in the brains of former professional football players, he didn’t allow the National Football League (NFL) to intimidate him into staying silent. Omalu believed that revealing the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former pro football players was important. He was willing to suffer the negative consequences of going against the NFL and its backers. Truth tellers like Omalu help others by speaking up and acting with candor; they don’t let fear dissuade them.

However, a potential leadership gap could emerges, when truth tellers become suspicious that others aren’t being truthful. This worry can lead truth tellers to treat colleagues like deceivers or even to turn around and become deceivers to protect themselves. They can counter this behavior in themselves by avoiding self-deception, not letting their insecurities dictate their actions and accepting the fact that no one is perfect.

“Bridging the gap between being a knight who is loyal and the mercenary who is self-serving requires an understanding that leaders come from a place of dedication, devotion and duty.”

Deceivers (the opposites of truth tellers) use charm and manipulation to get what they want. They shift blame to others and exploit loopholes. Truth tellers can stop deceivers by calling them out.

Fore example …

Great truth tellers like Winston Churchill work on engendering honesty in themselves, their colleagues and their organizations. They commit to open communication and equality, pursue a high-minded collective mission, and cultivate a working environment where people know they can safely make mistakes and speak the truth.    

“There are leaders who will use their intuition and leaders who will use only their logic and analytical mind. The best kind of leader – the explorer uses both.”

4. “The Hero” and “the Bystander”

Heroes boldly take action for the greater good of their organization.

For example …

When the Ford Motor Company began losing ground to competitors, Henry Ford’s son Edsel knew the business model needed revamping. Though the pioneering Henry fought Edsel’s proposed changes for years, Edsel never gave up. After bravely persevering, he managed to convince his father to adjust to their consumers’ new wants. That’s how Edsel saved Ford Motors. Such heroes do what needs to be done, even when they face powerful opposition.

“Leading with confidence is not about always knowing the answers; it’s about knowing what you know and don’t know.”

The secret to heroes’ success is their courage and determination. They act freely on behalf of others without thinking about the cost to themselves. But fear can turn even the boldest hero into his or her antithesis, that is the bystander.

Bystanders wait for other people in a group to act rather than acting themselves. The larger the group is, the more likely a bystander is to be passive. That may explain why people fail to intervene in cases of workplace bullying. Rather than act, witnesses mostly stand by and passively watch the bad behavior occur.

“We think confidence is all we need to do well on the job and in our lives when, in reality, it is confidence combined with competence that makes leaders great.”

Changing from being a bystander to being a hero requires would-be leaders to set aside their fear and display courage in the face of obstacles. They must act and speak decisively, calmly and straightforwardly.

Heroes like retired US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling live by their convictions and encourage others to do the same, regardless of the possible consequences or censure. Heroes protect their employees and encourage them to voice their concerns, identify problems with projects and offer bold solutions.

“Great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are; they are open to learning, changing and growing as leaders.”

5. “The Inventor” and “the Destroyer”

Inventors prioritize innovation and won’t compromise their vision.

For example…

Sukiyabashi Jiro is regarded as “the best sushi restaurant in the world, owes its reputation to the excellence and originality of it master chef Jiro Ono, who constantly innovates and refines his dishes. He uses only the finest ingredients served at their culinary best. Inventors like Ono always look for ways to improve their products and processes.

They’re willing to explore new ideas, even if they don’t always work out. Integrity drives an innovator’s actions. Inventors know themselves, know what they believe and know how they want to act. They hold themselves accountable to keep their promises, tell the truth, treat others respectfully, build trust and adhere to their personal moral code.

However, if inventors give in to the temptation to compromise their integrity and embrace corruption, they stop creating and begin acting as destroyers.

Destroyers pursue their own wants at the expense of other people and, ultimately, undermine their organization. Bridging this leadership gap requires focusing on the positive not the negative, looking for the chance to praise others rather than blaming them, modeling the high-integrity behavior you wish others to display, and resisting the urge to compromise your values. Great inventors like Walt Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda work to strengthen their personal character, identify and fight faults within themselves, and interact honestly and humbly with others.

6. “The Navigator” and “the Fixer”

Navigators masterfully direct people and organizations through complex circumstances toward the best solutions.

For example…

As special adviser to New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ester Fuchs helped greatly reduce how much trash people dump into Jamaica Bay near Queens, New York. Rather than tackle the issue on a surface level, she sought a solution for the root cause. She exemplifies the navigator’s ability to cut to the core of a problem and find the most effective – rather than the easiest – solutions. Navigators see the route they need to take and understand where to lead their teams. They trust themselves and earn the trust of other people. Trust born of confidence allows navigators to break down barriers.

However, navigators who arrogantly demand that others follow them can become fixers. Fixers don’t give nor receive trust. They try to micromanage situations because they believe they are the only ones who can solve problems. This is both ill-advised and short-sighted behaviors.

They focus too much on controlling others that they most likely to suffer burnout.

Overcoming this leadership gap depends on re-establishing boundaries. As navigators like Bloomberg and Sheryl Sandberg illustrate, leaders must resist the urge to rescue others and learn to trust them instead, but they also must pay attention to the ‘need help’ signs and intervene when necessary.

They must appreciate and respect their team members and nurture a culture of trust by encouraging communication, commitment, competence and good character. This would be a tremendous opportunity for both the leaders and followers to grow personally and as a team, and an opportunity to nurture trust.

7. “The Knight” and “the Mercenary”

Knights fight fiercely for just causes and look for ways to serve others.

For example …

When Kind snack food founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky discovered that out-of-date US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines classified his company’s snack bars as unhealthy to eat, he filed a petition calling for the FDA to update its guidelines to reflect modern knowledge about nutrition. The FDA agreed. Lubetzky’s determination to defend his company’s mission, employees and customers makes him a knight exemplar.

The give-and-take support of loyal managers and colleagues makes people more willing to innovate. It gives them an identity and purpose that build unity.

However, if knights’ pursuit of loyalty becomes self-serving, they can transform into mercenaries who act only for themselves. Mercenaries don’t want to help others succeed, don’t protect their team members and blame their mistakes on others.

Would-be knight leaders must focus on helping others. They should listen to other people and take an interest in them. Knights consider alternate points of view, show compassion, model good behavior and consider the ways their actions affect others. Great knight leaders choose their team members wisely; articulate a clear organizational mission; and engage with their colleagues personally, respectfully and honestly.

So, which of these 7 leader type are you?

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