Explaining the modern leadership void

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Linda Hill and Kent Lineback appear to collaborate often, including on this book about “imperatives for becoming a great leader.” (The No. 1 imperative for that, IMHO, is caring about something more than just targets.) They wrote an article for Harvard Business Review on the first thing that new managers need to master, and it makes a cool point somewhere near the middle. Before I get to the point, a quick tangent.

There’s a large difference between being a “leader” and a “manager.” It goes back to a little of what I said in italics above: managers mostly focus on hitting targets and goals. Leaders are more transformative and help change people, their approaches, and potentially even their career arc. I’d say it’s kind of all about transactional vs. transformative; managers are the former, and leaders are the latter.

Here’s the equation they propose:

Competency + Character = Trust + Consistency = Leadership

Think about this honestly, because it works in your own life.

Basically, if you want to be seen as a leader — with your friends, in your family, at work, in your marriage — you’re essentially aiming for a combination of trust and consistency (trust over time). The way you get trust, in turn, is showing that you have competency (you know what the hell you’re talking about) and character (you pretty consistently do the same things and don’t chase any new opportunity for money, sex, greed, vice, etc.)

This has a lot of implications when you’re talking about work, because one of the big things most senior managers fear is perception of incompetence. That drives a lot of decision-making, especially when you consider that senior managers often set the tone/agenda/deliverables for their teams, right? So oftentimes they’re going to set those things around concepts they already understand — easier to hit targets on — as opposed to new concepts that potentially could make money for the company. You see this all the time with “traditional marketing vs. digital marketing.”

If the competency aspect of the trust equation is forced — if it’s not real competency but leaders protecting themselves from new things — then that has the same implications of forcing employees to be “inauthentic” because of ideas around “professionalism.”

“Character” doesn’t have a huge place in work and business either, sadly.

So if “character” and “competency” are mostly lacking, then by the nature of this equation, trust is lacking — and if trust is lacking and it can’t be delivered consistently, then …

Leadership Void.

That’s what we have right now, I think.


My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money: http://thecontextofthings.com/hire-freelance-writer-ted-bauer/

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