The articles that Quintessential Leader is recommending in this week’s reading are very interrelated. One of the things that quintessential leaders do that makes them stand out from people who just have leadership titles but are not leaders is to think outside the box.

Thinking outside the box means the status quo – “that’s the way we’ve always done things” – is constantly being evaluated, challenged, and changed to better, smarter, more effective, and more efficient ways of growing and succeeding.

Overwhelmingly, the lack of leadership and the stagnation that seems to be epidemic in organizations today is because of the limitations people in leadership positions impose on the organizations. There is very little original thinking, very little innovation, and very little forward motion.

A lot of organizations are stuck in mindsets and methodologies of the past (theirs or others) and they operate from that outdated and unproductive viewpoint, all the while bemoaning the lackluster and tepid, at best, results of their efforts.

The fear of change and what change means to our comfort zones is part of the problem. The other part is that a lot of people in leadership positions are afraid of not being in control, which inviting and encouraging change will inevitably threaten.

But quintessential leaders are not egocentric. We understand that we are not the sole source of value in our organizations and teams and that when we involve – and grow – everyone on the team and in the organization in a meaningful way that uses each person’s gifts and talents to their fullest potentials, everybody wins and our organizations succeed. 

Quintessential leaders will surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are, know more than they know, and who will, in the collective effort of the team, ensure successful outcomes. This is the heart of leadership. And it is why there are so few quintessential leaders in most organizations.

In the article “Leader or Hero? Learning to Delegate,” Gordon Tredgold discusses a key component of quintessential leadership, which is delegation. Heroes insist on doing everything themselves. They are the ultimate examples of needing to be in complete control of everything. Heroes also get overwhelmed, stressed out, develop martyr complexes, and end up either doing many things poorly or, worse, not doing things that should be done at all.

Quintessential leaders are not heroes. They assemble competent teams, identify or develop (recognizing potential is one of the most common thinking-outside-the-box areas missing in recruiting and hiring in most organizations today) the strengths and abilities of those team members and then delegate accordingly.

I’ll give you an example of what this looks like. In one organization I worked for part of my teams’ responsibilities included detailed numbers work and reporting. While I can do that if push comes to shove, it’s not my forte and I don’t enjoy it and I usually end up making mistakes because, although I know it’s necessary, I dislike it so much that I rush through it to get it over with.

One of my team members, on the other hand, was excellent with this kind of work and really enjoyed it. So, guess who got to run with all the reporting and numbers work for the teams…and who also got all the credit?

And because it was appropriate and responsible delegation, we developed a high-trust relationship. I didn’t tell her how to do it – she knew better ways than I did of how it could best be accomplished – only what the final results needed to include. We teamed up and communicated well and often.

She knew she could count on me anytime she needed resources she didn’t have or needed me to pull some weight or run interference so she could get her job done. I knew her work was accurate and high-quality and it was one area I didn’t have to worry about.

I believe one of the reasons that so many people in leadership positions are heroes is because they don’t hire well (or are too insecure to hire someone who is better at doing something than they are). So they have no one to appropriately delegate too.

If you’re a leader who finds him or herself in a “hero” role, look at the team you’ve assembled and see if you’re overlooking talent or potential that you could delegate areas of responsibility to.

If you look at your team and don’t find anyone that you could delegate appropriately and responsibly to, then you’ve done a poor job of assembling your team and fixing that is the immediate priority on your to-do list.

Aad Boot’s “Mindset and Attitude Affect How We Lead Change (And How We Make Think outside the boxChanges in Ourselves) is very insightful about the difference in mindsets and attitudes in quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders. Change is inevitable. How we, as quintessential leaders, approach, handle, and lead change is critical. As you’re reading this article, think about which of the two mindsets/attitudes that are presented in each of the bullet points describes your attitude and mindset toward change in every area of life. None of us handle change as well as we could, but the key to improving is to fix how we see and respond to change.

In the article, “6 Reasons Leaders Make Bad Decisions,” Glenn Lopis highlights six unquintessential leadership traits that we, as quintessential leaders, must always be on guard against. Our teams depend on us to lead. When we show that something other than leading our teams (which, again, means thinking outside the box all the time) is more important to us than that, then we become unquintessential leaders.

One of Lopis’s reasons for leaders making bad decisions is not seeing the opportunity. This goes back to mindset and reminds me of the twelve spies from Israel that were sent into Canaan to scout out the land. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, saw the opportunity. The other ten saw the problems. You can read the rest of the story for yourself to see why unquintessential leadership prevailing brings disastrous results.

Mike Myatt’s article, “The Most Common Leadership Model – And Why It’s Broken,” reiterates a topic I’ve discussed here before and also which represents not thinking outside the box. I’ve often described the extensive experience I bring to the table for any organization contemplating hiring me is comprised mostly of “soft skills” that are embedded in the competency areas of that same experience. One of the key areas I look for in team members is “soft skills.”

I’ve always said and will continue to say, because I believe it, that I can teach anyone the technical competencies a job requires, but I can’t teach them the “soft skills.” They either have them or they don’t. If they have them, all other things being equal, they’ll be on my team. I’m usually willing to take chances on people who possess “soft skills” and no technical competency because I know the value of “soft skills” and how they can be difficult to find, especially in highly-technical fields.

I’ll let Mike analyze the value of “soft skills” compared to “competency” from here because he gives a credible voice to what I’ve experienced most organizations never take into consideration: “Any organization that over weights the importance of technical competency fails to recognize the considerable, and often-untapped value contained in the whole of the person. It’s the cumulative power of a person’s soft skills, the sum of the parts if you will, that creates real value. It not what a person knows so much as it is how they’re able to use said knowledge to inspire and create brilliance in others that really matters.”

Once again, this is thinking outside the box. That is a vital requirement for us as quintessential leaders. Without it, we will fail our organizations, our teams, and ourselves.

I hope you’ve all had a good week and that your journey toward quintessential leadership has been fruitful and productive!

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