What Quintessential Leadership Looks Like: Dealing With Unquintessential Leaders

Posted: January 24, 2016 in Examples and Analyses of Quintessential Leadership
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Quintessential Leadership is both a goal and a mountain to climb, replete with stumbles, falls, and setbacks that we must recover from, learn from, and getting up and keep climbing from



This blog describes what quintessential leadership looks – and doesn’t look – like and the aspects of every part of who and what we are in our lives from the inside out that each of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders must be aware of, must examine carefully, and must be in a constant state of forward progress to changing to become quintessential leaders.

The reality is that none of us is there yet and that includes me.

But the critical difference between those of us for whom quintessential leadership is a life goal and those for whom it is not is that it is always uppermost on our minds and in our words and actions and we are acutely aware when we fall short or miss the mark entirely of this everpresent goal in our lives.

Quintessential leaders learn the lessons from each fall on their road to progressInstead of blithely going on after sometimes epic falls, quintessential leaders stop and do sometimes-painful – because we see in ourselves things we don’t want to be and are trying not to be and yet are still wrestling to overcome and replace with what we want to be – post-mortems of our falls.

Why? Because only in those bruised and humbling times can we discern the heart of what caused our falls and what we need to diligently work on to prevent future similar falls.

These are our moments of truth, when we look in the mirror without excuses, without justifications, without rationalizations, without anything but the cold reality that we’re still not there yet and there are miles yet to go toward the goal of quintessential leadership before we sleep.

One of the areas that seems ripe for falls for quintessential leaders is when we have to interact on any level for any length of time with unquintessential leaders. 

Or perhaps it’s just an area where I trip and fall, sometimes spectacularly, more often than I want to and should.

But my falls – and the moments of truth about myself that they bring me face-to-face with – contain lessons that I learn from and grow from because they increase my awareness of my areas of weakness and how they derail me in my trek toward quintessential leadership.

My falls also keep me humble. I am reminded of the things in myself that, while I’m actively working on changing and improving and/or eliminating them, seem to be so hardwired in who and what I am – and don’t want to be – that they continually will come to the forefront to prod me further down the road away from them and toward the better self that I am striving to become.

That’s productive and it’s instructive in the long run. And that’s for my own good in my quest toward absolute quintessential leadership.

That leads me to one of the areas of quintessential leadership that I struggle with and fall in more than I want to or should: interacting with unquintessential leaders at any level for any amount of time.

So I’ll share the lessons I’m learning and working on as this seems to be a situation I find myself more and more in as unquintessential leadership has become the norm and acceptable in our society.

Unquintessential leaders are masters at pushing buttons, whether intentionally or notUnquintessential leaders will push, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally, if we allow them to, every button we have until, if we don’t take diligent heed to ourselves and practice self-control at all times, we can often become a mirror of their unquintessential leadership.

What, then, does quintessential leadership look like when all our buttons are being pushed at the same time?

  1. Remain calm. Anger, whether justified or not, is a volatile emotion and can get out of control before we even realize it’s turned into a raging fire. The problem with sustained anger (there are times to be upset and confront things that are wrong, but often we allow anger to simmer and turn into brooding, grudges, and malice) is that it blinds us to reason, to logic, to rational thinking and, instead, we may do and say all the wrong things, making the situation we’re in much, much worse.
  2. Don’t engage. People who like to push other people’s buttons – and unquintessential leaders are often among them – do it because they like to keep the pot stirred and they like the fight they hope will materialize. They’re not invested in the resultant turmoil and can easily turn it off and walk away as if nothing happened. However, we who are invested find it difficult to shake off all the stuff inherent in these button-pushing episodes when we make the mistake of engaging.
  3. Be quiet. Words from unquintessential leaders in a button-pushing episode are like a torch thrown on a stack of wood. When we add our own words, we add the gasoline to create a massive conflagration that is sure to maximize the destruction. Our silence, on the other hand, is a pail of water thrown on the burning wood to extinguish the fire and ensure that no damage occurs.
  4. Be still. When our buttons are pushed by unquintessential leaders, our physiological systems automatically kick on and ramp up to high gear in a heartbeat. Adrenaline leads the way, putting us into an instinctive fight-or-flight mode. If we are not still and respond to the hormonal change without taking the time to think whether we should or not, we will end up either taking flight instead of remaining in place or fighting instead of determining how to best handle the situation if, in fact, we even need to.

Over time, I’ve made progress in all these areas. In some I’ve made great strides forward while in others I’m often chagrined at how easily they can still trip me up.

But each time I’m faced with this situation is instructive, showing me where I’ve grown and changed as well as showing me where I still need to grow and change.

Quintessential leaders are not stagnant nor do they embrace being good enough as an ideal or permanent stateThat is the nature of life and progress for those of us who have chosen the path of quintessential leadership. We never accept stagnation as an ideal or permanent state of our being, nor do we ever embrace the idea that being good enough is enough.

Several months ago someone that I know well said to me, “You’re not the same person you were ten years ago.”

It was thrown at me as an ultimate insult because this person disagrees, in very fundamental ways, with my continued striving to be a quintessential leader, but instead I realized the truth of what was said and that, in fact, it was the greatest compliment this person could have given me, because the change was tangible, visible, and evident.

Consider now how you interact with unquintessential leaders on any level for any length of time.

Consider your life. Have you embraced being good enough? Is stagnation an ideal and/or permanent state you find yourself in and that’s okay?

Consider yourself. Could someone visibly see that you’ve grown over a period of time and their insult in saying so being instead a compliment to how much progress you’ve made?

How are we doing?



  1. I think age helps you deal with the situation when others push your buttons. When I was in my 20s and someone pushed my buttons, watch out, I got even, I was mean, and I turned into the Dragon Lady who came out of the closet. By my 40s I began to mellow. In my 50s I seldom react to insults from others. Keeping a calm demeaner really upsets those that insult you. I have changed, I have seen enough of life to know not to waste my time and energy on Unquintessential leaders.
    Good post Sandra.


    • Thank you for your comments, Liz. I think some of us grapple with some really engrained personality and/or temperament traits all our lives and our goal is to finally gain the upper hand over them in self-control. That’s not so much an age thing, in my opinion, as it is a conscious effort to master the worst of ourselves and mature toward a better version with time.

      Liked by 1 person

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