Archive for the ‘Myths and Misconceptions About Management’ Category

This is an excellent quintessential leadership post by Dan Rockwell. Alarmists tell everybody all the time all the things that could, that might, that possibly go wrong and they expect everybody, including those of us in leadership positions, to address and focus on these potential problems (which, by the way, seldom materialize at all, or in the rare cases, they do, not at all the way the alarmists envisioned them) instead of the real problems, issues, and projects at hand.

My way of addressing this alarmist syndrome on my teams is to tell them at the outset not to bring a problem – real or potential – to me without bringing me a solution as well. And “Do you have a solution?” was always the question I asked as soon as I heard either “We have a problem…” or “We might have a problem…” If the answer I got was “No,” then I reminded the person that they had a part in the process of solving real or potential problems and they hadn’t done their part, so we wouldn’t discuss until they had.

Potential problems, interestingly, almost never came back to me. Real problems did, but so did some really innovative solutions, which was win-win for everyone.

These value-priced quintessential leadership eBooks are available for download on The Quintessential Leader blog’s business website:

Building Trust and Being TrustworthyBuilding Trust and Being Trustworthy is also available from Amazon in print and Kindle versions.

If you don’t read another book this year, I highly recommend that you read Building Trust and Being Trustworthy. These are not just leadership or quintessential leadership principles. These are essential life principles that each of us should be incorporating into who we are and who we are becoming. Each of us. You. Me. Our children. Our grandchildren. Because we are all current quintessential leaders and we are responsible for cultivating, mentoring, and growing future quintessential leaders.

A mother shared these words with me after reading Building Trust and Being Trustworthy: “Just finished reading this book….EXCELLENT! In fact I’m going to make it a required read for my girls this year! Mine’s all marked in and highlighted…so I may have to get a new copy for them! Thank you, Sandra, for all the time and effort you put into this book or manual for life!”

Building Trust and Being Trustworthy is written for all of us in quintessential leadership positions: leaders of organizations, leaders of business units, leaders of teams, leaders of education, leaders of congregations, leaders of social organizations, leaders of civic organizations, leaders of families, leaders of ourselves, and those we lead.

All of us are part of many teams during our lifetimes: family, schools, social organizations, religious organizations, and business organizations are the major teams we are a part of throughout our lives. And, while we as individuals, are striving to become quintessential leaders, we often find that we are the only or one of a handful of team members on the various teams we are a part of that are.

So today’s post asks each of us to assess the teams we are a part of and determine whether the teams practice quintessential leadership or unquintessential leadership.

If they practice quintessential leadership, then we should encourage and grow that by becoming more quintessential in our personal leadership (modeling and mentoring quintessential leadership).

However, if one or many or all the teams we’re a part of practice unquintessential leadership, then today’s question for each of you to answer – please share your comments here because we who a part of this blog are a team and we can learn from each other – is what do you and I do personally to work to change that?

In Mike Myatt’s article, “30 Outdated Leadership Practices Holding Your Company Back,” he has a chart that, in general, shows unquintessential leadership practices (left column) and quintessential leadership practices (right column):unquintessential leader and quintessential leader practices 2013

Which column, in general, describes each team you’re a part of? And to answer this honestly and accurately, each of us must first ask which column, in general, describes us individually as people and as leaders?

In this earlier post, I discussed how quintessential leaders look into mirrors while unquintessential leaders look through windows. Take a moment and go back to review that post. Because today’s post gives us another opportunity, as quintessential leaders, to look into a mirror. 

The question, then, is will I? Will you?

Are a lot of the people you know – and answer to on the job – in leadership positions psychopaths? Are you a psychopath in a leadership position? Am I? Tough questions for us personally to answer, but not very tough to answer if we’ve worked with psychopaths.

I have worked with several in my career. Each one had a different personality and temperament, but they all shared the same destructive traits of psychopaths.

There seems to be a disproportionate number of psychopaths, compared to the general population, who end up in leadership positions. In “Sometimes the boss really is a psycho,” one researcher found that about 4% of the 203 executives he studied were psychopaths, while psychopaths make up only about 1% of the general population.

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears PradaWhen I think of the epitome of a psychopathic person in a leadership position, I think of Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly, in The Devil Wears Prada.

Some of the characteristics of psychopaths in leadership positions include:

  • Skillful and continual manipulation – bullying, threatening, and intimidating subordinates and charming, flattering, and fawning over superiors – of everyone in the organization
  • Over-inflated ego and sense of self-importance
  • Pathological lying
  • Absence of a sense of right and wrong
  • Absence of remorse and regret
  • Absence of empathy and sympathy
  • Toxicity

liam neeson oskar schindler schindler's listWhen I think of the opposite of Miranda Priestly, sticking with the movies here, I think of Oskar Schindler, portrayed by Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List.

Some of the characteristics of real leaders are:

  • Trustworthiness in everything
  • Strong convictions about right and wrong
  • Willingness to do whatever it takes to do the right thing, regardless of personal or professional cost
  • Humility
  • Strong sense of empathy and sympathy
  • Fairness with everyone

Have you worked with a psychopath in a leadership position? How did it affect you and the organization? What characteristics can you add to the list of psychopath traits as something we all need to be aware of?

Have you worked with a real leader? How did it affect you and the organization? What characteristics did he or she have that you learned and can add to the list of characteristics of real leaders?

Your turn.

Today’s post will discuss the mindset of unquintessential leadership and how that mindset gets expressed in actions and words. As quintessential leaders, it’s important that we are reminded from time to time of what quintessential leadership is not, so we can examine our own mindsets (attitudes and motivations) and words and actions to ensure that we’re not letting unquissential leadership creep in.

The reality is that there are far more unquintessential leadership examples around us than quintessential leadership examples.

Most of the people in leadership positions today have a mixture of the two, with more of an unquintessial leadership mindset than a quintessential leadership mindset.

This creates confusion and an atmosphere of constant uncertainty because we never know which to expect under any given circumstance. This mixture engenders continual instability and a pervasive lack of trust.

However, there are some people in leadership positions who have purely unquintessential leadership mindsets (with no quintessential leadership in their mindsets at all). We can readily spot them because their words and actions – indeed, the very core of who they are – ooze with the characteristics of the unquintessential leader mindset.

I always suspect mental illness(es) in these cases because, in general, we humans who are sane – more or less – tend to be, regrettably, a mixture of good and bad, but someone who exhibits nothing but unquintessential leadership has nothing good in his or her thinking, actions, and words. It simply cannot be found.

So let’s take a look at the major characteristics of the unquintessential leadership mindset and what each of them look like in action.

It is ALWAYS all about METhe first is pride and arrogance. The unquintessential leadership mindset is primarily narcissistic, so for the person who has this mindset everything is always all about them. What does this look like in action?

Constant self-promotion and exaggeration of importance, position and status in words and actions is one way this pride and arrogance manifests itself. No one is better, brighter, or more right.

This mindset is one of being superior to and more special than everyone else. The world – no, make that the universe – revolves around the unquintessential leader.

Nothing and no one else matters except for him or her and anyone who doesn’t realize that is the object of the unquintessential leader’s derision and condemnation.

Unquintessential leaders are, in short, legends in their own minds.

Another characteristic of the unquintessential leadership mindset is the need to control everything and everybody. What does this look like in practice?

Absolutely no challenge to the authority, authenticity, correctness, and thoughts, ideas, opinions, and edicts – because that’s what unquintessential leaders issue – is tolerated or allowed. Absolute and complete loyalty to the unquintessential leader is demanded and tested routinely. Action to squelch and remove real or perceived challenges on any of these fronts is swift and brutal.

Threats and intimidation (bullying) are another characteristic of the mindset of unquintessential leadership. This characteristic in action is a constant barrage of harassment and haranguing. An atmosphere of fear is created by the continual reminders that those under unquintessential leadership have tenuous positions and one “wrong” word or move will result in their eliminations and expulsions.

Language is the primary weapon in this characteristic, with repetition on a constant basis of what the negative consequences are that the unquissential leader holds over the heads of those cross him or her.

Manipulation is another characteristic of the unquintessential leadership mindset. Manipulation is accomplished by spin doctoring everything to make everything support what the unquintessential leader believes about him or herself.

Its effectiveness depends on a lack of critical thinking, fear, and the everpresent specter of punishment. It can be quite effective with people who either can’t, won’t, and don’t know how to think for themselves.

This is one of the most subtle characteristics, and, therefore, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous.

Another characteristic of the unquintessential leadership is the creation and maintenance of an atmosphere of suspicion and war anywhere the unquintessential leader is able to. What does this look like?

There are constant words and actions that pit people against each other, creating first suspicion, then war among those people. Unquintessential leaders will constantly find targets to attack personally and set up for everyone else to attack.

This tends to be the way unquintessential leaders get rid of people who challenge them, who disagree with them, who call them out when they are being unquintessential leaders.

Because of all the characteristics of the unquintessential leader mindset, the inability to handle the truth (for an unquintessential leader, the only truth that exists is the truth as he or she has constructed it) is universally the one that usually becomes the most obvious early on because anyone who confronts the unquintessential leader is quickly – and usually very publicly and visibly as a warning to everyone else – hunted down, forced out, and completely destroyed, if possible.

People can usually hide the other characteristics for quite some time, but not being able to face or admit the truth is almost impossible to ever hide.

As quintessential leaders, it is imperative that we are constantly examining our mindsets – our motives, our attitudes, our words, our actions, who we are – to ensure that we are not letting these characteristics of the unquintessential leadership mindset to come in and become part of us and how we lead.

This is the battle we all fight constantly, but it is a battle we must never abandon and a battle we must win. For ourselves and for our teams in every area of our lives. 

Yes. It’s that important.

This is not the post I had planned for this blog today. However, it is clear to me that everyone – from the media all the way to Paula Deen – is missing the bigger picture of the core issue at the heart of this story.

As a side note, I shake my head continually at the situational ethics and twisted logic that a lot of people are approaching this story with. The heart of this story is not about a lack of forgiveness, about “casting stones,” about defaming Paula Deen (she did that all by herself by her lack of quintessential leadership without any help from anyone else).

It is, instead, a cautionary tale that all of us, and especially those of us who are quintessential leaders, need to look into the mirror of and see where and if we see our own reflections. If we miss that in all of this, then we’ve missed the whole point. 

The core issue of this situation with Paula Deen is that she lacks the unimpeachable character, the irrefutable integrity, the unwavering values, the non-negotiable adherence to and upholding of the highest of standards personally and professionally, and the evident humility of a quintessential leader. 

Paula Deen Today Show 6-26-13Increasingly, the story has zeroed in on a single aspect of Paula Deen’s deposition in response to a lawsuit filed by a former employee (who, for the record, is not African-American and who had quite a bit of responsibility at several of Paula Deen’s restaurants) raising the specter that Deen is prejudiced against African-Americans.

Paula Deen herself has waffled all over the place about this one part of a much bigger problem, so it’s really unclear exactly where she stands. And that’s consistent with a lack of unimpeachable character. When you don’t have a solid foundation of anything that is absolute in life, the floor constantly shifts on you from moment to moment.

But the charges of racism are only one part of a larger picture of who Paula Deen is and how she has failed as a quintessential leader both personally and professionally throughout her career. If you want the whole picture, you can read the former employee’s lawsuit here and Paula Deen’s deposition here.

Paula Deen fails the quintessential leader test in several areas. The first is setting and adhering to the highest set of standards of conduct (behavior, which includes speech and action) and requiring that everyone on the team adhere to them too. When people on the team fail to adhere to them, the remedial process to change or go is begun and if there’s no change, those people go. No matter who they are.

A telling quote from Paula Deen’s interview on the Today show this morning reveals her lack of understanding of leadership and her lack of ability to lead: “It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. … I think for this problem to be worked on, these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other.”

Paula Deen is in the leadership position and it is her job to set the standard of what is acceptable and what isn’t in her kitchens. She, as she has done since the beginning of all this, once again puts the responsibility somewhere else, instead of taking it herself. If she didn’t allow this kind of behavior in her restaurants – which clearly she does – she wouldn’t be hearing it at all there.

This is Paula Deen’s fundamental blind spot. She seems to have absolutely no comprehension of what her role as a leader is. This seems to be another case of someone who’s really good at a skill, but who should have never been in a leadership position because she’s not equipped to do it.

Once a person in a leadership position, as Paula Deen has time and again, allows, tolerates, and accepts compromise and exceptions to what is generally considered appropriate and right behavior, first in themselves and then with others, they have failed as quintessential leaders.

Once compromise and exceptions enter the picture, character is negatively impacted, and this is the second area where Paula Deen fails the quintessential leader test.

Paula Deen doesn’t see anything intrinsically wrong with any of the behavior in either the former employee’s lawsuit or in her own deposition. The casualness with which she accepts unacceptable behavior in speech and in action – and even does it herself – shows defective character.

Character is a big deal. Every choice, every decision, every thought impacts our character. That impact can either be positive or negative.

The more we negatively impact our character, the less we will care about right and wrong and good and bad and the looser our standards of what’s “okay,” “normal,” and “acceptable” will be.

This is unquintessential leadership. Quintessential leaders know character matters and we know that everything we do and our teams do reflect on our character.

We know you can do one hundred things right and one thing wrong, and the one wrong thing, unless we tackle it head on by admitting it, fixing it, and changing it so that it doesn’t happen again, can be what defines us the rest of our lives.

This is what Paula Deen is not doing and why she is not a quintessential leader.

The reality is that Paula Deen has hit a watershed moment in her life. This could be a time of real change for her.

This, believe it or not, is not unfixable. The fixing will be painful and embarrassing and will cost Paula Deen a lot in effort, money, and reputation. But the result would be worth it in the end.

But if you don’t understand that anything’s wrong, which Paula Deen doesn’t seem to, and you cannot accept the responsibility for your failures as a leader, which Paula Deen has never addressed, and your way of dealing with it is to cast a wide net of blame and responsibility on others by playing the victim and indulging in self-pity, then change will not happen. At least not now.

Paula Deen confirmed that this morning with her statement that “I is who I is and I’m not changing.”