Archive for the ‘Practical Quintessential Leadership’ Category

Hacks lead to poor quality, and, in the long run, cost more in time, effort, and moneyOne of the best summaries I’ve read on the etymology of the word hack appeared in The New Yorker a few years ago.

The word itself generally has, in historical terms, a negative connotation (which is why programmers who try to break into networks and/or computers are known as hackers), and, since in reality its results are, for the most part, negative, that’s how we’ll look at the word in this article.
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I recently have been going through the essays that George Orwell wrote.

I read these essays in college, but now they seem to have deeper meaning now as I look at the world and I look at us – those of us who claim to be leaders but who are not, having stolen the title with nothing to back it up, and those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders, committed to that goal, and, yet, as mere humans often falling far short of it – and I see more of the things that get in our way, even if we are committed and trying, and if we’re not, what we can never overcome. (more…)

Priority Quintessential LeaderEach of us has a priority in life. We may not even be aware of what our priority is because it is a subconscious choice we’ve made. It may be a priority that we didn’t choose, but instead is just simply the result of following, right or wrong, somebody else’s example and/or definition of what our priority should be.

However, determining, understanding, establishing, and pursuing the priority of our life should not be left to our subconscious nor should it be put in the hands of other people to determine or model. (more…)

How people approach leadership responsibilities mattersHow people in leadership positions approach the responsibilities of leading their teams is just as important as what they should be doing to fulfill those responsibilities.

Whether people in leadership positions are subjective or objective in their approach determines whether they are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

Let’s talk first about what being subjective and being objective means. (more…)

Quintessential leaders always ensure accuracy and truthAlexander Pope is often misquoted as having written “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

What Pope actually wrote in his famous “An Essay on Criticism,” was: “A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:/There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,/And drinking largely sobers us again.

It seems that Alexander Pope presaged what we now find in a world immersed in technology, where the educated and uneducated, the thinkers and the non-thinkers, the gullible and the prudent, the knowledgeable and the ignorant now equally have access to the same Big Data knowledgebase that lies just a few keystrokes away.

It is in the glut of this unfettered – and it seems, for most of humanity, unfiltered – access where quintessential leaders differ from everybody else.

Before we talk about what makes quintessential leaders rare and the unique in this area of modern life, we first have to understand the big picture of technology.

We also need to be aware of how, in many ways, if we are not constantly critically thinking, objectively analyzing, and consciously rejecting the insistent siren song that beguilingly calls us to rely on technology for everything neurological instead of building and growing our minds by actually using them, we become unquintessential leaders.

A brief overview of how technology will , if we allow it to rule us and we bring nothing to the table in terms of control, reason, logic, and thinking, make us unquintessential leaders is paramount to understanding the inherent dangers it presents to us as leaders.

Search engine results are based on data analysis, not quality, expertise, accuracy, or truthfulnessAll the search engines – Google, Yahoo!, and Bing are the big three (today at least) – are data-driven. From an internet perspective, websites – and their information – get “ranked” by keywords and hits (how many people visit, how often, etc.).

Therefore, page one of our search results is determined simply by data, not by quality of information nor by expertise. That is why most websites encourage you to share and share often their websites on social media. The more hits they get, the higher they go in the “organic” (non-paid) rankings.

The other way that websites get first-page ranking is that they pay a lot of money for keywords (there is usually someone working fulltime in the background at nothing but this who does the monitoring and upping the ante, pricewise, for specific keywords to stay at the top of page one).

This is known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. It is a budget hog for the organizations using it, but it gets results, so most organizations are willing to spend thousands of dollars a month to be in everyone’s faces when they do a search on one of their keywords.

The other side of the search engine equation is us – you and me. Analyses are continually run on our data – what we search for, what we click on, where we go on a regular basis in cyberspace (you and I may delete the browser caches on our devices, but the search engines never delete them) – and programmed algorithms pick up our searching habits and preferences and sheer down the available choices to what most likely fits what our aggregate data profiles tell them we want to see.

In other words, the internet is no longer a vast landscape of available information that we could cull through and get a broad perspective on about a topic. It is a miniworld of information that mirrors our past and, therefore, preferred choices. Our worlds, then, get smaller and smaller and smaller.

Having that broad overview of technology – their part and our part in mind – we now have to look at the relationship between who we are as humans and how the internet caters to that.

We humans have a lot more in common than we would like to believe. In fact, much of the hate, the condemnation, and the vitriol in our world comes from our rejection of our commonalities and our all-consuming pride in how we think we are so special and and so much better than everyone else.

Here’s a reality check for each of us. We’re not special and we’re not better than anyone else.

We all have the same limitations in the parts of us that matter and that determine how we see others and ourselves and how we treat others as we make our way through our lives.

Three of the things that all of us humans have in common – and which limit us to one degree or another – are biases, bigotry, and ignorance. 

The internet can feed these three things to excess if we are not aware of them and we are not consciously working to replace them with impartiality, fairness, and the kind of deep learning that Pope was referring to in his essay.

For the uneducated, the deeply and willingly ignorant, and the non-thinkers, the internet is a treasure trove of disinformation. Any bias, any bigoted thinking, and any ignorance can be found on the internet and it can be used to perpetuate bias, bigotry, and ignorance.

And it is. This quintessential leader shakes my head probably more than I do just about anything else at this point in my life at most of the stuff I hear, the stuff I see, and the stuff I read (I don’t read a lot of it because it’s so asinine, especially when I see the source, that I’m simply not going to waste my precious brain cells and time on a bunch of garbage that I know is not accurate and not true).

So what do quintessential leaders – those few of us who it seems have not completely lost our minds nor our ability to critically think, to analyze, and to prove or disprove objectively all information – do to ensure that everything we think, we say, and we do is both accurate and true?

  • We are aware of our own biases, bigotry, and ignorance and work diligently and continually to rid ourselves of those
  • We always consider the source of the information (Is it credible? Is it biased? Is it bigoted? Is it ignorant? Does it have an agenda?)
  • We always use critical and objective thinking as well as thoughtful analysis with all information we see, read, and Quintessential leaders take the time and effort to always ensure truth and accuracy in everything they say, write, and dohear
  • We never take any information we see, we hear, and we read at face value, but instead prove or disprove it thoroughly
  • We always speak and write less than we listen and observe
  • Before we ever speak and write, we deeply and thoughtfully consider our ideas, our words, and our presentation through the filters of accuracy and truth

This last point bears a little further explanation. Much of what is said and written on the internet is simply to generate content (again, this a requirement of Big Data and organic search engine ranking) and has little to no substantive value. 

In other words, voluminous content is just another way to manipulate a website to page one. The quality and the expertise of the content is irrelevant and the abundance of junk content on the internet proves that point.

The problem is when we the people fall hook, line, and sinker for the junk content. Often this kind of content has either something salacious or outrageous as its main point. We humans tend to gravitate to both and we love to share it with the rest of humanity.

It seems that the more preposterous, the more erroneous, the more sensational, and the more inaccurate information is, the more it gets consumed by the human race.

Veracity and accuracy, on the other hand, which are proven, well thought out, and fully explained don’t really titillate our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance, and besides that, in our “I-just-skim-stuff-because-I-am-way-too-busy-to-actually-read-and-understand-anything” world, it demands too much time, effort, and self-reflection (we can’t stand the horror of possibly being wrong or needing to change ourselves) to come face-to-face with truth and accuracy.

For those of us who are striving to become quintessential leaders, we must look into our own lives to see which side of this equation we fall on.

Do we always ensure accuracy and veracity in every part of our lives, including the words we speak, write, and share with others?

Do we let our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance rule the words we speak, write, and share with others, and in the process we propagate disinformation, misinformation, and lies?

Or do we – and this is a real trust-buster – sometimes ensure veracity and accuracy in what we do, including the words we speak, write, and share with others, and other times give in to our biases, our bigotry, and our ignorance and that is reflected in every part of our lives, including the words we speak, write, and share with others?

How are we doing?

Admitting wrongs is quintessential leadershipNone of us is perfect.

We all screw up from time to time. And, sadly, because it’s part and parcel of being human, we screw up a lot more than most of us are willing or honest enough to admit to ourselves and to others.

However, the difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is what we do after we’ve screwed up.

Since screwing up is inevitable at some point, we all have to decide if, when, and how we handle it.

And what we choose to do after our screw-ups will demonstrate whether we are quintessential leaders or not, because this is the true test of our character and this is the accurate measure of who we are and what we are in every aspect of our lives.

Consistently choosing a path of dealing with our screw-ups will establish a pattern of behavior and, with time, that pattern of behavior will become our habit.

So the choice we make to address our screw-ups is the key to whether we are becoming quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

Let’s look at what the unquintessential leadership path of dealing with screw-ups looks like.

President Bill Clinton models unquintessential leadership when dealing with wrongs

Unfortunately, this unquintessential leadership consistency of choice that leads Hillary Clinton models unquintessential leadership when dealing with wrongsto a pattern of behavior that becomes a habit in dealing with screw-ups is no better exemplified than with the public lives of President Bill Clinton and his wife, 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Since the Clintons began a life in public service, they individually and together have an established pattern – now a habit – of dealing with screw-ups:

  • Ignore it
  • Deflect attention elsewhere
  • Deny it
  • Dance around it with technicalities to suggest no screw-up
  • Point to all the other people doing it
  • Call it an unjustified attack by enemies
  • Joke about it
  • Sort of admit it finally, but with excuses and justifications
  • Sort of apologize, but clearly don’t mean it or believe it

I will not rehash the many past instances of this pattern/habit during the Clintons’ many years of public service. It’s not my intention to make them the subject of this post, but to point out that they represent unquintessential leadership in dealing with screw-ups.

However, I will show how this looks right now with how Hillary Clinton has handled the issue of using a private email server and private email account for State Department communication during her time as United States Secretary of State.

errors-wrongs-mistakes-quintessential-leadershipQuite simply, Hillary Clinton screwed up. Although the policy of using State Department servers and emails was not in effect when Clinton became Secretary of State (a point she keeps invoking and twisting to justify and excuse why she did what she did), it was within just a few short months into her tenure.

Despite the government policy – and one of the unquintessential leadership traits common to not just the Clintons, but almost everyone in public office around the world, is “the rules don’t apply to me” – going into effect, Secretary Clinton ignored it and continued to use her private email server and private email account throughout her term as Secretary of State.

When it was finally revealed publicly (don’t believe that everybody in the U.S. government didn’t know about it already and just turned a blind eye until the media got wind of it), Hillary Clinton executed the unquintessential leadership habit of dealing with screw-ups that she has perfected perhaps over a lifetime.

Hillary Clinton, this week, finally got the the last step of this unquintessential leadership habit of dealing with screw-ups.

However, Clinton’s last step looks, in the video of her sort-of apology, as if someone’s got a gun to her head and is forcing her to make a statement that Clinton doesn’t agree with and doesn’t believe.

The irony is that it seems the poll numbers – in favorability and with other present and potential Democrat candidates for president – have pushed Hillary Clinton to the last step of the unquintessential leadership habit that she and her husband have developed for dealing with screw-ups.

But if took this long and this much drama and avoidance to deal trust-trustworthiness-quintessential-leaderwith, in the big scheme of what presidents have to deal with both nationally and internationally, a less significant screw-up in personal conduct and following the rules, then the essential issues become Hillary Clinton’s character and trustworthiness in everything.

How, then, do quintessential leaders deal with screw-ups?

To be fair, there are times that we don’t know right away that we’ve screwed up.

But those cases are more rare than we can sometimes lead ourselves to believe because quintessential leaders have very sensitive consciences that knock on our brains pretty quickly when we’ve messed up and don’t stop knocking until we fix it.

As soon as quintessential leaders realize they’ve screwed up, they take immediate action to:

  • Admit it
  • Own it completely (no excuses or justifications)
  • Sincerely apologize for it
  • Make amends for it by taking action to fix it
  • Learn from it so they don’t repeat it

This is the tangible evidence of who is and who isn’t a quintessential leader. In the process of doing this as a consistent pattern of behavior, it becomes the quintessential leader’s habit for dealing with screw-ups.

In the process, trust and trustworthiness is established and things get resolved quickly and correctly, instead of snowballing into something way bigger than whatever the original screw-up was.

five-alarm-fire-from-embers-not-doused-quicklyAnd this affects the bottom line for quintessential leaders, their teams and their organizations because they don’t waste their time, their energy, and their resources constantly firefighting ignored easily-quenchable embers that blow up into 5-alarm fires that threatens to destroy everything. 

So what path do you and I choose to handle the screw-ups we inevitably make in our lives, personally and professionally?

Do our patterns of behavior look like that of an unquintessential leader?

Do our patterns of behavior look like that of a quintessential leader?

Or are our patterns of behavior a mixture of unquintessential leadership and quintessential leadership?

I daresay this is one area where we all need to change and improve to make our patterns of behavior – which builds the lifelong habit – reflect quintessential leadership.

Nothing less is acceptable.

How are we doing?