Archive for the ‘Qualities of a Quintessential Leader’ Category

Quintessential leaders have character traits that distinguish them among people in leadership positions. While quintessential leaders have imperfections, make mistakes, and sometimes fail spectacularly, these character traits define how they handle themselves in both the worst of times and the best of times. (more…)

In “The Mindset of Unquintessential Leadership and What It Looks Like in Action,” one of the characteristics that I identified as part of that mindset is bullying.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been exposed to bullying at some point during our lives. However, not all of us have been victims of bullying. For a bully to succeed, the person being bullied has to give his or her power to the bully.

Not everyone who gives this power to bullies is inherently weak. Sometimes the surrender simply comes from long-term battle fatigue and being completely worn down over time.

It takes tenacity, an exceptionally-strong will, and a very thick skin sometimes not to give power to someone else, especially with threats that sometimes go as far as the possibility of losing one’s life. (more…)

Dr. Ned M. RossThe first – and one of less than a handful of people whose lives have intersected with mine in which I’ve seen an unwavering commitment to quintessential leadership – quintessential leader in my life was my dad, Dr. Ned Moses Ross. He modeled quintessential leadership  in everything he was, he did, and he said. (more…)

The Unquintessential Leadership Aspects of Emotional MarketingWe live in an incredibly noisy world.

The world is so noisy, in fact, that most people have resorted to the most base tactics – and those involve emotional reactions and responses – to be seen and heard.

These tactics, which are more common than not and are all around us, even though we may not even be aware of them, include gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation.

But are gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation okay to use? Should quintessential leaders use them?

That’s the topic we’ll discuss in this post.

Lets look at some examples of what gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation look like first.

As you go through your day today, I challenge you to look at all that you read and see and be aware of whether they are gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation or not.

If you’re paying attention, I believe you will have an eye-opening day.

The front page of the August 27, 2015 New York Daily News, pictured below is an example of sensationalism.

Gimmicky, Sensational, Crass Communication is Unquintessential Leadership

The ad below for the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) featuring Sarah McLachlan’s 1997 hit song “Angel” is an example of manipulation.

These quotes and titles from a random sampling of the internet in the last week are gimmicky, sensational, and manipulative.

“…with ABC company’s finest immune boosting products as well as various soothing and calming treasures to help beat the stress…”

“How to Wreck Your Future”

“This Kind of Olive Oil Can Kill Cancer Cells in One Hour”

“Lose 20 Pounds in 21 Days”

What do all of these have in common?

First, they appeal directly to emotions and are designed to provoke an intense emotional response. Disgust. Sadness. Elitism. Fear. Hope. Happiness.

The second thing that they have in common is that they are dishonest, deceptive, manipulative and unproven.

The third thing they have in common is that they play on the gullible susceptibility of humans by promising, in most cases, something they can’t deliver.

But this is the way the majority of society has adopted to entice people to open the doors of their message or product because “smart” marketing says if someone opens the door the odds of them coming in and staying are very high.

This is the bait and the hook. And once emotions are involved, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true, right, logical, factual, or proven. Because emotional decisions don’t depend on anything real (how things are), but instead on sensation (how things feel).

Back in the day, this would have been called yellow journalism. Now it’s called emotional marketing.

There are many things wrong with these techniques. Here are a few of them.

Emotional Drivers are the heart of Emotional MarketingFirst, when a person or an organization is appealing to emotion, they are appealing to the irrational side of humans. Decisions made strictly on an emotional basis, with no consideration of logic and facts, are always, at the least, regrettable decisions and, at the worst, bad decisions.

And these kinds of decisions can – and often do – have disastrous consequences in peoples’ lives.

Second, a person or organization using emotional marketing is being dishonest and deceptive. Not only are they promising the moon, which no human can deliver, but they are intentionally misleading and manipulating other people to buy whatever they’re promoting or selling.

If a person or an organization draws people in under false pretenses and in an untrustworthy manner, then the logic follows that whatever they are promoting or selling can’t be trusted in terms of efficacy, quality, or longevity.

Third, people or organizations using emotional marketing are revealing both a lack of care and concern for others and a lack of personal integrity and character.

Because emotions are subjective and easily manipulated by gimmicks and sensationalism, using this type of marketing to reel customers in is a reflection of both a win-at-all-costs and the-end-justifies-the-means mindset, which is at the core of unquintessential leadership.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the emotional marketing that is thrown at them continually. And because society, in general, has abandoned logic, reason, and critical thinking in all its decision-making, it’s a safe bet to say that most people don’t really care if they are being manipulated and deceived by emotional marketing.

But we all should be aware and we should care. Consider the following statements from a generic emotional marketing campaign:

generic emotional marketing gimmicks

Notice that the first statement can’t be substantiated and has no objective data (ingredients that are different or better than specific competitors or the results of customer taste tests), but it promises healthier and tastier than any other tea that exists in the world.

The second statement also can’t be substantiated and is again lacking objective data to quantify it (e.g., 100 people who drank XYZ brand of tea in Yuma, Arizona on a 118-degree day in August said it was refreshing).

The third statement appeals to how a person looks (less calories equals less weight) and how a person feels (better than ever before).

The question of “how do you know?” is never addressed because of our lack of awareness and lack of care about being manipulated into buying something because it appeals to us on an emotional level.

emotions versus rational and critical thinkingWhen we get accustomed to accepting things without proof, to using our emotions to guide our decisions and choices in life, to abandoning logic, critical thinking, and reason – which emotional marketing makes easier and, eventually, the default way we live life – we are at great risk for being more susceptible to deception, dishonesty, and manipulation every where in our lives.

Quintessential leaders don’t use emotional marketing. They don’t use gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation. They use facts, logic, and critical thinking. They prove what they say and do before they say and do it. And they expect everyone – their teams, their audiences, and their customers – to do the same. Nothing less than this method is acceptable.

The reality is that nothing less than this method should be acceptable for any of us, but even more so for those of us who are striving to be quintessential leaders.

The mirror test, as always, will tell us whether we have fallen into the trap of emotional marketing as quintessential leaders.

Do we consistently appeal to emotional responses by gimmicks, sensationalism, and manipulation to motivate our teams, to build our customer bases, and as a way of life?

Have we abandoned facts, logic, and critical thinking in our decision-making? Do we prove everything for ourselves or do we just accept whatever we see, we read, or we are told without any substantiation?

Have we moved more toward emotional marketing and away from factual, logical, and provable information in our lives, both as leaders and as consumers?

Do we even know the answers to any of these questions?

If we find that we don’t know the answers, then now is the time to examine our lives and figure out what we are doing and why.

If we find answers that show that we have embraced emotional marketing both as leaders and as consumers, then today is the day to begin to change that with a return to facts, logic, critical thinking, and truth, which will lead to us rebuilding our integrity and becoming trustworthy.

Does this matter to you?

If not, then you cannot claim to be a quintessential leader. In fact, you can’t claim to be any kind of leader. Instead, you are a duped follower of a dishonest, deceptive, manipulative, and untrustworthy system that has infiltrated every part of modern society.

If that’s okay with you and you can live with it and yourself, then this post won’t matter to you and you’ll dismiss it along with any other things in your life – including those occasional pangs of conscience that knock on your brain but you brush away and ignore – that demand a higher standard, a different standard, a standard that sets the right example for others.

But if it’s not okay with you, then join me in daring to be different and daring to do the right thing all the time and daring to become a quintessential leader in every aspect of our lives.

How are we doing?

Quintessential leaders strive to consistently take AND stay on the high roadTaking the high road is an idiom that describes a person who is consistently making the conscious choice to travel exclusively on the highest moral and ethical ground, regardless of what anyone else and everybody else is doing.

Taking the high road also characterizes a person who unwaveringly chooses to endeavor to do the right thing all the time, no matter what the circumstances.

Taking the high road is a choice. It is a choice that every human being on this planet decides to do or not do in every single situation we face. Taking the high road is a choice that quintessential leaders are committed to making continuously in every area of their lives for their entire lives.

Although we all fall short in consistently taking the high road at times, quintessential leaders distinguish themselves from everyone else by their determination, their tenacity, and their dedication to always taking the high road.

More than that, though, quintessential leaders work – and this is, I believe, the hardest work each of us has the choice to do in our lives, because it is the work of continual monitoring of and continual application of self-control in our attitudes, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and actions – diligently and tirelessly to also stay on the high road.

Before we look at what taking AND staying on the high road looks like in quintessential leaders, let’s see what the opposite looks like (unquintessential leaders).

Stop right now and think about everything you’ve heard, seen, read, thought, said, and done today up to this point. Everything. Do all of these things, added and averaged, tend toward taking AND staying on the high road?

If we’re unflinchingly honest – and that, my friends, is part of taking AND staying on the high road and unflinching honesty is scarce to non-existent in everyone and everywhere today – the answer will be “no.”

We humans tend to to like the low road because it appeals to the basest parts of our nature and it doesn’t make any demands on us.

We can be as dishonest, greedy, vitriolic, accusatory, condemning, condescending, mean, blaming, disrespectful, profane, and all-around-nasty as we want to be because that’s, unfortunately, the easiest way for us to be.

Sadly, it makes us feel smug and victorious to lie and get away with it, steal and get away with it, accuse others, condemn others, to put everybody in their place, to say whatever is on our mind however we want to say it (“and if they don’t like, well they can just get over it, because it’s our right!”) and never apologize for anything we say or do.

It’s all around us. Everybody’s doing it. And when we take the low road and stay on it, we fit in with everyone. We are popular. We get the kudos. We get the laughs. We get the “attaboys.” We get the praise and the glory.

And these things, which have kicked our natural tendancy as humans to be narcissistic, selfish, and self-absorbed into high gear with the ubiquitous intrusion of technology into our 24/7 lives, are incredibly powerful motivators to continue to choose to take and stay on the low road.

I’m a keen observer of people and human nature. There’s very, very little that I miss.


Because instead of talking, I listen. To every word. To every context. To every nuance.

Instead of engaging in frenzied action to constantly be the center of attention, I carefully watch actions and behavior and I process and I analyze.

Just this week, I can think of three public figures who have clearly taken and decided to stay on the low road. The interesting thing that I have observed in the process is that we all, with the exception of the rare quintessential leader here and there, identify with and side with these people because we’ve decided to take and stay on the low road ourselves.

Tom Brady takes the low roadThe first public figure is Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots. The quarterback of a football team is in a leadership position (but that seldom means they are quintessential leaders).

Brady was involved in deflating footballs for the Super Bowl game in January 2015. His team won the game. 

Whether the deflation of the footballs actually had anything to do with the outcome of the game is irrelevant. The obvious cheating to put the game in the Patriots – and Brady’s – favor, however, is totally relevant.

The NFL found Brady complicit in the attempt to throw the game and suspended him for four games in the 2015-2016 season.

Now Brady is claiming to be the victim and is blaming everyone else for the deflated footballs. He’s saying he cooperated with the investigation – in spite of the fact that he destroyed the cellphone he used in that game – and the NFL is not being fair.

And a lot of the public agrees with him. Despite the cheating, the dishonesty, and the finger-pointing, most of the public believes that this is not a big deal and that it’s certainly not a punishable offense, and that Brady is getting a raw deal being suspended from playing four games.

The majority of us have chosen to take the low road and stay on it.

Donald Trump takes the low road in everything he is, says, and doesA second public example of someone taking the low road and staying on it is Donald Trump, one of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

Trump, who epitomizes narcissism, is intentionally and brutally offensive, using sarcasm, finger-pointing, condemning, and outright lying in both his actions and his words.

There is no filter on his mouth: everything he says is exactly what he thinks and believes and he doesn’t care who or what is on the receiving end of it.

And he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior, so he never backs away, never backs down, and never, ever apologizes for anything. Pride and arrogance are often an integral part of taking and staying on the low road.

And, yet, incongruously Trump has vaulted to the top of the list of most political polls, both on the national and state level.

John Heilemann, a co-managing editor for Bloomberg Politics, did a focus group meeting with Trump supporters in New Hampshire this week to find out why they supported him. I saw a short excerpt this morning, and one of the prevailing reasons is “because he’s one of us.”

That’s an incredible admission that these people probably weren’t even aware they were making. But what they said was, in essence, we’ve chosen to take and stay on the low road and we like Trump because he’s made the same choice we have.  

Mike Huckabee chooses to take the low road to get a spot in the Republican debateA final public example is ordained Baptist minister and former Arkansas governer Mike Huckabee, another of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. 

It appears that Gov. Huckabee is so desperate to make the final cut of participants in the first Republican debate on August 6, 2015 that he is willing to follow Donald Trump’s example in choosing to take and stay on the low road.

Earlier this week, he declared that the pending nuclear deal between the United States and Iran is equivalent to the actions of the Germans’ genocide of the Jews in the Holocaust: ““This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

While there are legitimate concerns with this pending agreement that should be addressed, Gov. Huckabee’s headline-grabbing hyperbolic and incendiary language represents the low road. The high road would have been to actually talk about the real issues regarding this agreement and how he would rectify those.

What is even more damning for Gov. Huckabee, however, is that in 2008 he proposed the exact same path of this agreement according to the Des Moines Register: “Huckabee wrote in Foreign Affairs that ‘all options’ must be put on the table in dealing with Iran to avoid a military confrontation with them. He said at the time that the real winners in such a war would be the Sunni extremists who attacked America on 9-11. Iran is a Shiite Muslim nation.

Huckabee called then for the establishment of a sanctions regime against Iran coupled with direct negotiations with that country.”

Despite a strong negative backlash to his inflammatory and contradictory statement, Gov. Huckabee has continued on the low road by refusing to backtrack on the harshness of his rhetoric and to acknowledge the inconsistency with his position seven years ago.

Now that we’ve seen what choosing to take and stay on the low road looks like, what does choosing to take AND stay on the high road look like? Since we are striving to be quintessential leaders in every area of our lives, it’s not only important to know what we should not do, but also what we should do.

Quintessential leaders choose to take AND stay on the high road by:

  • Always thinking before we speak, making sure our words are not sarcastic, condemning, mean, accusatory, disrespectful, condescending, bombastic, insensitive, and hurtful. A lot of times that process means simply being quiet until we have the time and perspective to deal with our thoughts and our words properly.
  • Always considering how our words and actions will affect other people. The simple test we run everything against is “will what I want to say or do hurt, harm, or help other people?” Notice that quintessential leaders are outward-focused (they are never “it’s all about me“), which is a high-road characteristic. If it will hurt or harm other people (dishonesty, greed, stealing, crushing someone with less strength just because we can, etc.), then we don’t do or say it. If it will help others, then we ensure that we do or say it in a way that is respectful, kind, gentle, generous, and completely without strings attached.
  • Always refusing to choose to stoop to the low-road level that others may choose to take by refusing to respond at all by arguing, retaliating, attacking, badmouthing, either to their faces or behind their backs, and seeing if we can go even lower than they are going.

The high road is at times a difficult choice for all of us to make because it seems we’re naturally wired for the low road. But quintessential leaders are those rare people who choose to fight and struggle and wrestle with themselves (and this goes on almost constantly at an internal level) to take AND stay on the high road.

It is a lifelong war that we all lose battles in from time to time. But winning this war should be the goal that every quintessential leader has. And the only way we can win it is to do it.

We each need to look deep inside our own lives to see whether we have chosen to try to take AND stay on the high road everywhere, every time, all the time in our lives.

Or have we chosen to take and stay on the low road for all the wrong reasons?

How are we doing?



Unquintessential leaders don't acknowledge their limitations and are chameleonsIt seems to be more and more difficult – if not impossible – for people to acknowledge their limitations in any area of life. Because of the ubiquitous influence of technology – and our exploding addiction to it – society in general seems to have been lulled into the deception that everyone’s an expert, everyone knows everything, and no one has any limitations.

Quintessential leaders stand out as the increasingly rare exceptions to this general trend. We know our areas of expertise, but equally important, we know our limitations even in those areas as well as our limitations in all the other areas where we are either not experts or truly don’t have clue. 

What does not acknowledging our limitations, which is what unquintessential leaders do, look like? What causes it? And what are the results?

Do you know people who seem to be chameleons? Are you a chameleon?

Chameleons – the reptiles – are notorious for adapting to whatever environment they are in by changing their skin color to match the environment around them. This is both a protective function (you can’t be eaten if you can’t be seen) and a predatory function (if your prey can’t see you, they’ll willingly stroll casually right into being your dinner). 

In many ways, human chameleons can have the same protective and predatory functions.

Not all human chameleons are even aware that they are chameleons. In this case, the chameleon function is protective.

Protective chameleonThe way it looks in humans as protective function is that they change completely to fit in whatever group they are in at a given time. They literally look like several different people in one body.

Perhaps these chameleons are unaware of the striking contradictions this presents in the big picture of their lives. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because the reward they receive is what matters most.

These protective chameleons are insecure with themselves and with their abilities. They are people-pleasers and they want everybody to like them and to accept them. They are consummate “yes” people to everybody. They’re always the first to agree, the first to raise their hands, and the first to say they’re on board with anything in any group they are in.

The results of being a protective chameleon bring about the exact opposite of what protective chameleons are trying to achieve.

Because they can’t possibly do everything they agree to do, they either just simply don’t do most of what they say they will do or they take so long to do it that someone else ends up having to get it done.

This often looks like procrastination, but in reality it’s the result of needing to be liked and accepted to such a great extent that protective chameleons overpromise and overcommit, knowing they can’t do – and perhaps not even intending to do – what they’ve promised and committed to do. 

Therefore, protective chameleons are undependable. They appear to be wishy-washy. And they destroy trust.

Predatory chameleonPredatory chameleons are consciously duplicitous and deceitful. They knowingly pretend to be an integral part of whatever group of people they are with. These people are often charming and engaging, and they will encourage full disclosure with assurances of confidentiality in each group they’re with.

Predatory chameleons are information brokers. Their sole intent is to get information and use that information for their own gain (money or power or both).

Predatory chameleons have played the game a long, long time and they know exactly what they are doing and they know the rewards it will bring them. In other words, they don’t care as long as they get what they want.

Like protective chameleons, predatory chameleons also destroy destroy trust. Unlike most protective chameleons, predatory chameleons also intentionally destroy lives. That is actually part of the reward for them.

No matter which type of chameleon these people are, one of the common characteristics they share is the inability and the unwillingness to ever acknowledge their limitations. In other words, they are fundamentally, whether its conscious or not, dishonest.

Quintessential leaders, on the other hand, value honesty and integrity as essential parts of their character.

Quintessential leaders are not going to pretend to be somebody they are not or to know something they don’t or to do something they either can’t do or don’t want to do.

Saying “no” is not taboo. In fact, it’s often the right thing to do. It is often the smart thing to do. It is often the sane thing to do. 

But we live in a society where saying “yes,” even if it’s a lie, to everything is not only accepted, but expected.

That’s a significant integrity problem that the entire human race is saddled with now. And, sadly, few people recognize it and even fewer people struggle against it to do the right thing.

Shame on us.

There is also a lot of integrity in saying “I don’t know,” which is what quintessential leaders do when they really don’t know something.

Of course, they always offer to find out if that “I don’t know” is just something they are unfamiliar with, but would be able to do with the right resources or if that “I don’t know” means they really aren’t able to do something.

So, quintessential leaders not only recognize their limitations, but they also acknowledge them. They believe in and practice full disclosure of what they are able do and what they aren’t able to do at all times.

It might cost them financially because they lose potential business and income to someone else who can do what they can’t.

It might cost them socially because they won’t conform to norms that violate their principles and beliefs.

But here is the one thing it won’t cost them: trust. Even if quintessential leaders lose potential customers (and income) or they lose social relationships because they acknowledge their limitations, they will have built trust.

The social relationships generally don’t come back and that, in the end, is just as well. But even those people will remember the quintessential leader as someone who had integrity and courage even if they vehemently disagree with them.

Potential customers, on the other hand, even though they may have chosen a different route, will remember the trustworthiness of quintessential leaders and they will come back in the future. That’s a guarantee.

Especially in a world where honesty and trust is in short supply and each passing day reveals more broken trust and dishonesty everywhere we look.

Once trust is broken, it is, seldom, if ever, possible to regain it and/or repair it. It is one of the most valuable things that each us has and it is heartbreaking to see how lightly and casually we treat it. 

So now is the time for you and me who are striving to become quintessential leaders to look into our own lives and see where we stand in the area of acknowledging our own limitations.

chameleon-unquintessential-leaderAre we chameleons? 

If we are chameleons, are we protective chameleons or are we predatory chameleons?

If we are chameleons, are we okay with being chameleons, no matter which type we are?

Are we consistently striving to be quintessential leaders in this area of our lives?

No matter what you and I answer to these questions, if we aren’t happy with the answer, there is a remedy.

The remedy is change. Change requires us to be rigorously honest with ourselves. Change requires us to be conscious of the things that we are doing and why. Change requires us to consciously replace the behavior we don’t want with the behavior we do want.

As always, change is a process and none of us change easily or perfectly or overnight. But we can’t change if we don’t commit to it and don’t take that first step and follow it up with every other step toward the right direction.

How are we doing?