Posts Tagged ‘lack of leadership’

Quintessential Leaders don't cut cornersCutting corners is an English idiom that means “[to] undertake something in what appears to be the easiest, quickest, or cheapest way, especially by omitting to do something important or ignoring rules.”

Its origin comes from the phrase “to cut a corner,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “to pass round a corner or corners as closely as possible; fig., to pursue an economical or easy but hazardous course of action; to act in an unorthodox manner to save time; also, to act illegally.” (more…)

Unquintessential leader attribute: cowardiceI recently discussed some of the attributes that set quintessential leaders apart. In this post, we will look at the flip side of this and discuss some of the attributes of unquintessential leaders.

One attribute of unquintessential leaders is cowardice. The way this often manifests itself is that unquintessential leaders will appoint surrogates to be the “bad guys” (these are team members who unwittingly are people-pleasers and who are always willing to be the first to raise their hands whenever someone in a leadership position asks for volunteers).

world series 2014 san francisco giants kansas city royals quintessential leaderI’ll get this out of the way up front. If I watch a baseball team play an entire game (which is rare because I don’t often want to give up three or more hours of my life to something that, in the end, doesn’t move me forward in some way in the rest of my life) during the regular baseball season, that team is the New York Yankees.

Although I grew up in the South, my dad – who grew up listening to Yankees baseball games on the radio in Burlington, NC – was a Yankees fan and he passed that on to me. The things I loved about watching Yankees’ games with my dad when I was a kid was to see how much he enjoyed and knew about the game and how much he enjoyed sharing that with his family.

After Daddy died, I let baseball pretty much slip away from my active radar because it just didn’t hold any appeal without him to watch it with. Now I’m an extremely passive Yankees fan. I might catch an inning or two a couple of times a year – although I occasionally check their standings throughout the season – but that’s most of the extent of my baseball consumption these days.

However, during the World Series each year, no matter who is playing, I try to watch at least a couple of innings of each game until a clear winner emerges because I want to see what it was that got those teams there that year.


Because beyond the exceptional skills of a few players on each team, there has to be leadership and teamwork to get all of the players and coaches synced up enough over the course of the season to play the kind of baseball that consistently makes its way successfully through the playoffs to get to the World Series.

Last year, when the Boston Red Sox outperformed the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, there was a distinctive outward manifestation of the team-building that had taken place during the regular season – every Red Sox player grew a beard and none of the players shaved their beards until the World Series was over.

2014 world series jake peavy pitcher quintessential leadershipThere is an interesting link between the 2013 World Series and the 2014 World Series. That link is Jake Peavy, a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and for the San Francisco Giants in 2014.

The quality of a baseball team’s pitching staff is often a determining factor in how well the team gels together and how far the team extends its season. Starting pitchers are critical in this mix and, while they may not be the official team captains (leaders), they are often the de facto leaders on the field during games.

Peavy had good pitching stats going into his stint with the Red Sox, but after a dismal two-year performance, he was traded to the Giants in 2014. Peavy has not done much better in his first year there, including in the World Series.

And here’s where leadership and team-building and teamwork come into play. No one respects Jake Peavy.

I was very surprised to hear how the sports commentators basically trashed Peavy in the first game he pitched this year against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

Supposedly the objective and unbiased presenters of the games, these commentators made it clear that they didn’t expect anything but failure out of Peavy with their disparaging comments from the get-go.

The body language, facial gestures, and actions of the Giants on the field and in the dugout during game 2 and game 6 of this year’s World Series showed the entire team’s – including the coaches and manager – contempt for Peavy when he was pitching.

Although he was the de facto leader on the field, it was clear no one wanted him there and it led to the beginning of the Royals’ rout of the Giants when no one paid any attention to him during a crucial play in last night’s game (game 6).

The crucial play came during Peavy’s disastrous second inning when Peavy was telling Giants first baseman Brandon Belt to throw home and Belt completely ignored him and decided to run down the tag of the Royals Eric Hosmer at first base. Hosmer beat the tag.

In that moment, the lack of leadership, teamwork, and team-building among the Giants organization was crystal clear to me. It replayed in slow motion in my mind as I thought how those few seconds showed me all I needed to see as a quintessential leader to know that Giants don’t have it.

san francisco giants logoOh, the Giants may win the 2014 World Series, because they have a few great hitters and one great pitcher – who may be a clutch reliever tonight if starting pitcher Tim Hudson gets behind in the early innings – who might get lucky enough to pull it off.

kansas city royals logoHowever, the odds favor the Royals, who clearly have leadership, teamwork, and team-building in place. They look like a time, they act like a team, and they play like a team.

It’s taken the Royals 29 years to get another World Series-ready team in place, but the organization carefully and skillfully, over the course of several years (one of last night’s commentators said that professional baseball is different from any other sport in that it takes a lot longer to bring an athlete up to the skill level and capability to play at the professional level), ensured that the leadership, the team-building – individually and collectively – and the teamwork is in place for just such a moment as this.

Based on my experience as someone who strives to practice and continues to grow toward quintessential leadership in every part of who I am and in my life every day, I know that what the Royals have in place – and the Giants don’t have in place – gives the Royals the advantage of being successful.

What about us? You and me. Do we strive to be and work at being quintessential leaders continuously in every part of our lives? Do we even know what it is? Can we recognize it when we see it or don’t see it, no matter where we see it? 

The reality is that if we don’t live, do, and are something 24/7, then it’s not a part of us, of who and what we are. We’re pretenders.

And because we’re pretenders, we don’t know what the real thing looks like and are susceptible to falling for counterfeits and believing they’re the real thing, when it fact they’re not.

To know what quintessential leadership does and doesn’t look like, we must be actively striving to be and practicing quintessential leadership everywhere in our lives, even those areas and places and moments where nobody’s looking (those count more, in many ways, than the ones in which somebody or everybody’s looking).

How are we doing?



“We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid.”
Captain Willard – Apocalypse Now

A colleague of a friend of mine has had worsening hip pain over the past year. She regularly went to her doctor about it. He said it was arthritis and told her to treat it with over-the-counter arthritis relief medication.

A few weeks ago, this lady’s hip pain had gotten so bad that she couldn’t stand to work – she is a nurse – and she again went to the doctor. Her doctor finally referred her to a specialist.


Listed below are The Quintessential Leader’s recommendations for articles that all of us quintessential leaders should read and think about this week.

A note about these article recommendations. I am very careful in selecting these and their inclusion here means that I agree with the premise and gist of the article, not necessarily with every single thing that the writer says. 

That’s the purpose of reading and critically thinking. Reading should ignite our thinking and it should cause us to process, weigh, question, answer, accept and reject. I believe that the reasons why groupthink is so prevalent everywhere in society today are because:

(a) most people don’t read substantively

(b) most people have stopped – if they ever knew how – critically thinking about everything

(c) most people have been subtly conditioned to not question anything and everything for its truthfulness and accuracy

(d) most people have not developed an internal database of truth to find answers in (they depend on others to tell them what truth is)

(e) most people don’t have a clue how to accept or reject information coming at them, so everything comes in and stays (and creates confusion). 

Quintessential Leadership is About Breaking ThingsThis quote from “Leadership is About Breaking Things” by Michael Myatt sums up one of the hallmark differences between quintessential leadership and unquintessential leadership: “If you’re more interested in protecting what is than you are finding the answer to what if  you might be in a leadership role, but you’re likely not leading well. Order isn’t all it’s cracked-up to be. In fact, I’d go so far as to say routine is the great enemy of leaders. Conformity to the norm does little more than pour the foundation of obsolescence by creating an environment that shuns change rather than embraces it. Disruption is never found by maintaining the status quo, but it’s most commonly revealed in the chaos that occurs by shattering the status quo. Smart leaders don’t think ‘best’ practices – they focus their attention on discovering ‘next’ practices. The simple fact of the matter is too many leaders are concerned with fixing things, when what they should be doing is breaking things.” 

Note that it is things quintessential leaders break, not people. Unquintessential leaders desperately maintain the status quo and spend all their time and energy on breaking people into yielding and submitting to ways of doing things that often are archaic, inefficient, ineffective, inexplicable, and weren’t even good or right to begin with. 

As quintessential leaders, we must never fall into the trap of “that’s the way we’ve always done it, so that’s the way we’ll continue to do it.” Quintessential leaders know why they’re doing everything and are able to, in their own words, explain, quantify, and show the tangible results – honestly and authentically (no dog-and-pony shows and no smoke and mirrors)- to anyone and everyone.

Quintessential leaders are forward-looking and forward-moving. They never rest on their laurels and they never stop asking “why” and “how.” Quintessential leadership is never static, but instead it is always dynamically improving.

In “Why Leaders Must ‘Get Real’ – 5 Ways to Unlock Authentic Leadership,” by Margie Warrell, the link between authenticity and quintessential leadership is summed up in five key areas where we must be “real.” 

While Guari Sharma’s article, “How to Grow a Small Team: Nine Best Hiring Practices,” focuses on building small teams in a start-up environment, these nine best hiring practices should be part of the way we as quintessential leaders hire.

I am always surprised at how little effort can sometimes be expended in the hiring process as well as how little potential employers think outside of the box with regard to hiring and then the moaning and groaning that comes when the new hires are, at best, mediocre, in key areas of their responsibilities, or, at worst, abysmally poor in all areas of their responsibilities, initiating the 90-day “let’s find a way to get rid of them while we can” probational period that most jobs now have attached to them.

Quintessential leaders are high-level and performance-oriented teambuilders. We understand that investing well and at a high time (and perhaps monetary) cost up front will pay off for everyone involved. Too many people in leadership positions have no long-term and big-picture vision for themselves, their teams, and their organizations, so they hire randomly and sloppily and everyone suffers in terms of progress, success, and profits.

In Dan Rockwell’s, “The Surprising Path to the Top,” the quintessential leadership trait of growing others is discussed. Quintessential leaders are always growing other people in their lives, not just their team members. That is an intrinsic part of who quintessential leaders are. Because quintessential leaders are big-picture thinkers, we realize that helping everyone we have the opportunity to help grow in whatever forms that takes is part of our responsibilities and legacies. 

The reality is that the only thing we take out of this temporary, physical life is our character and the net results of our relationships with God and others. Quintessential leaders take this knowledge to heart and that is where the focus of every aspect of our lives is. And that is why we are always growing others where we are able. We understand it’s never all about “me.”

We understand that our lives and the gifts we’ve been given didn’t originate with us and are not ours to use selfishly. Power and pride and money are never part of the equation. We want financial security, but we will not sell our souls or throw others under the bus time and again to get and keep it. We value integrity, truth, and honesty more highly than anything else in the world. And sometimes that means we take – and they can be big – physical losses and hits. Sometimes we recover and sometimes we don’t on a physical level. But a character loss and hit, while theoretically recoverable, is something we’re not willing to take, because that destroys everything in terms of trust and trustworthiness

This quote from “The Single Greatest Secret of Leadership – Fail Up” by Daniel K. Williams illustrates how quintessential leaders approach failures (their own and those of others): “As leaders, we serve our employees best by not focusing attention on their weaknesses and mistakes. Instead we should encourage them to navigate through challenges on their journey. We can help by asking questions like ‘How do you learn best?’ ‘What could you do better?’ or ‘How can the team better support you in the future?’

The most important thing is to strive to move forward continually. Some days we make great progress in some areas; other days we seem to slide a bit. If we were to chart our progress on a board, it has ups and downs, but overall it should move upward as we live and learn from our mistakes and failures.

Peaks and Valleys of LifeQuintessential leaders understand that this thing called life, which includes our work, is never a straight line, but a series of mountains and valleys that represent our successes and our failures. However, it should be through our failures that we find the greatest opportunities to grow, to change, to move forward, or as Williams puts it “to fail up.”

Quintessential leaders seize those opportunities and do that, not just with themselves, but with everyone on all the teams they lead in life.

May we continue along the quintessential leader path, navigating the mountains and valleys with equanimity and courage, growing ourselves and growing others along the way.

We are in the middle of an incredible process that begins with who we are internally on a foundational level, proceeds with wisdom, knowledge, and application (growth), and results in not only our quintessential leadership being perfected, but also planted and cultivated in everyone with whom our lives intersects.