Posts Tagged ‘Selflessness’

martin luther king 1966

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Greek word agōnízomai, from which the English word agonize comes, means to struggle intensely. Real change involves real agony. As Dr. King so astutely observed, change is not inevitable.

Inertia is our natural state. Inertia is comfortable. But inertia is also stagnant. Too often, we settle for inertia as our state of being because it’s easy and because that’s the way we (or someone before us) have always done things, have always thought about things, and have always been.

Inertia, as all of us who’ve studied physics know, requires a lot of force to overcome. But, for change, the force comes primarily from within us in the elements of desire, choice, and action combined. (more…)

vision and focus quintessential leader perspectiveContrary to popular opinion, vision and focus are not the same thing. They are related, but vision and focus are distinct from each other in many ways. To be a quintessential leader, we must possess both vision and focus and know when and how to execute them consistently and well.

Frankly, many people in leadership positions today do not have either vision or focus. The majority of the exceptions to this have one, but not the other. That sliver-thin few, then, that possess both vision and focus are the ones we want to focus on in this post and, as we strive to be quintessential leaders ourselves, that we want to emulate.

What is vision and what role does it play in quintessential leadership? Vision is a big-picture and well-defined view of a distinct and yet-to-be-realized goal. Our mission statements, organizationally and individually, must capture vision.

This is the first step of quintessential leadership. Vision must be clear and concrete in its expression and it must create a framework within which we operate. In other words, if anything about us – thinking, being, doing, saying – goes outside that framework, then we have lost our vision.

Vision answers essential questions in broad terms, distinguishing the uniqueness of why we and our organizations exist and what we alone bring to the table to achieve a stated objective.

(If we cannot find anything unique in our existence – and by unique, I don’t mean philosophical differences, power plays, personality differences, etc. – then we won’t have a very compelling vision.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, if our stated vision looks almost identical to all the other organizations in our field, to distinguish why we should be the organization of choice. Not only that, but where there is no unique vision and there are lots of very similar competitors, the end result is confusion and attrition. In other words, everyone in the field loses in the end.)

Vision answers these questions:

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. What are our objectives?
  3. What is the framework in which we will meet those objectives?
  4. How is our framework both unique and better able to meet those objectives?
  5. What does success, in terms of the objective, look like?

seeing without vision helen keller quintessential leaderOne of the biggest problems I see with vision statements in general is the wrong objective. Getting money, getting more customers, doing this, doing that are all short-term objectives and they are selfish objectives, and they are the wrong objectives.

Vision’s objective is long-term and consists of not what we get, but what we give. Because reaching long-term objectives requires giving a substantial investment of ourselves and our resources to the effort to give something better than what exists now to others beyond the organizational boundaries.

In other words, vision requires a selflessness that very few people in leadership positions now have. But quintessential leaders do and you see it in everything they are, they say, and they do.

vision goals mission statement

Vision is the first and necessary part of being a quintessential leader. The second and equally-important part of being a quintessential leader is focus.

Focus is keeping your eye on the goal and moving toward it without deviation. It sounds simple, but this is, in many ways, the harder part to actually accomplish.

We live in a distraction-filled world that makes getting focus, keeping focus, and maintaining focus toward long-term goals the most difficult accomplishment to actually achieve for all of us.

Much of this is because our attention spans have been shortened to almost non-existence both subtly and overtly.

The overt ways have come to our doorsteps as a result of the technological revolution.

A constant and steady stream of new and cool gadgets litter and clog up our neurological landscape and they all seek to claim our attention and our desire at the same time.

24/7 virtual connectivity through email, cell phones, and social media are all increasingly fragmenting our time and attention while demanding our continual obsequiousness.

The subtle ways our attention spans have been practically destroyed can be attributed to the media and the workplace.

no focus no destination winston churchill quintessential leaderMedia’s contributions have been shorter commercials with more products advertised, 24/7 multiple-channel access to talking heads, and, from digital providers, multiple-screen programming that can be simultaneously (sports channels lead in this area). With the addition of streaming services, our neurological landscapes have just become completely overcrowded and overwhelmed.

The workplace has contributed to this with its championing of multitasking – the more things you can do at one time, the more brilliant, the more talented, the more wonderful you are – and multitaskers, creating in the process, including most of the people in leadership positions, a superficial semblance of productivity that upon closer examination shows no depth, no forward progress, and no focus.

So how do quintessential leaders keep their focus when it’s clear all the odds are against them?

They never allow the vision, the mission statement, and the goal out of their sight. They, like salmon, swim upstream against the tide of distractions, exercising extreme self-discipline and extreme determination all the time to get to that goal.

Quintessential leaders are big-picture and long-term people and that’s how they live and breathe. As a result, they’re able to move right through the distractions without getting caught up in them for the most part.

Occasionally, though, even quintessential leaders will get taken in temporarily by a distraction that may seem important or significant. But the difference is that quintessential leaders recognize that it’s a distraction.

So what do quintessential leaders do? They always evaluate the distraction in terms of their vision, their mission statement and their focus. If the distraction is within that big-picture framework and needs to be addressed or resolved on the spot, quintessential leaders take care of it immediately and starting moving forward again.

Quintessential leaders, then, are never moving and doing just for the sake of moving and doing. If moving and doing does not have a purpose within the vision, the mission statement, and the goal, it’s irrelevant and eliminated.

Quintessential leaders are very proficient at this because they’ve either been doing it all their lives – some of us are naturally wired this way – or they’ve learned how to do it in the process of becoming quintessential leaders.

It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, and it’s most definitely not always popular. 

But quintessential always eventually reach their goals, in the end, no matter how long, how bumpy, how rough, how intense, and how grueling the journey between the initial vision and the completed objective is.

So let’s look at ourselves in relationship to our vision and our focus.

Unquintessential leaders (people who have no vision and/or no focus) tend to complain about having too many things to do at once, not being able to finish anything, finding it hard to focus on what they’re supposed to be doing, having no breathing room or free time to recharge.

Unquintessential leaders also complain about not being organized and being perpetually confused about what they’re supposed to be doing, and, often, in the end, they quit, either literally or symbolically (just going through the motions as a pretender).

Quintessential leaders (people who have both vision – with the right objective – and focus), on the other hand, rarely complain about the effort and the toll it takes from and on them – and it does because all effort takes a toll, but the difference is whether it ultimately means anything or not – and the only thing they will complain about, at times, is having to expend even more effort to keep all the distractions and noise out so that they stay focused on the objective.

There is no disorganization, no lack of clarity, and no confusion. And they don’t quit, no matter what gets thrown in their way along the route from vision to goal.

So, my fellow quintessential leaders, how are we doing?

 

the quintessential leader building trust and being trust worthy book

In the first post of this series, the excerpt from chapter 1 included a list of all the components we must develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy.

The second post in this series, which included an excerpt from chapter 2 of Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, looked at the component of honesty in building trust and being trustworthy.

This post will include an excerpt from chapter 3 of Building Trust and Being Trustworthy

Another component of building trust and being trustworthy that we must have is integrity.

Most people don’t realize that integrity and honesty are two distinct but complementary components of building trust and being trustworthy. This chapter defines and shows what integrity does and doesn’t look like.

Building trust and being trustworthy is an integrated trait of quintessential leaders.

It is also an integrated trait that all of us – because each and every one of us leads at least one team, small or large, of people in our lives – need to develop and have as part of the core of who we are and what we are. In essence, this trait is at the center of exemplary character and conduct, and none of us should settle for anything less than this in ourselves and others.

Unfortunately, most of us settle for less. A lot less. In ourselves. In others. 

The majority of people in leadership positions today are not trust builders and they are not trustworthy. Many of us, frankly, are also not trust builders and trustworthy.

We live in a world that with no moral code as its foundation that expects trust to be non-existent or broken. Look around. It’s everywhere, including, in many cases, very close to you.

And society has become so accustomed to this that it glorifies it instead of condemning it.

Politicians who lie routinely, who line their pockets with money and perks while making decisions that hurt and destroy the people they are supposed to represent, who cheat on their wives because they can.

Arts and sports celebrities who have no regard for faithfulness to their spouses, who live hedonistic lifestyles that destroy their families, the people around them, and, eventually their lives.

Religious leaders who cheat on their wives, who cheat on their taxes, and who scam their congregations both in how they deceitfully handle the word of God and in coercive and corrupt financial matters, acquiring wealth and power in the process.

Business leaders who destroy millions of lives by deceit, fraud, and illegal actions that result in their employees and customers losing everything while they escape any kind of punitive action and instead reap obscene profits and end their tenures – only to go to another financially lucrative position – with golden parachutes that are equally obscene.

And we, as individual leaders for our teams, who cheat on our taxes, who are routinely dishonest with the children (our own and others) and other people entrusted to us, who routinely steal things from our workplaces (you most likely didn’t pay for that pen you’re using at work, so it doesn’t belong to you), who routinely break traffic laws, who will walk out of stores with something we were not charged for and never think twice about it, who will take extra money that we’re not owed in financial transactions without blinking an eye, who cheat on our spouses, who marry until “divorce do us part,” and who, as a course of habit, break confidences of family and friends, gossip about family and friends behind their backs, and destroy reputations in the process.

Maybe we haven’t thought about building trust and being trustworthy at this kind of nitty gritty level.

But until we do – and we develop and have this trait as the core of who and what we are – we will not build trust and we will not be trustworthy. And we will not be quintessential leaders.

Trust and trustworthiness is probably the single most important trait we can possess. And it is also the most fragile.

It can take a long time to build and be, but it can be broken irreparably in a single second.

Therefore, this is a lifetime work on and in ourselves that we must commit to making an integral part of our character by continually developing it, maintaining it, and growing it. 

This goal should be our goal.

But it requires courage. It requires diligence. It requires vigilance. It requires continual self-examination. It requires continual change. It requires the ability to, much of the time, stand alone to maintain.

It is not for the faint-hearted. It is not for the vacillators. It is not for the crowd-pleasers. It is not for the pretenders. It is not for the wannabes. It is not for the weak.

But if you’re reading this, I know that you’re not any of those kinds of people. Those kinds of people won’t even read this because it requires time, effort, change, and commitment, and too many of us are, sadly, either just too lazy or we just don’t care. 

Building Trust and Being Trustworthy takes an in-depth look at the “this is what it looks like in practice” aspect of each of the components we need to develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy. The second chapter discusses the component of honesty in building trust and being trustworthy.

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Excerpt from”Chapter 3: The Integrity Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

We have already looked in-depth at the honesty component of trust and trustworthiness, and now we will look a corresponding and complementary component: integrity. They are not the same, although both must be present in quintessential leaders. To separate them more logically in thinking, honesty is how a person is (conduct), while integrity is who and what a person is (values and standards).

Generally, one doesn’t exist without the other because they depend on each other. If you observe someone who’s habitually dishonest with him or herself and others in any and/or every part of his or her life, you will find upon further observation, that person also lacks integrity. On the other hand, if you see someone who’s habitually honest with him or herself in any and/or every part of his or her life, upon further observation of that person, you will learn that he or she possesses integrity.

The word integrity comes from the root word integral, which means, among other things, entirecomplete, or whole. And that is a strong part of what integrity actually is. It is undivided and unwavering with regard to moral principles, to right and wrong, to right values and standards.

There  is no deviation, regardless of circumstances or costs. It is a systemic quality that affects everything in life. If it’s not a part of a person, life is perpetually chaotic, a free-for-all, and completely unpredictable in terms of directions and outcomes. If it is part of a person, there’s an unchangeable and dependable framework that can be trusted and counted on no matter what’s going on inside the frame.

So, what does integrity look like in action? It first has an intrinsic set of immutable values and standards and adheres to those values and standards, no matter what. Second, it is a conscious and deliberate choice of service – selflessness – over self-interest.

Integrity, by default, is encapsulated by Spock’s famous statement before sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew in The Wrath of Khan: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” A quintessential leader will have the integrity to do what’s best for everyone, not just what’s best for him or herself. There is never a component of self-interest as a guiding principle in decision-making.

Integrity is also demonstrated by good stewardship. A quintessential leader will use resources correctly and judiciously and will acquire and allocate them fairly and skillfully, maximizing the benefit to all, based on needs, not wants.

Additionally, a quintessential leader will guard and protect those resources, ensuring that they are not diluted or wasted (this includes people – a good team can be undone by just one person that is not contributing or is actively creating divisions and disruptions).”

The majority of articles and blogs about leadership talk about a single aspect – as if it exists and operates in a vacuum – of leadership. It is the public face of leadership: businesses, religious organizations, political organizations, social organizations, schools, and non-profit organizations.

Except for this blog and these books, I have not found any other resource on leadership that discusses it in terms of the whole of spectrum of our lives: it’s who we are, what we are, how we are everywhere in life.

That’s what makes this blog and these books unique. Most people don’t think a blog or books about leadership apply to them: to their lives, to who they are, what they are, and how they are.

They are wrong.

Because they’ve bought into the mainstream idea of what leadership is in a public sense, and since they’re not in one of those positions, then any discussion of leadership doesn’t apply to them.

(And most of the mainstream ideas of leadership are actually “management” instead of “leadership,” which fails time and time again because there are very few people strong enough and courageous enough to get outside of the MBA-fueled tiny, uninnovative, rigid, and constrictive box that confines them to failure).

The reality is that quintessential leadership applies to everyone who lives and breathes. No matter where we are in life or what we are doing, we all lead at least one team, if not several.

Everything we do, we say, and we are is setting an example for the others in our lives, and that, my friends, is leadership. How we do that determines whether we are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

It is that simple. And that hard.

A close friend and fellow blogger, remarking on “The Quintessential Leader Perspective: Expressing and Showing Genuine and Authentic Appreciation,” said “A tall order! It’s difficult to be thankful towards those who are difficult, yet it is the only right answer.”

Becoming a quintessential leader is the road not taken. It is the hard way, the difficult way, the way that demands that we look at leadership in terms of every and all aspects of our lives, not just a single part.

It requires rigorous self-examination without excuses, justifications, or blaming others. It requires constant, continuous, and momentous change from the inside out.

It requires a complete metamorphosis and transformation at the very foundational core of who and what we are, our intents, our attitudes, our motives, how we think, what we think, how we speak, what we speak, how we act, what we choose to do or not do, and how we set that example for others.

It requires fearless commitment and unwavering fortitude.

There is no room for the pretenders, the wannabes, the half-hearted, the sometimes-maybe, for the lackadaisical, and for the here-but-not-there.

We are either all in or all out.

One of the tests – of veracity, of genuineness, of authenticity – for whether we are quintessential leaders or not is how we consistently handle the good, the bad, and the ugly in life.

All of life.

From our most private internal lives to our most public external lives.

It is important to remember that this is the ideal, the goal that quintessential leaders strive for and to. None of us will execute this perfectly all the time, but there must be aggregate and continual evidence in our lives that this is who and what we are committed to – no matter how many failures, setbacks, and falls along the way we make and encounter -becoming.

Quintessential leadership is hardest to see when life is good. Humanity, in general, tends to be at its best when everything’s going well and life presents no challenges, no upsets, no hairpin turns in the road. We all, at least on the surface, can seem to be charitable, thoughtful, caring, concerned, kind, generous, gentle, merciful, and magnanimous.

It is in the good times, though, that the inner character of quintessential leaders separates them from everyone else.

One component of that character is humility.

Quintessential leaders never elevate themselves above others, nor do they constantly talk about how much they’ve accomplished, achieved, acquired (and, by extension, how much wealth they have by enumerating the amount of money those acquisitions cost), and how awesome and great they are.

Instead, quintessential leaders continue to live life modestly and quietly. They realize that the good times are part of the cycle of life and will not last.

Quintessential leaders also understand that the good times are a gift they did not earn, do not deserve, and are not entitled to, so in an attitude of service and thankfulness for them, quintessential leaders use the blessings of good times to help and assist others, often anonymously, and always silently and without any fanfare.

Another three-pronged component of the quintessential leader’s character that you’ll see in the good times in life is understanding and sensitivity combined with empathy.

Quintessential leaders are always cognizant that although they may be experiencing good times in their lives at that moment, many of the people with whom their lives intersect – and for whom they are examples and, therefore, leaders – may not be.

Quintessential leaders are excellent and accurate observers of life by nature. Because they listen more than they speak and watch more than they engage, they miss virtually nothing about what people say (or don’t say), do (or don’t do), and are (or are not), although they seldom, if ever, say anything about it.

They learn to understand and to relate to others in a tangible and meaningful way that includes the rare quality of being able to empathize by putting themselves into the situations that others are experiencing.

As a result, quintessential leaders are acutely sensitive to the circumstances of other people and how their behavior, words, and actions could affect them, not because they are inherently wrong, but because of what other people may be experiencing (for example, if someone is going through a relationship loss, quintessential leaders would not be talking on and on in bubbly, bouyant, and bouncy conversations with this person about all the great things in their wonderful and fantastic relationships).

Anything other than this kind of understanding, empathy, and sensitivity – deep awareness of others and genuinely and authentically relating to them – would be out of character for quintessential leaders during the good times of life.

Why?

Because quintessential leaders always have the big picture in the front of their minds. Good times come and go. Anything that’s happened to someone else could or may happen to us. How would we want to be treated when we are walking in those shoes?

It is always an others-perspective, not a me-perspective, that defines who, what, and how quintessential leaders are. In the good times in life. And in the bad and ugly times.

It is in the bad times and the ugly times in life that quintessential leaders become more apparent, because the bad times and the ugly times in life are the times that try our souls, our hearts, our minds and our character to their outermost limits.

The bad times and the ugly times present ample opportunities to be unquintessential leaders, to set and be bad examples for the people with whom our lives intersect.

The bad times and the ugly times in life can give rise to unfair criticisms, harsh and inaccurate evaluations and condemnations, rejections, resentments, mockery, stinging and hurtful putdowns (usually guised as “jokes” or followed by smiley faces), spitefulness, jealousies, pettiness, and defensiveness – all of which are not intrinsic character traits of quintessential leaders.

The reality is that we all have to deal with these kinds of attitudes, motives, words, and actions during the bad times and the ugly times in life, whether we are quintessential leaders or not.

They are hard-wired into our human nature and it is in the worst of times that we either fight and subdue them or we embrace and use them.

Unquintessential leaders embrace and use them.

Quintessential leaders fight and subdue them.

In other words, quintessential leaders exercise self-control (and, at times, this is the most exhausting work in the world, because it literally takes every ounce of energy and effort we have) and choose what is right instead of what seems easy, justified, and, at least temporarily, very self-satisfying.

These are very often epic behind-the-scenes battles that end in victories or capitulations, character developments or character destructions, good or bad choices, and wise or unwise decisions.

The outcome of what goes on in the private and inner workings of our hearts, souls, and minds is only apparent in what we do (or don’t do) and say (or don’t say) out in the open.

And it’s in the outward manifestation, in bad times and ugly times, that we can truly distinguish between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders.

Again, in bad times and ugly times in life, we all experience failure in being quintessential leaders.

There is not a human being who has ever lived, who lives, or who will live – except for the Son of God – who has, does, or will get it right 100% of the time. It’s impossible in our current configuration.

However, the hallmark difference between quintessential leaders and unquintessential leaders is that quintessential leaders are actively living – consciously and deliberately thinking, practicing, being in every part of their lives all the time – with the goal always directly in front of them.

It is a way of life – an integrated part of who, what, and how they consciencely (that’s not a misspelling – because the state of our consciences is directly related to quintessential leadership) and consciously are and are becoming.

In other words, quintessential leaders are well aware when they fail. Nobody else needs to point their failures out to them. The consciences of quintessential leaders are so finely-tuned and sensitive to what they should and want to be – the ideal – that their consciences are immediately stricken when they fall short in any way.

Quintessential leaders are devastated when they fail because they know that not only have they missed the mark of quintessential leadership, but they have failed the people whose lives intersect with theirs by setting a wrong and bad example.

Quintessential leaders, again, stand out in this area from unquintessential leaders.

Quintessential leaders first admit they failed, to themselves and to their teams. They then apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Quintessential leaders will next immediately undertake an exhaustive post-mortem on what happened and why it happened. In the process, quintessential leaders identify tangible and definitive steps to correct the failure, from the inside out, and actively start taking those steps.

Quintessential leaders often do one more thing: they use their failures and the process of identifying the causes and the corrective actions as teachable moments for their teams.

Unquintessential leaders can’t do this because they don’t even recognize a failure (and if someone pointed it out to them, they’d deny it and get defensive and start attacking the poor, unfortunate soul who dared to say anything), so their bad examples are all their teams get.

And their teams perpetuate those bad examples to their teams, and so it goes until we find ourselves in the world in its present tense surrounded by an overwhelming majority of unquintessential leaders.

But we are not them. Or are we?

 

 

 

 

As is the case with all quintessential leaders, I read a lot and I read widely. I read very little fiction, but when I do, I’m very selective, looking for substance and relevant rather than fluff and popularity. 

As an aside, I am one of those rare, it seems, people who eschews the idea of escapism and “feel good” when I am investing my time, energy, and effort into something.

If I don’t learn something or there are not some deep and meaningful principles I can come away with to think about and apply, then I’m simply not going to spend my time with it.

Because I am human, there’s a limit on time for me. I certainly don’t want to come to the end of my quota to discover that I wasted the majority of it.  

In pursuit of my commitment to quintessential leadership and my desire to be, at all times, in all ways, a quintessential leader, I am constantly reading articles on leadership and thinking about how and if they fit the quintessential leadership criteria.

Here is a summary of some articles I’ve read recently that certainly point to the quintessential leadership model in some way. I’d like to share those with you and encourage you to read them.

This article on 8 ways leaders undermine themselves from Forbe’s is a good overview of the subject I discuss in-depth in Building Trust and Being Trustworthy.

In conjunction, part of building trust and being trustworthy includes the ability to admit we are wrong when we are and taking responsibility for fixing what we’ve broken quickly, without blame, without excuses. This article by Amy Rees Anderson on this quintessential leader trait is excellent.

Mike Myatt’s article on why organizations suffer from leadership dysfunction offers a very good tie-in to the subject of organizational dysfunction, which I elaborate on in the Quintessential Leader blog post, “Organization Dysfunction – A Total Absence of Quintessential Leadership at the Top.” I encourage everyone to read both articles because, as Myatt correctly observes, we’re seeing leadership dysfunction become the organizational norm, instead of the exception.

Another must-read article from Mike Myatt demands that each of us examine our commitment to be quintessential leaders. Why? Because he discusses the 10 things every leader should challenge. These 10 things must be on our minds continually and the challenges to them must be continual.

This separates quintessential leaders from everyone else. As I ask myself constantly, I urge you to ask yourself: am I a quintessential leader or am I everyone else?

As I discuss in “Quintessential Leaders and Investment, Action, and Authenticity,” what you and I do and are reveals how great our investment in quintessential leadership is and how authentically we are living and being quintessential leaders.

A thought-provoking article by Manie Bosman on how unquintessential leadership traits – bullying and micromanaging among others, which I cover comprehensively in “Unquintessential Leadership” – affect us neurologically and lead to measurable negative outcomes, and if not changed or eliminated, will eventually lead to catastrophic and total failure.

An atmosphere of fear, intimidation, threats, and power plays is not something a quintessential leader will either create or tolerate. This is all around us in every part of our lives to one degree or another. What do you and I, as quintessential leaders, do about it?

The last article, by Dan McCarthy, is entitled “Is it Time to Create Your Own Succession Plan?” As quintessential leaders, this must be an integral part of our team-building process. For a framework of what this looks like in practice, I recommend “Building Teams for Performance.”

Each time I acquire a new team to build and lead, this is one of the first things on my to-do list: to identify the person or people who have the qualities that, combined with my coaching and leadership, will enable them to replace me.

No one is irreplaceable. And nothing is certain in life but death and taxes.

Therefore, a quintessential leader who wants to ensure that the legacy and foundation he or she is laying continues after he or she is out of the picture, must identify, coach, and grow his or her potential successor(s). To do anything else is unquintessential leadership. 

This post gives some good resources for quintessential leaders. I hope they will provide benefits, insights, and growth as we continue on the path of quintessential leadership.