Sunday, July 5, 2009

If Leadership is Easy, Why Aren't There More Great Leaders?

A few weeks ago I posted my “10 Things Every Leader Should Know” ( and as I mentioned, that list generated a lot of interesting off line discussion. In one such discussion a reader made the following observation.

“This really is a simple list. The things on here are important, but there’s nothing here that really is rocket science. So if leadership is this easy, why aren’t there more great leaders?”

That really is a great question, especially in a society that really seems to be screaming for leadership in business and in politics. As a result, we spent quite a bit of time discussing this issue, dissecting various leaders that we knew and trying to determine if they were great leaders, good leaders, or even bad leaders.

She brought up her current boss as an example and described him as someone who was not nearly as good a leader as he seemed to believe he was. What was he missing? “Trust” she replied “and listening; he pretends to listen but he really doesn’t.” Those were the two things that really jumped out at her. The other items on the list were things he did really well, but without these two key ingredients he was someone that she only followed because he was the boss.

We discussed other examples of people that seemed to miss the mark on leadership.

One cared only about results and not about the people, another person wanted to be the smartest person on the team and hired people that would never challenge her or make her stretch and think. Another boss tended to horde information and left most of the team in the dark.

There were more examples, but you get the idea.

The point is that leadership is not complex or complicated, but it does require a variety of skills and ALL of these skills have to be present or the leader may fall short, far short of the kind of leader that they want to be. If you can't do all of these things, then you aren't a good leader, much less a great one. And so many leaders fall short in one or more of these areas.

Here’s the worst part. Most leaders who fall short don’t realize that they are falling short. Like most people, leaders do not see their own blind spots. And since they can't see what they are missing they assume that they really are doing what needs to be done.

How does this happen?

One example would be a leader who has a vision and believes that he/she is communicating that vision to the team. But for a variety of reasons, the team is not getting the message. And since the team is not receiving the message, it is not really communicated. Hence the leader is falling short without realizing it.

What are some ways for leaders to discover their blind spots?

There are a number of ways. Ideally someone can point out theblind spots to them. But that requires that the leader be open to honest feedback and has someone in their inner circle who is willing and able to communicate with them. If not, coaching can be a great way to uncover weaknesses. But even then the leader must be in contact with the coach and be determined to uncover any blind spots. Another alternative is a professionally administered 360 degree assessment. Done by a professional, 360 degree assessments are a powerful tool. Done by someone who is untrained or unqualified, a 360 can lead to false results and a loss of trust in the organization.

If you are interested in taking the next step in developing yourself and becoming the leader that you truly want to be, contact ECI Learning Systems today.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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