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Getting beyond the BS of leadership literature

The morality tale

Leadership has become a kind of morality tale: Leaders are supposed to be authentic and truthful, paying attention to their employees' well-being and building trust.

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Getting beyond the BS of leadership literature

Getting beyond the BS of leadership literature

https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/getting-beyond-the-bs-of-leadership-literature

mckinsey.com

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Key Ideas

Leadership literature

Leadership failures in government, business, and nonprofits have created a demand for leadership studies and literature.

Unfortunately, these materials describe unreachable ideals that are far removed from organizational reality, and therefore useless in practice.

The morality tale

Leadership has become a kind of morality tale: Leaders are supposed to be authentic and truthful, paying attention to their employees' well-being and building trust.

Oversimplification

The moral framing of leadership does not consider the real complexities and difficulties that leaders face.

Sometimes, being pragmatic necessitates doing seemingly bad things to achieve good results. This means that leaders may have to act in strategic misrepresentation, contrary to their own feelings.

Separating good from bad actions

Dividing leaders and their actions into "good" and "bad" oversimplifies a more complex reality of human behavior. People act differently depending on their circumstances and the various roles they play. For example, leaders may behave differently with their families than they do at work.

Achieving important objectives require behavior that is different from a leader's inherent traits. The lack of these attitudes cannot be used as an excuse. Certain behaviors and skills can be learned.

Build your power base relentlessly

A job can be turned into a power base by:
  • building a reputation for creating and providing resources that are useful to others
  • efficiently building relationships, even with enemies, and using this to your advantage.

Embrace ambiguity

The reality that many people face in many sectors is the problem of getting things done in an imperfect world. 

This means that sometimes questionable and obscure actions need to be employed to gain the desired outcome.

Avoid popularity contests

Bringing great ideas to life can sometimes be uncomfortable for leaders. Leadership is not about winning popularity contests or being the most beloved person.

Leaders are sometimes required to be hard on the people who work in close proximity to them.  

Adapt when it is necessary

It is important to be willing to learn, evolve, and develop when it is required. 

Leaders need to develop the ability to do what is required in a situation. It might mean knowing how to be strategic with the truth or to learn to display energy and confidence that is not really felt.

Master the science of influence

People are often lazy to think, not just cognitively biased. It makes everyone susceptible to influence strategies, even if we are familiar with them. These tactics depend on accepting and obeying the symbols of authority, the power of liking, the value created by scarcity.

These influence strategies present us with tools we potentially have available if we take the time to learn to master their use.

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