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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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The Importance Of Business Ethics

The way to becoming a great leader is through your core values, business ethics and leadership qualities which precede you in both your business and personal life.

Your business ethics...

Becoming A Better Leader
  • Read the life stories of those with leadership qualities that you admire and think about how to apply their lessons to your life.
  • Analyze your key relationships regularly and resolve to live in truth with the most important people in your life.
  • Keep your promises and commitments as part of your core values and leadership qualities.
3 Areas Of Life To Develop Integrity
  1. Personal Life: refuse to say or do something that you don’t believe is right and refuse to tolerate or compromise in situations where you are unhappy with the behavior of another.
  2. Financial: Casualness toward money, yours or not, brings financial casualties. Fiercely guard your credit rating, pay your bills in time and keep your word on your financial commitments.
  3. Commitment To Others: Always keep your word, be trustworthy and honorable no matter the circumstances.

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Inspiration alone is not enough
Inspiration alone is not enough

Just as leaders who deliver only performance may do so at a cost that the organization is unwilling to bear, those who focus only on inspiration may find that they motivate the masses but a...

Inspiring leaders

The leaders that inspire are those who use a personal combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions and to hold them accountable for results.

And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not thorough command and control.

Becoming an Inspiring Leader
  • You only need centeredness: a state of mindfulness that enables leaders to remain calm under stress, empathize, listen deeply, and remain present.
  • Your key strength has to match how your organization creates value.
  • You have to behave differently if you want your employees to do so.
Authentic Leaders

They are people of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations. They have a deep sense of purpose and self-discipline, are true to their core values, dare to build th...

Character, Not Style

Leadership has to do with who we are as human beings and the forces that shaped us. Style is the outward manifestation of one’s authentic leadership

Authentic leaders must adapt their styles to fit the situation and capabilities of their teammates.

Real And Genuine

You can’t pretend to be an authentic leader for long because people will eventually sense the lack of authenticity, and ultimately you will not gain the trust of your teammates.

If you are real and genuine people will see you as trustworthy and willing to learn, they will respond positively to requests for help in getting through difficult times.

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Servant leadership

Is a leadership philosophy that is built on the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others, rather than accrue power or take control. 

Servant leadership vs. other leadership styles

The authoritarian leadership style:

  • The authoritarian style of leadership requires leaders to have total decision-making power and absolute control over their subordinates. Servant leadership upends the top-down power structure.

Similar leadership styles:

  • Ethical leadership urges leaders to show respect for the values and dignity of their subordinates. Servant leadership's emphasis on taking responsibility for the needs and desires of others.
  • Participative leadership style requires leaders to involve subordinates in setting goals, building teams and solving problems but keep the final decision-making in their own hands. Servant leadership includes some of these elements.
Attributes of a servant leader
  • Listening. A servant leader seeks to identify the will of a group and helps to clarify that will.
  • Empathy. A servant leader assumes the good intentions of co-workers and does not reject them as people.
  • Healing. Understand part of their leadership responsibility is to help make whole employees whose sense of self is precarious.
  • Awareness.
  • Persuasion. Servant leaders rely on persuasion not positional authority or coercion, to convince others.
  • Conceptualization. Balancing between thinking big and managing everyday reality.
  • Foresight. The ability to understand the past and see the present clearly to predict how the future will unfold.
  • Stewardship. CEOs, staffs and trustees all have a responsibility to hold the institution "in trust" for the greater good of society.
  • Commitment to the growth of people. Feel a responsibility to nurture the growth of employees.
  • Building community. Find ways to build community in their institutions.
1800: Jefferson and Adams
1800: Jefferson and Adams

The outcome was so bizarre, the United States had to amend the Constitution.

  • The election of 1800 saw Thomas Jefferson tie with his Democratic-Republican "running mate" Aaron Burr. Both...
1824: 'Corrupt bargain'
  • Andrew Jackson won the popular vote by less than 39,000 ballots and took 99 Electoral College votes. John Quincy Adams secured 84, William Crawford won 41, and Henry Clay had 37.
  • Clay, with the least votes, got the boot, and his supporters shifted their support to Adams, who would go on to win the majority of the House vote.

After his inauguration, Adams selected Clay as his secretary of state. Jackson accused Adams and Clay of a "corrupt bargain."

1860: Nation divided

The 1860 election was notable because it ripped the long-dominant Party (and nation) in half.

  • The Democrats were unable at their 1860 convention to establish an official party line on slavery.
  • At a second convention that year, the Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas, but many Southerners in the party selected Breckinridge as their man. Both would claim to be the official Democratic candidate.
  • Lincoln snared 40% of the popular vote but took most of the North in the Electoral College.
  • Douglas was second in the popular vote but took only Missouri.
  • Breckenridge took most of the South.
  • Bell's middle of the road policies earned him the middle of the road.

In 1861, delegates from South Carolina, and six of the Southern states formed the Confederate States of America and selected Jefferson Davis as their president.

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Leadership Development

Leadership development is viewed as a current and future priority. Despite efforts to produce and nurture new leaders, only 7 percent of senior managers think that their companies develop global le...

Overlooking context

Many training initiatives assume that the same group of skills or leadership styles are suitable without considering the strategy or organizational culture of a company.

An excellent leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another. Focusing on context means equipping leaders with two or three competencies that will make a distinction to performance, rather than a list of leadership standards that is of no specific benefit.

Separate reflection from real work

Companies face a challenge when it comes to planning the program's curriculum.  Adults typically retain only 10 percent of what they hear in classroom lectures, but nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing. 

The answer seems straightforward: tie leadership development to real on-the-job projects. While it is not easy to create opportunities that simultaneously address high-priority needs, companies should strive to make every major business project a leadership-development opportunity as well.

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The servant-leader
The servant-leader

Servant leadership is a very social leadership style.

While traditional leadership is about the accumulating, hoarding and exercising (which often degenerates into abusing) of power by...

Servant leadership as a powerful management style
Research consistently reveals:
  • Servant leadership has a significant effect on employee commitment to a supervisor.
  • Servant leadership and employee satisfaction are strongly correlated.
10 traits of servant leaders
  • Self-awareness. It helps to view situations from a holistic position rather than being self-centred.
  • Empathy. People need to be accepted for their special one-of-a-kind spirits.
  • Listening and reflecting upon what your team says is essential to the growth of the servant-leader.
  • Healing. Many people walk around with a variety of hurts. Good servant-leaders endeavour to support those with whom they come in contact.
  • Foresight. Seeks to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the possible outcome of a decision for the future.
  • Conceptualisation. Visualising the big picture and thinking beyond day-to-day realities.
  • Relying on persuasion rather than hierarchical dominance.
  • Stewardship. It requires a commitment to serving the needs of others first and taking responsibility for the actions and results of your team.
  • Team growth. Commitment to the personal growth of every individual.
  • Community building. Human beings have an innate need to belong to a “tribe” of some kind.

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Have a Succession Plan

Alexander the Great built one of the largest empires in history in just a few short years, and it fell apart just as quickly. As soon as Alexander died, his generals carved up his empire into pi...

Know When To Take Big Risks

Prince William Of Orange led the Dutch rebellion against Spain, then the most powerful empire in the world. To stop the advance of the more powerful Spanish army he pulled down several dikes and flooded a large portion of the Dutch countryside, contributing largely to the defeat of the Spanish.

Recognize when you can't beat your competitors and find a way to differentiate yourself.

Maintain Your Flexibility

During the Cuban missile crisis, many of JFK's advisors advised a full military invasion of Cuba. JFK held off on these plans, opting instead for a naval blockade and negotiations with Soviet leaders, all while planning for a possible invasion if these tactics failed.

Don't commit yourself to a strategic path without first evaluating all of the options available to you.

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Exercising Integrity

Not every leader is benevolent. Many leaders have insight, initiative, influence, and impact but their lives and legacies are tainted by a lack of integrity.

A great leader must have a lif...

Being Impactful

The measure of leadership is the impact they have on their followers. How much of a difference they make.

They’re either instrumental in creating real lasting change, or they’re not leaders. They’re just entertainers.

Exerting Influence

An authentic leader draws people and compels them to act with his vision and values. He also gives off a positive vibe and is good at persuading others to his point of view.

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Make Your Enemies Into Allies

Pointing out others’ mistakes rarely encourages them to change their behavior, and it certainly doesn’t help them learn anything. People aren’t driven by reason, but by emotion; so a public ...

Be The Beacon Your People Need

Nelson Mandela was lauded as a courageous leader -- even when he was truly terrified. Like the time he astonished his bodyguard by calmly reading a newspaper while the plane he was flying on had engine failure.

Mandela himself, however, later confessed in private that he’d been truly terrified but refused to show it. Mandela knew that courage is a choice, and everyone can be courageous by learning to cope with your anxieties and fears every day. 

Recruit Remarkable Guides

Niccolò Machiavelli held that using advisors well begins with knowing one’s own weaknesses and selecting advisors to offset them. It’s also necessary to know how to solicit advice the right way.

For Machiavelli, that meant showing advisors he valued their honest opinion and would not punish them for giving it. But, at the end of the day, he was the one calling the shots.

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