The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, AN OVERVIEW OF IMPORTANT IDEAS IN THIS BOOK

Authors quotes:

“There are 20 insights presented in this book.  The following chapters  present further analysis of these ideas.

Insight 1.  Great leaders make a huge difference, when compared to merely good leaders.
We have known for some time that huge differences exist between top performers and average performers in any job category.  One meta-analysis (a synthesis of some 80 well conducted studies on productivity) showed that for high-level jobs (and leaders certainly fit that category) the productivity difference between the top person out of 100 and the great majority is huge.  For example, the top person performing high-complexity jobs is 127 percent more productive than the mean average person, and infinite more productive that the 100th person in that curve.  The researchers said “infinitely” because the number was so large that it would be lacking precision to say anything other than ‘infinite.’

Insight 2.  One organization can have many great leaders.
Being a great leader can be defined by selecting the top 5 or 10 percent from any distribution, but this is artificial.  It was done for the sake of ease and objectivity in our research.  However, greatness should ultimately be defined against a standard rather than merely comparing people against each other.  There is no reason why half the leaders in an organization could not be great if they were developed properly.  Better still, why not all?  Great leadership is not a competitive activity in which one person’s success detracts from another’s success.

Insight 3.  We have been aiming too low in our leadership development activities.
We contend that one of the major failings in leadership development programs has been the tendency to aim low.  Michelangelo said, ‘the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it’

We have often set the target as ‘getting a little bit better.’  We have not set our sight on getting people to become outstanding leaders.  The more great leaders an organization develops, the more it will become an outstanding organization.  There is no reason to accept mediocrity in leadership any more than in software programming, customer service, or selling.

Personal comments:

Insight 2 hits on a major problem in organizations; comparing employees against each other.  When it was done to me it left a “bad taste in my mouth” especially when the response was something similar to, “well, you make more money’; when I realized the boss didn’t do their homework, or demonstrated their lack of interest.  Such behavior is demeaning and lowers morale.

Setting standards sets the definition for levels of success, and the needed development to reach those levels.

Insight 3 is a serious problem in that mediocrity is the easy way out, and considered “good enough”.  Organization boards carry much of the blame.

Finally, why is poor leadership accepted when it has a negative effect on customer service, selling, morale, trust, and ?

Next:        The Extraordinary Leader
Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, My personal comments, The Leadership Tent Poles


Personal Capability

Since personal capability is needed to create a clear vision, and sense of purpose for the organization, it and the leadership required, cannot be delegated.  That capability was not  evident within the leaders I worked with.  Sense of purpose and vision were rarely  discussed.  It many have been an internal driver for them, but that does not help employees or the organization succeed.  They must be communicated again, and again.

Once more.  This idea of leaders trusting others (as stated by the authors) is missing an important component.  Leaders first must be trustworthy, and then trust those who earn it. Since it is the most valuable resource, that focus must be instilled in the organization.

For those who haven’t exhibited trust, it requires leaders attention through counseling, training, and possibly dismissal.  Some don’t seem able, or capable of reaching the necessary trust level, and without it, there are few options.  It’s not an matter of ignoring it, or hoping and wishing it away. Keep in mind, however, that trust levels are affected by leaders who don’t value open communication.  Some leaders see open communication as a threat to their authority when the opposite is true.

Leading Organizational Change

Change is necessary for an organization to increase its influence, and success.  We have experienced or witnessed successful organizations that withered and died due to the inability to recognize, ponder, discuss, and vision a needed change.  Leaders lead, but successful organizational change requires input at all levels; buy-in won’t come without it.  As the authors state, organizational change is the highest expression of leadership, and includes leaders who communicate a strong vision, and have the ability to listen, and answer questions such as, “what’s in it for me?”, confidently.

Focus on Results

Unfortunately I have witnessed destructive behavior by leaders that undermined the Focus on Results.  Leaders do forget that actions speak directly to their character, their interpersonal skills, and their personal capabilities.  Inaction can surpass action in undermining morale, and trust.  There were times I was prevented from taking action on important issues, and was rebuffed, only to see continued decline in performance by managers and employees.  Inability to correct performance issues has a devastating effect on others, who see the problem, but is overlooked by management.  The ‘good old boys’ were given a pass on unacceptable behavior when others were not.  A sad commentary on poor leadership.

Next:        The Extraordinary Leader
Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, Personal comments on The Leadership Tent Poles


My view on communication was expressed last week.  This week Trust (Leaders need to be continually aware of words or behavior that undermine organizational success), and Character.

My post on Trust from Leadership To The Max in 2011 (summarized):

Trust the Most Valuable Resource

“I’m painfully aware of the importance of trust, through personal experiences, and through observation of others struggling with the issue.  I believe trust is basic for any productive, and meaningful relationship.  Stephen Covey in his book Principle-Centered Leadership writes, “Trust-or lack of it-is at the root of success or failure in relationships and in the bottom-line results of business, industry, education, and government.”  

Trust has been written about in great detail, and yet it’s not easy to define.  It’s a sense about someone that affects how we act, what we say, and how we say it.  Trust is a mix of character, competence, integrity, and values.  Trust is elusive.  It can take years to build, yet can be gone in an instant by a comment, or an action.

Trust issues begin with a few isolated incidents that can then affect everyone in the work group.

Examples of behaviors associated with destroying trust:

1 Assuming someone is going to respond in a negative way and interacting consciously or unconsciously with that person in a way that sows mistrust.

2 Making excuses; not accepting responsibilities.

3 Withholding information.

4 Not keeping confidences.

5 Talking about someone behind their back.

6 Saying one thing, and doing another.

7 Speaking in half-truths; not addressing an issue head-on.

8 Breaking commitments.”

My post on Character in 2011 (summarized):

What’s All The Fuss?  Does Character Really Count?

(Character as defined in Webster’s dictionary as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person; moral or ethical quality; qualities of honesty, fortitude, integrity.)

What a leader does in their private life is their business.  Personal freedom is an essential part of our democratic way of life.  What does matter, however, is when personal activities carry over into public life; when these activities contribute to violating trust, and represent a misuse of authority (which interferes with the personal freedom and rights of others).  This issue of separating personal and public lives then begs for the question, does anyone believe we can behave differently?  Although today’s society seems to think so, I don’t.

What do we value in our leaders?  What are we willing to accept?  What are the boundaries?  Who will choose?  Do we tolerate one set of standards for one segment of our society versus another?

I expect leaders should value honesty, professionalism, equality, truthfulness, fairness and consistency.  I believe leaders should model the behavior they desire from those they lead.  I don’t believe leaders should disregard or diminish these values in the name of tolerance.  How then can they lead?

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

My personal comments The Leadership Tent Poles


The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, THE LEADERSHIP TENT—A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK, Part Two


Authors quotes:

“4. Interpersonal Skills

The fourth tent pole of leadership puts into one cluster all of the interpersonal or people skills.   There is an enormous body of evidence that says leadership is expressed through the communication process and is the impact that one person (the leader) has on a group of other people.  It is the direct expression of the character of the individual and is often the window by which people understand the personal character of the leader.  (Note, however, that leadership does not equal any one competency.  It is expressed in a result.  Yes the competency is the tool or the manners in which that result are obtained.  As such, it is worthy of understanding, but a competency is never an outcome, and leadership is ultimately about outcomes.)  We have arbitrarily separated the leader’s impact on the people from the leader’s ability to obtain good results in other arenas, such as financial outcomes, productivity improvement, enhanced customer relations, or greater organizational capability.

5. Leading Organizational Change

Fifth, as noted earlier, another expression of leadership comes in the ability to produce change within an organization.  The highest expression of leadership involves change.  Caretaker managers can keep things going on a steady path, but leaders are demanded if the organization is to pursue a new path or rise to a significantly higher level of performance.

A key point here is that for many leadership roles, the first four ten poles may be all that are required.  It is not until a person gets into leading broad, strategic change that the final tent pole is required.”

Personal comments:

Here is what I wrote about communication back in 2011:

“This topic is second only to trust in importance for leaders.  Why? Communication increases knowledge, builds confidence, trust, commitment, and increases productivity.  It creates meaning.  It’s the only way groups can become aligned behind vision, mission and goals.  Yet it typically shows up on surveys as “Needs Improvement.”

We don’t communicate well with each other (which is no surprise), and there are many reasons why.  Our ability to communicate is affected by our styles, tone, body language, filters, barriers, and our inability to listen.  Filters and barriers include ego, perceptions, assumptions, language, status, education, history, stereotypes, and jargon.  The result is that communication can stop, or be severely limited.

Dr. Jack Gibb in his book, “Trust, a New View of Personal and Organizational Development,” lists six behaviors that stop communication.  They are judging, superiority, certainty, controlling, manipulation, and indifference.  It’s not that we deliberately behave this way.  It’s often done without thinking.  What do they sound like?

-Judging:”You are wrong”

-Superiority:”I’m better, I know more”

-Certainty:”My mind is made up”

-Controlling:”Let me tell you how to do it”

-Manipulation:”If I don’t tell them the whole story I can get them to agree with me” (hidden motives)

-Indifference:”I have better things to do”

‘Since the five tent pole topics are extremely important, next week’s post will review my personal experience related to them.’

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

My personal comments on The Leadership Tent Poles

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, THE LEADERSHIP TENT—A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK, Part One


Authors quotes:

“The conceptual model we propose is rather simple, and involves five elements, which we will compare to the poles in a tent.

Our empirical factor analysis of huge amounts of data collected on leaders’ competencies reveals that all vital and differentiating leadership competencies can be grouped into five clusters.

1. Character, the pole at the center of the tent.

There is a huge body of writing on this subject.  Indeed, some writers and researchers have argued that leadership is totally about character or integrity.  We do not share that view, but we do agree that personal character is the core of all leadership effectiveness.  We strongly concur that the ethical standards, integrity, and authenticity of the leader are extremely important.  With a strong personal character the leader is never afraid to be open and transparent.  In fact, the more people can see inside, the more highly regarded the leader will be.  Without that personal character, on the other hand, leaders are forever in danger of being discovered.  They are like a Hollywood set that from one side looks attractive, but after walking around it, the illusion is dispelled and the hollowness is obvious.

2. Personal Capability

On one side of the tent floor is the pole of personal capability.  This describes the intellectual, emotional, and skill makeup of the individual.  It includes analytical and problem-solving capabilities, along with the technical competence the person possesses.  It requires an ability to create a clear vision and sense of purpose for the organization.  Great leaders need a strong collection of these personal capabilities.  Leadership cannot be delegated to others.  The leader must be emotionally resilient, trust others and be self-confident enough to run effective meetings and speak in public.

3. Focus on Results

The third tent pole of leadership represents the behaviors that can broadly be described as ‘focusing on results.’  It describes the ability to have an impact on the organization.  It means being capable of getting things accomplished.  Leaders may be wonderful human beings, but if they don’t produce sustained, balanced result they simply are not good leaders.  We will later examine the interplay of these three elements as a powerful predictor of leadership effectiveness.”

Personal comments:

My “huge body of personal experience” does confirm personal character is the core of leadership effectiveness.  I also confirm that ethical standards, integrity, and authenticity of the leader are extremely important, but sadly lacking.  Most I knew were also afraid to be open and transparent, choosing to be a Hollywood set in fear of discovery.

I am disturbed by the obvious/apparent lack of competencies in those who would like to be called leaders, but fail, as demonstrated by employees low morale, poor work ethic, and poor communication skills.  These failures don’t belong at the feet of  employees, but at the feet of management, at all levels.

Authors quote on trust is misleading.  Leaders cannot trust others who do not demonstrate it.  If the leader isn’t diligent, and cannot tell the difference they will go over the waterfall, and then wonder why?

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders