The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, MAKING A LEADER (Character, Personal Capability)



Authors quotes:

“We will now more thoroughly describe these five major elements of leadership attributes (Character, Personal Capability, Focus on Results, Interpersonal Skills, Leading Organizational Change).

Character—-The Center Pole of Every Leader

We begin with the component that is indeed at the core.  Everything radiates from it.

Here are some of the ways character gets defined:

-Making decisions with the organization paramount in their mind, versus allowing a personal agenda to influence decisions.

-Keeping commitments that are made.

-Practicing self-development; constantly learning.

-Being receptive to, and specifically asking for feedback from others.

-Being approachable by anyone.

-Treating everyone the same—-‘no smiling up and kicking down’ behavior.

-Treating the waitress and bellhop with dignity, as well as people with high status.

-Trusting other people; assuming they have good intentions.

-Working collaboratively with others, versus seeing everyone as a competitor.

-Not acting in an arrogant manner toward others.

-Being tenacious and not giving up because something is difficult.

-Having emotional resilience; adjusting rapidly to changing environments.

Personal Capability

The second important attribute of leadership is the personal capability the individual possesses.  This cluster of abilities comprises skills or competencies that are absolutely crucial for people to be highly regarded by peers, subordinates, and bosses.  These are not skills that would typically be described as leadership skills, and yet our research proves they must be in place for any individual to be perceived as a strong leader.

Some of the individual capabilities are:

-Technical knowledge

-Product knowledge

-Problem-analysis and problem-solving skills

-Professional skills (e.g., ability to write an intelligent, concise report; ability to make a compelling presentation in front of a group; ability to organize one’s work in an efficient manner)

-Innovation (e.g., ability to have a fresh outlook in approaching a problem, to shake loose of old methods and processes and see new possibilities


-Effective us of information technology”

Personal comments:

The authors list “some” of the definitions for character.  This is a good list, and reminds me of those that were difficult to observe in “leaders” where I worked.  The most difficult to witness were:

-Making decisions with the organization paramount in their mind

-Keeping commitments that are made

-Being receptive to, and specifically asking for feedback from others

-Working collaboratively with others, versus seeing everyone as a competitor

-Practicing self-development; constantly learning

More applied, and I do believe that many of these characteristics were missing due to the actions/behavior of the president/CEO/Owner.  As does the dressing to match the bosses attire, so does behavior.  Those of us that balked at bad behavior were considered to be untrustworthy/weird/not a team a team player; me, especially when I promoted individual and team development.  That really sent them into a tizzy!

Being a Lone Ranger, in a good way, was more important to me than being a “good old boy”, and not “rocking the boat”.  Life had no meaning, for me, with “going along to get along” as my priority.  Employees always came first, not the bosses.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders

MAKING A LEADER, continued (Focus on Results, Interpersonal Skills,

Leading Organizational Change)

The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, GOOD VERSUS BAD THINKING

Authors quotes:

“One of the small, barely noticeable philosophies that most people hold today is binary (something having two parts) thinking about good versus bad.  We are constantly amused that when trying to uncover problems in organizations, there is a search to identify the ‘bad people.’  One of the most common tendencies is that when a mistake occurs in an organization and there is a search for the cause, frequently a person or group is sought to be the source of the problem.  The ‘fall person’ is blamed for everything.  This is rarely the truth (that it is one person), but most people find it much more convenient.

On the other side, we have the search for ‘good.’  Having conducted a variety of studies to identify characteristics of high performers, what inevitably becomes a difficult task is to determine the criteria for identifying high performers.  This would appear to be a simple task, but as the different measurements are laid out it becomes a challenge.  Organizations search for some simple criteria to easily and quickly pinpoint the good from the bad.

In this chapter we have presented a new philosophy about leadership.  The philosophy expands a person’s thinking from ‘Leaders are either good or bad’ to ‘Leaders are bad, good, and great.’  This is a small change from what many currently believe, but we believe this small philosophical difference can have a huge impact on the success of both individuals and organizations.

For individuals this philosophy should help good leaders understand that good is not great.  It never was and never will be. Good is good, but the ultimate target is extraordinary leadership.  We hope this helps people not to be satisfied with good performance.

For organizations this philosophy ought to clarify the competitive advantage of great leadership.  When discussing their leadership talent, executives will sometimes state, ‘I don’t think we have a problem with our leaders’ (which translated means, we don’t have bad leaders).  The problem is not an abundance of bad leaders, the problem is the universal acceptance of good leaders, and assuming that they cannot be any better.”

Personal comments:

Two comments.  One, it usually is not one person who causes the problem, it is processes, processes that don’t work.  One company I worked for always wanted to “pin” their problems on “somebody” when it was processes that no one took the time to fix.

Two, bad “leaders” were rarely trained up, and remained in their jobs much longer than they should have.  The result? Employees developed bad attitudes, and responded with disgust, poor work habits, and disdain (contempt, unworthy of respect) for those in “suits”.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders


The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, THE PROPER MEASURE OF “GREATNESS”


Authors quotes:

“When you could identify a leader who produced

-High productivity

-Low turnover

-High customer satisfaction

-High productivity


-Positive relationships

they could, by definition, say this was an extremely effective leader.  Effective leadership is best defined and measured by the results produced, not by simply taking a certain number from the top of a distribution (ranking of managers, from top to bottom, in an organization).

The Organization’s Objective

The more ‘great’ leaders an organization can develop, the stronger it will be.  This is true for multiple reasons, but some of those are the following:

-The contribution the leaders make to the units they manage.

-The example or role model they set for the entire organization.

-The cumulative impact their performance has in creating an entirely new culture for the organization.

-The elevated standard of performance that is set within the organization.

We have advocated strongly that individuals focus on their strengths.  By doing that, they greatly increase the likelihood of being perceived as great leaders.  That same principle applies to the organization.  By increasing the number of high-performing leaders, the organization gains great strength.  It is always tempting to attempt to fix the low-performing ones, but the greatest gain appears to come by helping more leaders become truly excellent.

Personal comments:

Ranking of exempts (salaried employees) occurred at one company I worked for.  Unfortunately the practice used the theory, “once highly rated, always highly rated”.  Little to no effort was given to establish a standard by which exempts were measured to ensure a correct, current ranking.  In some cases exempts were highly ranked due to, as example, association, legitimate or not, or excellent work done many years ago (not on current performance).

Ranking, properly used, can be a helpful method in determining needed experience, training, future employment “opportunities”, and proper pay level.  Ranking based on the “buddy system” created frustration, disappointment, and in some cases, anger.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders


The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, WHAT CAUSES GOOD LEADERS TO BE UNCHALLENGED TO CHANGE (6)


Authors quotes:

Leaders are only willing to be as effective as those who in turn lead them.

Leaders cast a significant shadow in the organizations where they work.  This ‘shadow’ can cut both ways.  If you work with an extraordinary leader, the tendency is that your leadership effectiveness will be close to your leader’s.  On the other hand, if your boss is an ineffective leader, the tendency is that you won’t be much better.   In the study we found the length of a leader’s shadow to vary.  The length of time people spend with the same boss can increase the size of the shadow.

A by-product of the phenomenon (shadow) is that employees are rarely more effective than their bosses.  That is good news if the boss is an extraordinary leader.  The direct reports tend to rise to that level.  But we observed over and over that employees are only as good as there bosses.  Bosses set the standards, high or low.  The findings have implications:

-The extent to which leaders merely encourage subordinates to be their clones becomes problematic.  Indeed, it may demonstrate a lack of appreciation for different styles and approaches, which ultimately may be detrimental to the organization’s goals.

-Leaders in the organization should be made cognizant of the ways they reinforce their own behaviors in their direct reports.  Superiors should think more consciously of the role they play in people’s lives and careers, and the legacy they will leave once they are gone.

-Superiors need to be reminded to recruit employees with diversity of skills and work styles that would enrich and contribute to the organization.

-Organizations seeking a culture change should begin with an intervention at the senior level, since the best way to bring real change is usually to change the leaders.

-It takes great leaders to develop great leaders.  The idea of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ just won’t work with leadership.

The research is clear regarding the impact of leadership on desirable outcomes.  Good leaders are substantially more effective that bad leaders, but great leaders make a great difference.

Personal comments:

The one findings I want to comment on concerns recruiting employees with diversity of skills and work styles since it is one I was personal experience with.  It involved an individual seeking a summer internship.  The usual hiring technique (individual interviews and team assessment) was employed.

When the team gathered to determine her qualifications I was astonished by the negative responses (she didn’t “fit” the culture).  I found her to be extremely intelligent, with good interpersonal, and communication skills. What I liked most about her was she would have brought a new perspective to the culture.

She would not have reported to me, and her application was rejected by the supervisor.  A sidelight on this story is that the organization lost it’s ability to survive in the changing world.  Employees were either terminated, or moved to other locations.  Sad result of poor leadership.

Organizations thrive on the right mix of skills, work styles, and more, as recorded in this blog.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders


The Extraordinary Leader, Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders, WHAT CAUSES GOOD LEADERS TO BE UNCHALLENGED TO CHANGE (4 through 5)


Authors quotes:

“4. Good leaders often fail to appreciate and understand the differences between good leadership and great leadership.

Too many have remained casual observers of leadership rather than trained judges.  They experience leadership from others and feel the effects (that was great leadership or that was terrible) but lack the insight of how the effect was created or what its longer-lasting consequences will be.

People frequently confuse personality traits for leadership.  They assume that assertiveness, or the ability to make a compelling speech or give people crisp orders, is leadership.  It is not.

In order for people to improve their leadership ability they need to become astute observers of leadership.  They need not only to understand some basic concepts and be reasonably well read, they need to be able to judge everyday interactions and understand what is missing.

5. Many good leaders believe that extraordinary leaders are prodigies, having been endowed with some unusual gifts from birth.  Most recognize that people with exceptional leadership talents exist, but it is difficult for others to understand the path in their development that brought them from being good leaders to being extraordinary leaders.  The bar set to achieve extraordinary leadership seems too high to achieve, and the path to develop extensive skills is not clear.

Most individuals, as they become managers for the first time, go through an intense learning period.  They receive a great deal of training, personal coaching, and are open to ideas and suggestions from experienced managers.  They take time to plan meetings, performance reviews, and how they will give feedback to direct reports.  They also pay close attention to others, watching to understand techniques and skills.  They are practicing leadership with the intent to get better.  Their learning curve is high.  Once they get reasonably competent at being managers they switch from practicing to playing.

Some great leaders are not born with, but acquire at an early age, the desire to make things happen with other people.  We believe that other leaders can acquire increased leadership ability with practice at any age. The real key is that they engage in intense practice.  Bad leaders assume that deliberate practice makes no difference, so they continue to perform, but never improve.

Personal comments:

I had planned to discuss 4 through 6, but it would have been too lengthy.

Personal experience is that none of my leaders understood the difference between good and great.  Most practiced some aspects of great leadership, but none took the time for intense practice, and continued to perform from poor to good.

When the authors took their surveys they discovered subordinates rated their leaders highly, and yet, in this section, they admit that too often personality traits are considered leadership traits.  Observation (behavior, communication, social style) is required to assess leadership ability, beyond personality.  An example of what I am referring to are those who focus on themselves, almost exclusively, and are difficult to be around.

Great leaders do not behave in this manner.  They genuinely show interest in others.

Next: The Extraordinary Leader

Turning Good Managers Into Great Leaders