How Leaders Can Be Humble in an Age of Arrogance

arrogant leader

Leadership Power

Leadership is often linked to power, and it can unfortunately also be linked with arrogance. I believe most leaders are positive people who want to use their power and influence for good. Most people don’t start a career plan with the goal to become arrogant, either. And yet it happens.

How should leaders use power? How do leaders protect against becoming arrogant? How do leaders stay humble?

As one of the early endorsers of The Leadership Killer: Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, I had the opportunity to interact with authors Bill Treasurer and John Havlik about their work. They have known each other for decades, but they took decidedly different paths. Bill is founder of Giant Leap Consulting and has authored several books on leadership. John Havlik is a retired Navy SEAL who led special operations teams around the world for decades. The combination of civilian and military leadership experience was also an intriguing aspect to their work together. I reached out to them to talk about the important subjects raised in the book.

 

Every leader must answer this critical question: how will I use my leadership power?

 

How Leaders Effectively Use Power

How do leaders effectively use power?

It’s important to acknowledge that leadership involves the use of power to affect results. In fact, a leader is deemed successful or unsuccessful based on the magnitude and consistency of results achieved. As a leader grows in effectiveness and influence, the more power they are given to, potentially, affect more results. The leaders we admire most, and the ones we consider to be most noble, are those who use and distribute power in a way that best serves the interests of the people and teams they are charged with leading. The challenge is, though, as a leader grows in power, the more susceptible they become to the trappings of power. Emperor Palpatine, who was Darth Vader’s mentor and master in the Star Wars movies, said, “All those who gain power are afraid to lose it…even the Jedi.”

For example, in their annual report, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that of the 2700 cases of fraud across more than 100 countries, perpetrators who had worked at their organizations for more than 10 years caused six times as much financial damage (over the median loss) than fraudsters who had worked there less than one year. One interesting contributing factor is that often as a person rises through the leadership ranks, they become subject to less direct oversight, and it becomes more tempting and easier to hide crimes. In other words, when leaders abuse their power it is often because they’re convinced they won’t get caught.

 

“All those who gain power are afraid to lose it…even the Jedi.” -Emperor Palpatine

 

Signs of Misuse of Power

What are some of the signs of a leader who is misusing that power?

Learn to Lead with Courage

courage versus fear
Ryan Berman, author of the new book RETURN ON COURAGE, is the Founder of Courageous, a creative consultancy that develops Courage Brands®. For his book, Berman spent three years shadowing top leaders to understand how they accomplish their goals. He found that the best leaders make sure that courage is a key component of their organization’s culture. The excerpt below will help you build an organization in which courage thrives.

 

Return on Courage

Most businesses are properly focused on return on investment. Courage Brands have a high Return on Courage. How can you recognize when your brand is moving down the right path to delivering a Return on Courage?

 

HERE ARE FIVE KEY RETURN ON COURAGE MOMENTS:

1. COMMUNICATION: Lead with your company’s values

By doing the hard work of setting up your Central Courage System, you’re on your way to eliminating the fragmented gap that sits between organizational health and courageous business.

All decisions can now be made the right way—through your core values. Remember, core values are not eye rolls. They are how the exceptional roll. Knowing your values and communicating them takes the guessing game out of what matters most to your business. Activated properly, your values become your corporate cadence that can bring calm and alignment to your employees.

Remember, repeating makes Believers. The same holds true when you stay authentic to your values and use them as decision-making filters.

 

“Courage breeds courage.” -Ryan Berman

 

2. CONVICTION: Make internal Believers

When you lead with your values, you have the opportunity to make a Believer. When you make internal Believers, you make a culture. When you have a culture crafted out of your values and belief system, you build a loyal company willing to go the distance on your behalf. This is the idea of conviction. How you operate and communicate is the driving force behind making Believers or making Fake Believers. It has never been more desired by a next generation workforce than it is now.

In less than a decade, 75 percent of your workforce will be Millennials. This generation aspires to work at unique, innovative, and purpose-driven companies. They’ll stick around if they believe. Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.

 

“Create an authentic, empowering, and purpose-driven work environment that Believers can rally behind.” -Ryan Berman

 

3. CLARITY: Proactively know your business fears

Leading with Dignity

Dignity

Lead with Dignity

When a copy of Leading with Dignity landed on my desk, I was intrigued for a couple reasons. First, the author, Donna Hicks PhD, did not fit the profile of a typical business management book author. Her background is in international conflict resolution—she has, for 25 years—worked in some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world, including Northern Ireland, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Syria, and the Middle East.  What is a conflict resolution specialist doing writing a book about business leadership?  I wondered and was excited to learn more. I love learning from non-traditional approaches and a different perspective.

Second, the word “dignity” intrigued me. Dignity can be perceived as a soft, abstract idea. It’s not a standard buzzword in conversations about workplace and company culture. Yet, Hicks says that an understanding of dignity and how to honor it is an essential role to good leadership. In the book, she highlights three components of leading with dignity: what one must know in order to honor dignity and avoid violating it; what one must do to lead with dignity; and how one can create a culture of dignity in any organization, whether corporate, religious, governmental, healthcare, or beyond.

She uses hundreds of interviews, research in psychology, and real-life case studies to illustrate how leaders and managers can better understand dignity and transform their workplaces.

We spoke about her research.

 

“The most toxic workplaces in which I have consulted are those with unaddressed and unacknowledged dignity violations and the gossip network is alive and functioning well.” -Donna Hicks

 

Born to be Vulnerable

What’s your definition of dignity? What does it look like to treat someone with dignity?leading with dignity book cover

My definition of dignity is simple; it is our inherent value and worth.  We are all born with it.  At the same time, we are born vulnerable to having it injured, just like a physical injury.  From my research, I have developed the Ten Elements of Dignity, ten ways to honor it in ourselves and others:  Acceptance of Identity–people want to be treated well no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation; recognition—for their hard work and a job well done; safety—make people feel safe both physically and psychologically so they feel free from humiliation;  acknowledgment—for the suffering they have endured if treated badly; fairness—to be treated in an even-handed way; inclusion—make people feel a sense of belonging; understanding—don’t rush to judgment; give people a chance to share their perspective; independence—avoid micro-managing; benefit of the doubt—treat people as if they were trustworthy; and accountability—apologize when you have caused someone harm.

 

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” -John Naisbitt

 

What do most people get wrong when thinking about it?

The most common misconception about dignity is that it is the same as respect.  Dignity and respect are very different.  Dignity is something we are born with—our inherent value and worth.  We don’t have to do anything to have dignity. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity, no matter what they do.  Respect, on the other hand, has to be earned.  If I say I respect someone, she or he has done something special to deserve my admiration.  I say to myself, “I want to be like that person. She is a role model for me.”

 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” -Winston Churchill

 

Protect Other’s Dignity

How to Lead With Clarity

lead with clarity

Lead With Clarity

One of the most common problems facing organizations, teams, and leaders today is a lack of clarity. Clarity is a critical component of success. We all want it, even crave it, but it often seems elusive.

Brad Deutser argues that clarity can be created and help drive people, profit, and performance when it’s found. Brad is founder and CEO of management consulting firm Deutser, and he has worked with a variety of businesses from numerous industries. I found his new book, Leading Clarity: The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash People, Profit, and Performance, an exceptional read.

We then talked about leadership and clarity:

 

The Clarity Conundrum 

What is the clarity conundrum?
The constant state of change and ever-present chaos in the world today is unprecedented. We are constantly navigating not one world, but multiple worlds simultaneously with the political, societal, social and technological changes that are happening at a more rapid pace than at any time in history. Leaders are forced to make daily decisions in a high-stakes environment that is often entangled with competing needs and priorities where there is not one obvious answer. These decisions have the potential to define their company and determine their ultimate success. We identify these decisions, inflection points or daily puzzles as clarity conundrums. They take many different forms in companies and in the lives of the leader. Clarity conundrums include the need for a new vision/direction, repositioning, a growth imperative, and they often result from a merger, a new leader, an acquisition, a safety issue, crisis, or hitting a plateau or reaching critical juncture point in the organization. What they all have in common is that they require clarity, as a process, to successfully navigate the necessary transition to the desired future state.

 

“Clarity isn’t an arrival point, a vista, or a destination.” -Brad Deutser

 

Think Inside the Box

Why do you advocate thinking inside the box? I love it, and it’s counterintuitive from all the advice commonly shared.
For much of my early career, I was prized as an out of the box thinker. Clients could rely on me to produce ideas and solutions that were fundamentally different and way outside the mainstream. I was wildly creative – but that creativity did not always align with the desired results. About two decades ago, I began to rethink the box paradigm, and using client results and research began to validate that “inside the box” is actually where real creativity, innovation and performance are birthed. Interestingly, in our early research, we challenged people to define their box. Most people simply accepted the metaphor without assigning definition to it. When we uncovered the parameters of the box and put clear definition to each side, including the top and bottom, we were able to fundamentally change the trajectory of business for our clients and the connectivity of the workforce to the organization and its leadership. Inside the box thinking allows leaders to have a clearly defined organization and direction, and employees to have something that they can understand and belong to. It is a game changer.

 

Who Are You Serving?

serve to lead

Who Are You Serving?

That’s the question on the back cover of James Strock’s new book Serve to Lead: 21st Century Leaders Manual. It’s the first of four questions posed by the author. Serve to Lead is filled with principles that inspire us to the highest level of leadership. It’s an essential leadership guide for anyone aspiring to take their game to a higher-level. As someone who writes and speaks about servant leadership, I found it a compelling read.

James Strock is an author and leadership speaker, an entrepreneur, and a reformer. I recently asked him to share his perspective on the changing nature of leadership.

 

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

21st Century Leadership

What has changed in the field of leadership for the 21st Century? 

Our lives and work are undergoing extensive, high-velocity change. It’s inevitable that leadership—which is about relationships and relates to all parts of our world—would be transformed.

Among the most significant changes is the breakdown of longstanding barriers that defined leadership. For example, individuals holding high positions of power traditionally tended to be distant from the those they served. Today, anyone can find a way to communicate with almost anyone else through new technologies. Such individuals no longer have the zones of privacy that separated their personal and professional lives. Elective politicians have been experiencing this new world for some time. Corporate and NGO officials are now liable to be held to account in the same way.

The new trends are part of a transformational change wrought by digital technology. In the 20th Century interactions were generally transactional. Now, by contrast, we’re in a web of relationships. Those relationships can be established or defined by individuals rather than by large public and private institutions.

The ongoing empowerment of individuals and previously isolated or marginalized groups through new technology has accelerated the longstanding trend toward leadership exerted through influence rather than domination or dictation. That doesn’t mean that the world has magically become a utopian paradise or democracy. It does mean that leadership roles are subject to greater accountability, and the tools of workaday management and service are in transition.

 

“Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders live to serve. Period.” -Tom Peters

 

What are the unique challenges of our day that impact leadership? 

A unique, unprecedented challenge of 21st-Century leadership is involuntary transparency. Traditional notions of separate work and personal lives are being upended. Presidential candidates are pursued 24/7 by stalkers with video cameras. They lay in wait for a moment of anger, a moment of exhaustion, or a moment of pique. Then they pounce! Skilled propagandists will utilize such human moments to convey a negative narrative that appears more credible through a captured moment that may have no actual relevance.

Those who would lead are being curtailed in their capacity to craft a narrative. One can see advantages when this exposes relevant hypocrisy. Yet there are also costs. It can surely inflame the mistrust and cynicism that is afflicting the populace. It can also prompt people to turn away from positional leadership roles.

How involuntary transparency will be negotiated with expectations of privacy is one of the great questions of evolving 21st-Century leadership.

 

“First, always ask for the order, and second, when the customer says yes, stop talking.” -Michael Bloomberg

 

Everyone Can Lead