Learning to Be an Exceptional Leader

Learning to Be an Exceptional Leader

 

Jim Kerr has just written his fifth book. You may recognize the name from his weekly column in Inc. or any of his previous books. Jim has been an executive coach and consultant for nearly 30 years. Currently, he is the global chair of Culture Transformation at the management consulting and search firm N2Growth. His latest bookIt’s Good To Be King: A Leadership Fable for Everyday Leaders, is written in a fun and easy-to-access parable form that enables the reader to quickly embrace his leadership takeaways.

This lighthearted story presents sound leadership fundamentals and reinforces the notion that, regardless of the circumstances, we can all learn to become even more exceptional at leading others.

I spoke with Jim recently about his new book.

 

“Leaders make things possible. Exceptional leaders make them inevitable.” -Lance Morrow

 

This book is much different from the others that you have written.  In fact, some may even consider it a bedtime story.  Why did you choose a fable format to house the leadership advice that you offer throughout the book?

There are two reasons that underpin this choice of format.  First, I want the book to be consumed quickly and easily.  There are far too many leadership titles available that offer dry and uninspired content, which make them difficult to get through and enjoy.  Second, I want this book to be read and appreciated by all kinds of people, not just those who manage others in a business setting.

Sure, business professionals of all types – from the harried C-suite executive, who is looking for a quick “leadership read” to the Gen Y new hire who is eager to gain useful insight for career advancement – will find great value in the book.  But I would like people who simply aspire to become better leaders in their everyday lives to want to read this book.

People like you and me who lead others in their communities, places of worship or volunteer organizations should pick up this book and find valuable insights that can help them become better leaders.

 

Exceptional Leaders Shift Styles for Results

Transform Your Organization with Servant Leadership

Transform Your Organization

I’ve personally traveled all over the globe teaching servant leadership. My book, Leading With Others in Mind, is all about the nine qualities of a servant leader and how every organization can benefit from these practices.

Art Barter recently wrote a journal, The Servant Leadership Journal, which takes readers through an 18-week journey. Filled with space for reflection and exercises, the book is a thoughtful way to reinforce the servant leadership mindset. Art is the owner of Datron World Communications, Inc., and he took that business from $10 million to $200 million using these principles. Because of his passion for this type of leadership, Art has also founded the Servant Leadership Institute.

I recently asked him about his work in this area.

 

“There’s a wonder and magic in leaving your ego behind and serving others.” -Art Barter

 

Find Your Why

What would you say to yourself if you could go back and talk to the Art just starting his career?

I would tell the Art just starting his career to respect authority, find his “why” and not let others define him. And I would tell him to find a mentor who practiced servant leadership. With that kind of attitude, I would have looked for the significance in my career, not just success, at a much earlier age. I wish I had realized the importance of serving first and knowing the joy that comes from helping your employees thrive.

 

 

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” -George MacDonald

 

Why did you decide to do a journal versus a traditional book?

The word “serve” is a verb, an action word. Presenting our behaviors of a servant leader as a journal gets readers involved in action — working to change their behavior, which in turn helps to change mindset. Working through the journal and creating their own visualization for living the behaviors will have a greater impact on their transformation. As Ken Blanchard says, “Leadership is an inside out job.” The journal involves readers with the “inside” work only they can do. The goal is to create leaders who live with an orientation toward serving others.

 

“Leadership is an inside out job.” -Ken Blanchard

 

Practice, Practice, Practice

What’s the best way to change behavior? How do we know which behaviors to change first?

I think the best way to change behavior is to practice, practice, practice. Set small goals and be intentional. You will begin to assess situations differently, from a servant’s perspective. You will approach others with an attitude of, “How can I add value here?”

As for which behavior to change first, one approach we advocate is to work on the Serve First behavior before moving on to the other behaviors. But we also need to meet people where they are, so another approach is to do a self-assessment or have peers assess you on the nine behaviors and work on the ones for which you have the lowest scores.

Through this process, I cannot emphasize enough the need to listen to those closest to you.  They will give you great feedback if you are willing to listen and then act.

 

“The best way to change behavior is to practice, practice, practice.” -Art Barter

 

Cultivate Servant Leadership Behaviors

How to Manage A Players

How to Manage A Players

Whether you’re leading a football team or an entrepreneurial venture, you want to hire the best and the brightest.

You want A Players.

 


“On average, an A Player produces at least two times the work of the B Player.” -Rick Crossland

 

Hiring A Players is only the beginning. Keeping them engaged and performing at the highest level is a leadership challenge.

In this short video interview, I speak with Rick Crossland about A Players and how to manage and lead A Players.

I previously interviewed Rick on How to Become an A Player. In today’s interview, I asked him about leading and managing A Players.

Rick is an author, speaker, and consultant. His nearly three decades of experience developing, recruiting, and leading high performers is evident in every chapter of his new book, The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level.

We discuss:

 

3 Definitions of an A Player:

  1. Top 10% of industry
  2. Employee you would enthusiastically rehire
  3. An employee that makes you say “wow!”

 

How to Manage an A Player

“Leaders must be a step ahead.”

 


“Leaders must be a step ahead.” -Rick Crossland

 

How to On-Board the A Player

Warning: Your Job is At Risk

Rethinking Excellence in the Smart Machine Age

 

Artificial intelligence will change everything. It’s coming. In some areas, it has already arrived.

Take Amazon. Its new grocery store has no cashiers and no baggers.

How about water meter readers? Just yesterday someone appeared at our door explaining that those days are over for our neighborhood.

And it’s not only these jobs that are changing. Millions of jobs will be affected from manufacturing to services.

Machines have access to more data than we do. They can analyze it faster than we can.

 

“We can be humble and live a good life with the aid of the machines or we can be arrogant and die.” -Norbert Wiener

 

Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In addition to fifteen years in academia, he also spent twenty years as a business executive. His research is in high performance in the midst of change.

He argues that we need to change our definition of smart. We need a new smart. We need to be good at what machines can’t do well. His new book, co-authored with Katherine Ludwig, is Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.

I recently spoke with him about the changes ahead.

 

“A good listener is totally focused on the speaker with an open mind.” -Hess, Ludwig

 

Millions of Jobs Will be Automated

What jobs will be automated?

Over the next decade or so, tens of millions of service and professional jobs will be automated along with more manufacturing jobs. Service jobs that are at risk include retail, fast-food, manual laborers and construction workers, truck drivers, accountants, administrative people, paralegals, customer service reps, and security guards. Increasingly, professional jobs will be automated reducing the number of professional workers needed in the fields of accounting, law, finance, consulting, marketing, strategy, management, journalism, medicine and architecture.  The Chief Economist of the Bank of England in November of 2015 predicted that over the next decade or two 80,000,000 jobs in the United States could be automated.

 

How to Prepare for the Smart Age

Personality at Work: The Drivers and Derailers of Leadership

The Link Between Leadership and Personality

Organizations are shaped not only by products and marketing but also by the characteristics and traits of their leaders.

Organizational psychologist Ron Warren in his new book, Personality at Work: The Drivers and Derailers of Leadership, discusses the impact of a leader’s personality on an organization. He created the LMAP 360 to help leaders have a perspective of their impact.

I recently spoke with him about his research.

 

“Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower.” –Charles M. Schwab

 

You’ve been researching personality and leadership for decades. What are some of the more surprising conclusions you’ve reached?

Surprisingly, that the same traits that drive individual and team performance and those that derail effectiveness haven’t changed in the last 50 years. While almost everything associated with the world of work now evolves very quickly as technology transforms every 18 months per Moore’s Law, humans are quite similar to Stone Age humans.

There are four key domains of personality in play: Grit: the Task Mastery Traits, EQ: the Teamwork Traits, Dominance, and Deference. Broad research identifies behaviors associated with Grit and EQ as key drivers for leadership, teamwork and communications. Fortune Magazine editor Geoff Colvin calls them “high-value skills.” Broad research also identifies behaviors associated with Dominance and Deference traits that derail leadership, teamwork, and communications. Others refer to these derailers by different names like over-aggression, difficulty managing emotions, failure to build teams, excessive caution, but they are rooted in basic dominance and deference behaviors.

Interestingly, Grit and EQ appeared latest in human evolution – called phylogeny – and also appear latest in individual development – called ontogeny. And a basic law of human development is ontogeny follows phylogeny. Neuroscience shows that for many people, the full maturation of the frontal cortex goes on into the mid-twenties … and for many people, this might be required for their full maturation and thus ability to access Grit and EQ. In contrast, Dominance and Deference behaviors are almost inborn and evident in toddlers – and in other animals. Some people develop Grit and EQ, but many do not.

One lesson for emerging professionals is to be aware of a need to think before they act to summon and leverage Grit and/or EQ – which may not be abundant naturally. One way is to suppress Dominance and/or Deference habits and behaviors if they are prominent, as they actively interfere with Grit and EQ. Grit requires planning and thinking about projects and work; EQ requires attending to and considering people and relationships.

 

“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

How Personality Impacts Leadership

Share an example of a personality trait and how it impacts leadership.

Sure. Consider someone very high on Need to Control, a Dominance trait. They are domineering and bossy, opinionated and like to advocate ideas rather than listen or seek collective intelligence; they get impatient and are vulnerable to the confirmation bias; they may act before thinking it out. Not too surprisingly, Need to Control is negatively associated with leadership, teamwork and communications … Now, Skip, of course personality traits do not operate in isolation, so what also matters are the other traits in a Profile with Need to Control!

The LMAP assessment is a Circumplex model where traits are organized on a circular chart that represents how they interact with and are influenced by the presence or absence of other traits. I’ve been building systems like this since 1984 – how weird is that!  Anyway, in my book and in our assessments, the focus is on overall Personality Profile – combinations of 13 personality traits – rather than one trait.

So consider High Control and:

  • Add high Rigidity, Hostility, Competitiveness (Dominance traits) and I can guarantee there will be problems and it will be unpleasant.
  • Or add in Achievement Drive and/or Conscientiousness and/or Innovation – better yet, all three Grit traits – and you get a high performer, great at cranking results but not to lead and positively motivate a team – without at least average EQ.
  • Finally, take away Hostility and add in even-average Helpfulness or Sociability and it looks like the Profile of a super effective Managing Editor of a major newspaper I assessed, an introvert with high Control, Conscientiousness, Achievement Drive, Innovation and about-average Helpfulness: a great editor and leader in a tough business and a journalist coach and mentor for his direct reports.

For this fellow, the prominent Dominance wasn’t a derailer because he had just enough EQ traits to temper it… And managing editors of major newspapers must have strong opinions.  But take away his average EQ and mentoring style and then his dominance would go unchallenged and impair his leadership effectiveness.  I like how Angela Duckworth, the University of Pennsylvania Professor and Macarthur Genius Grant winner, says in her book Grit: “As a psychologist, I can confirm that grit is far from the only—or even the most important—aspect of a person’s character . . . There are many other things a person needs to grow and flourish. Character is plural.”