Mind the Gap
What type of leader are you?
Are you a leader who has had some success but now feel stuck?
What’s your leadership gap?
Understanding yourself is the beginning of influence. You must understand you before you can possibly understand others and how to influence them.
If you’re a leader of leaders, you want to understand your team, how they interpret the world, their unique way of leading. A powerful team is made up of a diverse group of leadership styles.
Lolly Daskal’s new book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, introduces her system to help executives discover their own leadership style and how to leverage their strengths. If you’re a leader who has reached a point where you’re confused why your success is stalled, this is for you. If you’re wondering what’s stopping your upward climb, this is for you. If you want to take your career up a notch, this is for you.
Lolly is not only a personal friend of mine, but she has racked up numerous awards and accolades ranging from Inc’s Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts to Huffington Post saying she is the most inspiring leader in the world. She’s coached some of the world’s most prominent leaders for years.
Stand Out Leadership Qualities
You’ve worked with many leaders all over the globe. What are some of the qualities that you notice that makes a leader stand out?
For over three decades, I have worked as a leadership coach and business consultant around the world, spanning 14 countries and hundreds of companies. Many years ago when I first started, I found an interesting pattern that was showing up within everyone I was working with, even across cultures. Over time I distilled that pattern into seven archetypes, each archetype with its own quality that sets it apart.
First, there’s the leader I call the Rebel, who leads with confidence and wants to make an impact in the world. And Rebels do start revolutions—but not through revolts and uprisings. Rebels are the quiet warriors who embark on quests to achieve remarkable things. They overcome formidable obstacles to save the project, the team, or the company. They ask, “How can I push the envelope?”
Rebels need confidence to succeed—not the kind of confidence that means standing in front of the mirror and saying, “I’m the best and the brightest,” but knowing your capabilities and competencies, knowing what you are good at, and what skills you have mastered. Confidence is simply knowing what you’re able to do. So the more skill and talent you have, the more competent—and ultimately confident—you feel.
Second is the Explorer, who leads with intuition. Explorers always want to try something new. They enjoy navigating through uncharted waters with innovation and creativity, using their intuition to test the boundaries and limits of what is known. They reject the status quo and doing things the way they’ve always been done. They ask, “What can I discover?”
Explorers listen to their inner voice and their gut, and use their inner knowledge to make decisions. Instead of relying only on rational thought, they balance their thinking with intuition. They think well on their feet and are decisive.
Third is the Truth Teller, who leads with candor. Truth tellers believe they owe it to those around them to always be open and honest, even when their candor makes people uncomfortable. Even so, their honesty isn’t cruel but comes from a sincere desire to help and serve. They view speaking up as a duty. Truth tellers ask, “Where should I speak up?”
Fourth is the Hero, who leads with courage. Heroes are the ones who don’t hesitate to act while others stand on the sidelines trying to figure out what’s going on. Heroes are willing to put their entire vision and mission at risk for a shot at greatness. Heroes act in spite of fear and overwhelming opposition. They ask, “Where is courage needed?”
Fifth is the Inventor, who leads with integrity. Inventors are constantly working to improve processes and products and to perfect their craft. They are experimenters who make many small bets and are willing to fail in pursuit of big wins. they ask, “How can we make this better?”
Inventors seek quality and excellence, always grounded in integrity. They don’t compromise on what they want to achieve, and they give it their best. They’re never satisfied with the status quo but always aspire to a higher standard of excellence.
Sixth is the Navigator, who leads with trustworthiness. Navigators know where they need to go, and they inspire others to trust and follow them. Navigators give trust as well as they receive it, keeping things simple and understandable as they masterfully steer their organization and the people within it. Navigators ask, “How can we get to where we need to go?”
The seventh and final leader is the Knight, who leads with loyalty. Knights are primarily associated with chivalry and protection; they’re willing to go to battle to defend their beliefs and are devoted to the ideal of service. Knights display fierce loyalty and partnership with others while protecting people and bringing them together.
Knights believe leadership is based on loyalty—reliable and dependable and dedicated. Knights will stand beside you and will serve you, before they serve themselves.
What makes a leader successful over the long haul?
Most leaders believe that to be successful they need to know all the elements of how, what, when, and where. But I’ve found that the game changer comes when a leader knows who they are—because getting the foundational element of the who prepares you for the how, what, when, and where—and even the why. As we know, the first step to successful leadership is taking responsibility for ourselves.
Facing Your Leadership Gap
Eventually, you say, leaders likely face a leadership gap where they are stuck and their success wanes. Tell us more.
Most successful individuals have a certain set of skills that got them to the top of their game. But there comes a time that those same skill sets stop working, and you have to learn to pivot to keep succeeding. Most of us rely on what we know and expect it to be sustainable, but if we are not changing, evolving and growing, we are not going to remain successful leaders.
Within the seven archetypes, this principle is expressed as shadows or gaps that exist within each:
The Rebel who needs to be confident has a gap of feeling like an Imposter, paralyzed by self-doubt. This gap often takes the form of negative internal messages: You are not smart enough, good enough, bright enough to make a big impact. You didn’t go to good schools or get the right education. People are judging you.
The Explorer, who is all about using intuition, has a gap of being the Exploiter, who manipulates. Exploration means letting go of control, and those who struggle with turning loose often try to find their way by manipulating and exploiting others.
The Truth Teller has the gap of becoming the Deceiver, who creates suspicion. This one is easy to spot. It’s the leader who withholds information, the boss who tells half-truths, the manager who doesn’t address concerns. When people don’t know what they need to know, rumors and speculation run wild, creating a culture of suspicion and paranoia.
The courageous Hero has the gap of becoming the passive Bystander—someone who does and says nothing regardless of what they see or hear. Driven by fear, the Bystander plays small and stays stuck where they are.
The Inventor, who is all about integrity, has the gap of being the corrupt Destroyer who is focused on doing things cheaper and faster. The Destroyer’s lack of integrity permits quick fixes, cutting corners and compromising quality and standards.
The Navigator, who focuses on giving and earning trust, has the gap of coming across as the arrogant Fixer. The Fixer tells people what to do instead of navigating with them and is so aggressive that people dismiss them as arrogant by nature. Fixers see the needs of others as more important than their own, and they move from wanting to help to needing to help. They primarily want to be needed.
Finally, the loyal Knight has the gap of becoming the self-serving Mercenary. Without the understanding that leadership is about serving others, they can’t engender loyalty from those they lead. Leadership grounded in self-absorption or self-obsession can never succeed.
Leverage Your Gaps
Is there a way to avoid or move quickly past a gap?
It’s important to learn how to leverage your gaps:
For instance, if your leadership style is in line with the confident Rebel, you need to learn to leverage the Imposter within you. There are several things you can do to leverage this particular gap when you begin to lose confidence in yourself.
First, you need to stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own improvement and leadership development.
Second, to avoid focusing on your failures rather than your successes, make a list of your accomplishments and place your wins in plain sight so you are reminded of them regularly.
And finally, remind yourself that perfection is unattainable and aiming for it sets you up for continual frustration and disappointment.
When you’re aware of your gaps, you know what messages to counter them with. Rebels can remind themselves that, even if they feel like an imposter, they should never underestimate themselves or their capabilities.
You identify seven different archetypes in your new book. Would you share just one as an example?
Richard was a highly-regarded CEO. He had started a technology company that eventually attracted massive government contracts. He was known to be financially savvy; he had made a killing in the market, and it was reported that his net worth soared to the hundreds of millions of dollars when he sold his company.
It was clear that Richard had a keen ability for solving complex strategic problems and making quick, pragmatic decisions—skills he had honed over many decades as a trusted CEO. But he developed a problem that many high performers eventually face, one that even the smartest leaders never see coming and have no idea how to resolve, one that has brought down countless stellar careers.
The problem: What had worked so well to propel his rise had stopped working, and the very traits that had worked for him in the past had actually started working against him.
Richard embodied the Navigator: pragmatic, decisive, knowing, and trusted. But he had developed the leadership gap that turns the Navigator in the impetuous, arrogant, and egotistical Fixer.
I wanted to help Richard see his leadership gap and to coach him back into being the kind of leader others would respect and trust. But it’s hard to get someone to let go of something that’s always worked well for them. How could the skills that had made him successful now be working against him? He refused to accept that his leadership style had become ineffective or that he was perceived as arrogant and controlling. Unable to leverage his gap, he eventually was ousted as CEO.
This is the mistake that highly driven, overachieving leaders make all the time. They’ve built a huge success, but there comes a time when they must rethink everything and ask, “What is the gap between who I am and who I want to be, and do I know what it is I still need to learn?”
Learning to recognize your leadership gap is the factor that determines your greatness as a leader. Not recognizing it is your downfall.
How can you recognize your gaps?
One is to review your assumptions by constantly questioning and pausing to rethink the situation at hand. If you are committed to growing and succeeding as a leader, you need to get comfortable with the act of questioning yourself.
It’s also important to periodically check in with your leadership style. Many leaders rise to executive roles on the basis of one talent, only to discover that successful leadership requires many. I help my clients rethink what they think they know—and pinpoint what they don’t know—to help them cultivate skills they never imagined they needed.
People with the highest leadership potential are the ones who refuse to be stuck in their ways. They realize there is a gap between where they are and where they want to be, and they are willing to rethink what they don’t know to overcome that gap.
Most importantly, you have to rethink who you are being as you lead. Ask yourself if the skills that got you where you are will take you to the next level. The need to keep learning, growing and evolving as a leader is paramount.
Which archetype are you? Does this impact your coaching other leaders?
We may lean toward one archetype more than others, but our archetypes can certainly change depending on the situation. I can see all seven archetypes in my work and life. At times, I need to be the Rebel who is confident and secure as I speak to top-level individuals, the Explorer who uses my intuition to help my clients be more creative, and the Truth Teller who speaks with candor and honesty so my clients see that I am not withholding anything from them. I have to be the courageous Hero when the situation asks for me to be fearless, and many times I am the Inventor who takes the high road with excellence. At other times, I have to be the Navigator who can help guide my clients through difficult situations. And I am always a Knight, loyal, protective and devoted to service. I am a servant leadership coach. I lead from within, and I serve and protect my clients because I feel my mission is always to serve and help my clients realize that greatness lies within them.
Lead from Within
I’m interested in the culture great leaders create. Since you’ve seen many leaders in action, how would you describe the culture that a great leader helps foster?
A leader who fosters a great culture begins by leading from within. A leader must always set the standard of what they want to see in others. They must know who they are so they can convey a high standard for their company and culture. A leader must first embody and honor the qualities of confidence, intuition, candor, courage, integrity, trust and loyalty. And once the leader embodies those qualities, everyone else will engage with them.
We’ve known each other for many years, and I know you like to be the one asking questions, what’s it feel like to be the one answering?
I love questions. I feel questions open us up to new knowledge, and answering them allows us to tap into the wisdom we already own. Given that I had to answer questions here today, I am hoping that my answers engage and empower others, to make them think and then rethink what they know, what they do and who they are. Why? Because greatness lies within them.
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness