An Anti-leadership Model

In my eight years of facilitating the Sage Leadership Academy, I have flirted with a dozen or more leadership models: Myers-Briggs, Emotional Intelligence, PDP, Kingdomality, Transactional vs. Transformational, generational differences and a few others.

Honestly, I have found all such models to be hopelessly flawed in their attempts to label people. Some are OK, and provide fun group exercises, but they are business’s equivalent of astrology.

In my work with small and medium business people, I have personally identified the two things that the most successful leaders do:

  1. They self regulate their own anxiety. They do not let the anxiety of others to become or heighten their own anxiety. (I have written on empathy as psychological disorder in the past.)
  2. They are masters at confronting people with their own freedom. The see beyond the surface of the particular problem or question and either a) ask a better deeper question that promotes the person to see their own set of choices, or b) state a truth to the person that the person was unable to see or willing to acknowledge.

I have not identified the “competencies” of such leaders in any formal way. All my evidence is anecdotal.

PS – I tweeted and FB’ed the lead for this post and it created a flurry of activity on my Facebook page. I am not sure if you need to be my friend in order to view it. If so, send me a request and I will add you.

Huffington Misses the Target, But She Hit the Tree

Paul Dunn tweeted about an piece posted on April 6 by Arianna Huffington in which she criticized the Obama Administration for its bank-centered approach to dealing with the current economic situation. In the article she analogizes the Administration’s banking solution with that of Ptolemy’s thinking about the Earth-centered universe, “like Ptolemy, they are really smart, they are really good at rationalizing.” The problem, of course, is that if your underlying theory is incorrect, any thinking you have done will lead to false conclusions.

While Huffington does a great job a destroying the Obama argument, she unfortunately proposes and equally faulty solution of her own, which is a variation on Keynesianism. To further her own analogy, she has replace the Earth-centered view of the universe with a Sun-centered one, but she concludes the sun is the center of the universe, i.e., all heavenly bodies revolve around the sun. She misses the fact that the sun itself revolves around the center of the Milky Way and that the Milky Way is one of billions of galaxies in a cosmos with no center.

The real solution to our current situation is to allow the entrepreneur a freer reign in an even freer market. Just like the cosmos there is no center per se. Whereas Huffington proposes a government-centered view of the universe to replace the bank-centered one. I suggest an open free moving cosmos in which entrepreneurs serve of the matter and energy, freely forming into heavenly bodies as the see fit. Some will be stars burning brightly, some planets, some comets – all influencing each other.

Like the cosmos, any attempts to organize must be self regulated and not insist on an anything-centered approach.

Where the Economic Recovery Will Come From

Despite what you are hearing the media about the plans of governments and large corporate entities, the economy will recover in any large part not due to their efforts, but rather from the efforts of small businesses – from entrepreneurs. They have been,are, and always will be the creative force in the world.

Whereas large corporations tend to worry more about the numbers (mostly their costs), small businesses focus on the creation of value for customers.

Whereas governmental agencies can only spend money that they have first taken from others, small business risk everything even their own personal nest eggs in their belief in that their product, service or knowledge is of value to others.

Entrepreneurs are the ultimate altruists. They are the most purely other-centered people on the planet. They believe that their ideas will make the world a better place.

To see the economic recovery in action, look no further than your neighborhood.

Advancing the Dialogue

I genuinely believe that most people in the world desire only good thing for their fellow man and are trying to do good. What is disturbing is that we all tend to dismiss any facts that are contrary to our own belief system, rather than investigate them further and resolve the contradiction. To quote Ayn Rand, “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

As a consultant one of the first things I learn about a prospective customer is if the are open to the possibility that they are wrong. Not that they necessarily are wrong, but just if they are open to the possibility. I will not work with anyone who does not respond positively to this idea. Of course, I reciprocate and state that I am open to this possibility myself.

One of my all time favorite quotes is from a little know business/psychology author named Edwin Friedman. He opens his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix, with this gem, "The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change."

He demonstrates how this applies to all levels of human relationships: parent/child, spouse/spouse, neighbor/neighbor, employee/boss, company/company, citizen/government official, country leader/country leader. It is only through lowering our own level of anxiety, thereby increasing our own ability to think creatively and remaining connected to those we hope to change, can any transformation occur.

Advancing the dialogue requires the ability to self regulate your own anxiety level.

My Friend Philip’s Vision

One Friday evening in early December 2001 at John’s Pizzaria on West 45, my friend Philip Schwalb shared his vision with me.

“There are over 250 museum’s on the island of Manhattan. None of them are dedicated to sports,” he said. The bulb went on. He intended to build a new museum for sport in New York City. The Hall of Halls he dubbed it. He described how the rooms would be themed. “The floor of the hockey room would be white and slick with blue and red lines. The basketball room would be in parquet as a nod to the great Boston Celtic teams.”

Phil pursued his dream, often are great personal expense in every way.

Earlier this month the Sport Museum of America opened its doors. We were there cheering Philip on. Nice work, my friend, well done.

Create your vision. The book of Proverbs notes, “Without vision, the people perish.”