The #1 Thing Leaders Suck At

I felt like a kid in a candy story when, after the first ring, Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge, picked up the phone and said, “It’s Jim.”

Four years ago, by chance, I picked up the fourth edition of his book. I read it during one of life’s tipping points. It changed my leadership.

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership explained in the book gave me a lens into greater effectiveness. I memorized:

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire Shared Vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart

I asked Jim to explain the most challenging concepts in leadership. He reminded me that nearly two million people had taken their 360-degree feedback tool. The statement that consistently receives the lowest rating is, “Asks for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people’s performance.” (pg. 85)

“Leaders are reluctant to want to know
how we impact others.” Jim Kouzes

This thought woke me up about 3:00 a.m. this morning:

Authenticity leaves a thin line between
who I am and what I do.

Authentic leaders act authentically. The problem with negative feedback is it’s about us, it’s personal.

Dealing with negative feedback:

First, feedback must be so regular it’s expected and normal.

Second, the frequency of positive feedback must outweigh negative. Positive environments are established and maintained with positive talk. Work at being affirming and encouraging.

Third, make the authentic you a person who pursues excellence. It’s impossible to achieve excellence without feedback. Choosing to pursue excellence opens the door for leaders to frequently ask, “How am I doing?”

Bonus benefit: Constant feedback may prevent the bubble of negative feedback that builds up and festers in organizations. Many small doses may be easier and healthier that one large dose.

What other suggestions would help leaders more frequently ask, “How am I doing?”

Leadership Freak Alert: I’m heading to the Global Leadership Summit and it’s likely you’ll receive at least one more Freak-post today. If you’re at the Lancaster, PA site, look me up.