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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?

I just started getting my subscription to the Harvard Business Review at work. It's been since grad school that I habitually read it, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to see what the world's greatest minds have to contribute to business.

With my subscription came "Leadership Insights: 15 Unique Perspectives on Effective Leadership", which is a collection of previous articles on leadership. The first article I read was "Why Should Anyone Be Led by You" by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones. A catchy, but challenging title, so as I flipped to the article, I wondered if I would be disappointed in myself after reading it realizing I'm not worth following.

The essence of the article is that inspirational leaders share four qualities.
1. They selectively show their weaknesses - By exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.

2. They rely heavily on intuition to guage the appropriate timing and course of their actions - Their ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know just when and how to act.

3. They manage employees with tough empathy - Inspirational leaders empathize passionately and realistically with people, and they care intensely about the work employees do.

4. They reveal their differences - They capatalize on what's unique about themselves.

Immdiately I was glad I saw myself in 3 out of four of these. Not seeing myself revealing my differences did stick out as something I don't do very well. So I made the conscious effort to begin separating myself from the heard a little. I'm not exactly sure what that means or how that is going to take form, so perhaps it is better said that I am going to begin consciously looking for things that are positively unique about myself first, and then begin to bring that trait to the forefront of who I am.

One interesting point that I got out of the article was in regard to empathy. Contrary to the long-held statement that leaders are made, not born which implies we can each become an effective leader, this article states that "Real leaders don't need a training program [interpersonal-skills training program with 'concern' for others] to convince their employees that they care. Real leaders empathize fiercely with the people they lead." The authors imply that if you're not born with it, you can't learn it.

I'm not sure I buy it totally, but it makes me think and wonder if it's true.

If nothing else, it's a good, quick and simple evaluation of yourself to answer a tough, hard and challenging question. Why should anyone be led by you?