Obviously there's a whole range of other traits that make great leaders, but I've found people that fail this test are almost always terrible leaders who others don't want to work for.
Most of these terminations I've seen haven't been about treating being challenged as a personal attack. They've been about getting smug weenies out of the organization so people can actually do their work.
I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning a leaders' decisions, but if you're doing it all the time, you really ought to consider whether you should be at that organization at all. It's like a therapist friend said about one of my (poor) dating choices once: "Look, either you trust her or you don't, but if you're constantly second-guessing her, you ought to evaluate whether this is a relationship you want to be in or not. It's not fair to her, and it's not fair to you." Same applies to corporations: ultimately you either trust your leaders or you don't, and if you don't you should do both yourself and the organization the favor of finding one you do trust.
Sometimes I think people naturally reflect who they are; i.e. a thief will naturally be aware/paranoid of other thieves snooping around his stuff. So I guess someone with trust issues probably sees himself as unfaithful?
My paranoia comes from reading too many articles online about government spying and dishonest police/prosecutors. It's gotten a little better since I started markings a point of sticking my head or of our echo chamber occasionally.
It turns out when you stand up for yourself in cases where you really feel the feedback and composed conflict is out of line and destructive, that is when people begin to respect and trust you. Still, it was frustrating. It was also a very political role with non developers, and I have made sure if I ever go into a leadership position again, it won't be with no technical people. Yes, software developers can have the same mentality, but overall there's alot more objective ability to define and measure how much time someone is putting into creating constructive things versus composing destruction for the sake of challenging leadership or protecting their own entrenched interests.
Theres a fine line between embracing everyone's feedback and being a complete pushover and letting other people steamroll you based on their own motivations. Ultimately, I believe sometimes the best leaders make controversial decisions and stick to them regardless of what other people think, and ultimately the people who work under those people are people who have observed their decisions tend to lead to good outcomes, and they acknowledge the objective positive feedback loop from working under a person like this over the masses criticism of someone who does not please everybody.
>If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.
In general, though, I agree it's not very organized or easy to read. If you're looking for a better entry into stoicism I'd suggest A Guide to a Good Life. It's a structured overview of stoicism with straight forward advice on actually using stoic ideas in your own life.
This requires good management skills, good listening skills, and problem-solving skills.
Great leaders will make sure not only to be comfortable with conflict, but to make the their whole team knows this fact, so they come forward.
Funnily, in my experience the people that say "diversity results in better products and decision-making" (dominant view today) focus on the wrong thing, and don't realize how important conflict is, or that conflict is what leads to better decision-making. Maybe communication and leadership should be taught in schools? Certainly in universities. More great leaders probably means less need for bloated middle management too.
I'm learning as a leader that I am reluctant to accept a proposal unless it has been thoroughly peer reviewed for gaps or weakness, and if there is some disagreement about the approach, then great let me hear that to. Rigorous peer review is very healthy, the trick is to get people to attack the proposal and not the proposer ;-)
I've been trying to get myself to a place where even if I'm reacting in a knee jerk fashion that at least I'm keeping it to myself but man, it's hard to overcome something that's effectively instinctual.
But there definitely seems to be some kind of fear at the root of that.
The constraint is considered deadly for the effective exercise of leadership. The constrains can however be removed or at least relaxed in a reliable way. :)
Sorry, but leadership cannot be reduced to these three factors. There are many excellent leadership frameworks out there which provide great insight into how different leaders operate, and what the great ones have in common. Look up topics like Spiral Dynamics, the Action Logic leadership framework, Kegan & Lahey, and the Integral framework, and you'll have some good starting points on models of adult development that correlate to effective leadership.
Those 3 are mandatory things to have, not a precise metric.
FWIW, OP's 3 metrics:
1. Clarity of Thought and Communication
2. Judgment about People
3. Personal Integrity and Commitment
EDIT, response to walterbell & el_benharneen about what made the 3 different (in no particular order):
- They always told the truth (to everybody).
- They knew their stuff (tech, system, user domain).
- They figured out the right thing to do.
- They communicated often and flawlessly.
- They did whatever it took to get the right thing done.
- They smiled almost all the time.
- They made each other person feel special.
- They made work fun.
- They were always teaching something.
- They called bullshit instantly.
- They protected their team.
- They inspired us by showing how good things could be.
Then there were a few in the middle who gave us too much autonomy, deferring to our best judgement on everything, but not doing much firefighting on our behalf.
The three worst ones were glorified secretaries. All they did was keep track of who made what decisions so they'd know who to throw under the bus. The sort of people who won't even break a tie on any important decision where the dev leads are deadlocked. Small, petty excuses for humans that I hope never to encounter again.
Something along the lines of: "They called bullshit instantly: [example(s) of situations where managers called bullshit instantly, and how it had positive results/avoided negative results.. And an example of situations where bad managers didn't call bullshit instantly and what it led to].
Maxwell claims that leadership is influence, not authority. When I became a co-founder, I thought that made me a leader. But as PG's excellent post and Maxwell affirm, leadership is quite distinct from positional authority -- and is much more difficult to attain.
Speaking directly to this post, I found that rating myself against Maxwell's "21 laws" was a sobering and likely accurate gauge of my leadership ability.
Higher title = better pay
It also has some drawbacks but that's a different topic.
If you have a high title, you get a level of respect immediately (whether you deserve it or not). It goes a lot quicker.
That said, it's really kind of "well, yeah, of course". Generally if you have integrity, vision, and the trust of the people you work with (or who work for you), you're going to be perceived as a leader among that group of people.
When you're setting the raises, bonuses, and assignments, authority is (very blunt) influence. I've seen many coworkers do obviously dumb things because the boss wanted them to do it that way. They shrug their shoulders and say, "I just work here". It's not obedience out of respect or loyalty.
I agree that a plurality of those traits are commonly found, I've always wondered about causality and importance. Not disagreeing, genuinely curious about your opinion.
Edit: clarity and expansion
As does (starting tomorrow) the new leader of the free world.
I'm not a fan of Trump's, but it takes an exotic form of humility to sell gaudy things, have an off-the-wall hairstyle, and be a WWE performer. He's so over the top that there has to be a level of ironic self-awareness in there somewhere.
Even though the majority voted against him, Trump did get a lot of votes, and he did draw people to his rallies. But that kind of support for a politician is more like celebrity fandom than wanting to follow a good leader. Much like the Kardashian family, Trump became famous for being famous. He's always been good at getting into the public spotlight. He's never had a reputation for brilliant business leadership.
Of course, he may well turn out to be a great leader. A lot of the same basic acting skills required to be a celebrity are helpful in leadership. And after all, other entertainers have turned out to be great leaders. It's just too soon to tell.
I thought the majority DGAF, and those that did were - as always - within a handful of percent of 50-50?
Sidebar: I do find myself biased in judging someones merit as a leader based off of my opinion of their goals. Someone can certainly be a very good leader and lead towards something very bad.
Perhaps another way to look at it would be how cult leaders get people locked into their way of thinking. It makes them very effective but by my definition it doesn't make them 'good leaders'.
One of the VP's at NetApp used to say "When your actions improve everyone's experience at the company it is leadership, when your actions improve your own experience at the company its politics."
If you want grow your company, you are going to have to reproduce yourself so that the new you is doing the old role so that you can step into the new one, or perhaps relieve yourself of excess roles. That role may or may not have the title you had when you were doing it, however. You might be titled "CEO" when you are leading a team of 5 people, but you will reproduce yourself as "Team Leader" as you start adding teams.
Merely having clarity of thought and integrity does not make you a leader, it makes you a great team member. Merely having good people judgement makes you a good manager, not necessarily a good leader. Developing people makes you a good leader. It's hard to do that without the other three, though.
Ingrained to my brain from my Marine Corps days is the acronym JJDIDTIEBUCKLE as the list of leadership traits, and it has served me well since, although in the civilian world I have had to lower my expectations of others around me in having even a fraction of such traits.
Relevant reading for those curious about how the Corps approaches leadership: http://www.tecom.marines.mil/Portals/120/Docs/Student%20Mate...
And you would NOT try to measure it as a point estimate as many have reminded us, you would try to set bounds lower&upper.
Don't get me wrong, CEOs have my uttermost respect and I don't claim that it's an easy job. I just wanted to point out that there are reasons for believing (at least the possibility) that from the point of view of a realistic assessment the choice of a leader and his or her personality, qualifications and ambitions do not have much to do with the performance of a company and that the many apparent examples to the contrary are mostly based on selection bias and some biases towards oneself such as regarding one's own success more as an achievement rather than chance as those of others, estimating your own social status higher than those of others, believing your less biased than others, etc.
Maybe the best qualification for leadership is being at the right place at the right time, and nobody else really wants to do it?
If that sounds too negative, let me stress again that I think CEOs and people in certain kinds of leadership positions often (though not always) do some difficult work that I generally respect. I just don't buy the claim that the successful ones are little geniuses. A decent amount of intelligence (smartness), some generic business knowledge and being good with social relations seem to suffice.
Great leaders have empathy towards their customers, their employees, and above all, to their cause, which is what is contagious.
This is an emotional connection that garners an emotional response. The person that initiates the connection is leading. The person responding is following. When this pattern repeats itself, it strengthens the form and function of the relationship.
Taking responsibility is not to be confused with taking blame, because they are opposites.
Responsibility is taken before the mistake, and doesn't go away after the mistake. When the mistake happens, you apologize, then fix it, because you're still responsible. Blame is only taken after the mistake. It ends with an apology or a legal defense, possibly an acceptance of punishment, and afterwards we forget it all happened. One is progressive. The other is regressive.
There was also one word that wasn't even mentioned.
A leader makes promises, and delivers on them, until everyone succeeds. They make promises to clients, to customers, to partners, to investors, and to employees.
You cannot be a liar and keep promises. You cannot be incompetent and keep promises. You cannot make excuses and keep promises. You have to be aware, proactive, and capable to even know which promises to make.
And with every promise you keep, you've just given everyone another excuse to trust you, depend on you, and follow you.
In a nutshell, if they can promise to be responsible for delivering on a cause they deeply believe in, they're a leader.
The Marine Corps may not be a paragon in efficiency in some ways, but I have found that these qualities hold strikingly well for good leaders in the civilian world as well.
1. Are they true to their values?
2. Are their values my values?
Steve Jobs was remarkably true to his core values, which consisted of building great products for the masses to use. His values did not include being kind to people, coddling peoples' feelings, telling the truth (except insofar as it helped great products get built & distributed), promoting social justice or equality, or many other things that people care about. If your primary mission in life is to build great products, Apple was an excellent place to be. If you cared about work/life balance, free exchange of information, building products for the underprivileged, or any number of other causes, Steve Jobs was probably not the right leader for you.
Sometimes it's possible for a person to score really well on #1 but not make the cut on #2. Antonin Scalia, for example, is someone who IMHO had great personal integrity, and yet I still detest because that integrity stood for causes that I find reprehensible. Or for a more extreme example, Adolph Hitler - he totally believed in what he said and did, but what he said and did was atrocious.
Leadership is about the ability to understand and manipulate reality. To do that, you need to know about systems, psychology, variation, and knowledge. None of the rest matters. People didn't have to like Jobs, nor even look to him for integrity. Rather they trusted him because he was effective at moving a whole organizational system in one direction toward an incredible result.
It's not integrity that matters—but reality. Are you bringing the company, through your model of reality, closer to a result? If not, your model is wrong, not your personality.
We should ask ourselves if people who we perceive as leaders are indeed capable of and actively manipulating reality?
I'd like calinet6 to elabore a lot more on his/her points.
I wrote more about it here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13441946
Basically, the Pixar crew followed W. Edwards Deming's model of organizations, which is one fairly accurate and useful model. By doing that they were able to bring all the pieces together and lead. Heck, Catmull even wrote a book about it, detailing how he thought about managing and leading a company that works for creative minds. But I guess the important part is his integrity and hiring abilities. :)
- Lao Tzu quote opening 'Becoming a Technical Leader' by Jerry Weinberg
That may seem obvious to those that understand it, those that don't will think I'm nuts. As a scrum master I have been a leader at every company where I have worked. I have never had anyone report to me in those same companies, aka not a boss.
No offense to your personal positions though, I know many places confuse the term with project manager too.
Often there has being a mix up between leadership, management, and a bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with leadership.
If people are interested in how and leadership is effectively exercised and what it is. Take a look at this paper: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1392406
Manager - Makes sure things get done. If someone quits, finds a replacement, etc. We should all be managers of ourselves.
Leader - A person that employees are willing to follow. Makes the group into a team, working together. Actually cares about the members in his team, protects and defends them. Fights to get them raises, etc.
The workers are cutting down trees. The managers make sure the saws are sharp and the workers do a good job. The leader climbs up a tree and shouts "We are cutting down the wrong forest!".
But, despite the title of the article, none of them are objectively quantifiable.
If one truly wants to quantify leadership, one would need an operational definition that is concrete. "Leadership" is probably too nebulous a term, so we'd need to break it down. I'd suggest that one goes after the parts that are the most quantifiable: employee morale, productivity, confidence in said leader. Company culture might be quantifiable (does it have a clear one, is it intentional?)
What is good Leadership for a bunch of grunts storming a beach in combat isn't objectively comparable to good Leadership for a bunch of teenagers in a classroom environment. There are some "Characteristics" I think that can be described and discussed as a useful musing on the concept, but it has to be qualitative not quantitative from my perspective.
I agree that these are some of the universal features that have always functioned best when combined they yield the trust that is so essential.
Plus some of the best leaders will actually earn enough respect to exceed that which would be expected by their position alone, earning every bit of it, rather than imposing it from above (from a naturally lower ceiling).
In most cultures, it does seem, that situations will always arise where better leadership is needed in ways that can not be measured.
Sometimes only a type of natural leadership will do, the kind that can not be acquired.
Interestingly, this can also be the kind that does not fade even during periods without a team to lead.
And, some of the time when it really counts most, the need to recognize the optimum or required type of leadership will not be met without defying metrics completely.
So I then ask the question "Why would I want to measure leadership?"
qualitatively or quantitatively - in some way other than based on my own abilities and intuition
developed over a long lifetime of influence by those who have gained the most respect for their superior leadership
And I get the expert answer; "In a startup culture that is obsessed with management by metrics".
I have seen and continue to see some of the behaviors described in these two videos and it is deeply disturbing.
Attempting to lead people with deep social challenges is an exercise in frustration and futility. Leadership, in this context, is a very different thing than in what I'll call more traditional settings. It almost has to be reduced to appeasement and coddling. Latte's and ice cream.
We have a generation of adults who behave as petulant children half their age did in prior generations. Except they are in a 25 year old body. Some of these 25 year olds today would be slapped out of the building by 25 year olds a generation or two ago. They are weak, oversensitive, self-serving, entitled, delicate and disconnected from reality.
This is how you end-up with some of the crazy stuff coming out of outfits like Facebook and Google. They are completely devoid of real world social and business skills yet interact and affect the personal and business lives of millions.
One example that comes to mind are account suspensions and cancellations without even a shadow of customer care or service offered. If you can't swipe or click a problem away the option to actually engage with a real human being and exercise the ability to resolve problems simply isn't there.
How do you lead these people? Well, first they have to grow up. I suspect that will happen once they get to 35 or 40 years of age and finally understand reality. What will the consequences of such dysfunction be a few decades from now? Not sure.
Gandhi was a leader, but then conversely, Hitler was also a leader. There is no morality in leadership, but I would say a common trait would be charisma.
See scholars and practioners who have contributed to building a scientific foundation for leadership:
1. Listen to your people and look after them.
2. Delegate work because your people can do it better than you.
3. Make sure your team is working on the right things
Get a used copy of this book and read it cover to cover: https://www.amazon.com/Leaders-Handbook-Making-Things-Gettin...
Chapter 2: The New Leadership Competencies:
- Competency 1: The Ability to Think in Terms of Systems and Knowing How to Lead Systems
- Competency 2: The Ability to Understand the Variability of Work in Planning and Problem Solving
- Competency 3. Understanding How We Learn, Develop, and Improve; Leading True Learning and Improvement
- Competency 4. Understanding People and Why They Behave as They Do
Those sound a tad more concrete and believable, don't they? That's an understanding of reality that might help you be a better leader to an organization that actually works. Dismiss the surface-level personality games and get yourself into the scientific reality of organizations, and you have a hope of leading one well. There are no missing parts—the whole system is important. That's the leadership secret.
My bet is that the leaders described in this post are better described by the above characteristics, and they more reliably predict leadership success, than any of their individual traits or abilities. Certainly Ed Catmull, who was himself a big believer in Deming's way of managing companies, fits that model, and Steve Jobs was heavily influenced by Deming and Juran in creating a system able to produce extraordinary quality. In fact, the whole Pixar team this post is about was more heavily influenced by Deming's concepts than any trite personality fluke, yet that influence is entirely ignored here.
This is forgivable: it's attribution bias. We instinctually want to attribute to the greatness of the individual that which was actually more nuanced, the outside factor in this case being a great body of knowledge about management and leadership that led them to be extraordinary.
Now you know. Read Peter Scholtes' Leader's Handbook, read Creativity Inc., and keep thinking about it. There's way more to it than just having integrity, being able to judge people, and being a smart thinker. If excelling at those were all it took, we'd be up to our necks in extraordinary leaders. Must be something else, then.
By the profesional/personal growth of each team member and by the harmony of the group.
I believe from Jack Welch
You simply can't pretend that "getting someone to do what they don't want to do" is motivation unless there is some changing of heart/mind there - now that's the leadership part.
I'm a motivator.
I, personally, would not.
And honestly, when I think back to the best leaders I have worked with they didn't necessarily have an enormous focus on the sort of individual development that you talk about. They were focused on the mission. To the extent that individual development furthered the mission it was vital, but the mission was always #1.
Having the clarity of thought to recognize this was clearly helpful to them.
One day I came into his office and said, "I really just want to code for a while. I'm finding these meetings to be getting in my way". True to his word, he replied, "What if I went to those meetings for you and sent you a summary? Would that help?"
Although he did actually promote me without me asking -- apologising all the way ;-).
I wouldn't have expected it myself but once I thought about it there was a nearly perfect correlation in my own history.
If you have a powerfull server you need to tend to its needs - supply it good UPS, do regular maintenance, replace broken stuff, provide good ventilation etc.
What makes you think that human doesn't have any of that and that you can simply ignore its own needs just becuase it doesn't come with the manual ? There is no mission without humans and good humans doing particular stuff are hard to find.
If you are indifferent to the burdens and emotional states of your staff, people will notice, and it will harm your ability to hire and retain the best employees. This is a failure of leadership, because the #1 job of a leader is to build a great team.
On the other hand if a leader can figure out what problems are important to work on and clearly communicate why this is true it becomes easy to attract a great team.
> if a leader can figure out what problems are important to work on and clearly communicate why this is true it becomes easy to attract a great team.
Great goals help attract a great team--true--but I believe that the essential limiting factor is the team.
That seems to be largely gone now. There's no loyalty either direction. Companies layoff without remorse, and employees leave whenever they want as well.
So, with that environment, company level discussion about family and fun just tend to ring hollow. The employer/employee relationship is transactional...we pay you to do what you do.
I do think those things matter at a "direct supervisor" level...the person you work for should give a shit about you, know about your family, and so on. It just doesn't seems to scale up beyond that one direct relationship without seeming fake.
The most accurate way I've heard the employer/employee relationship described is by Reid Hoffman, who likens it to a tour of duty . I think that lets both sides of the table set much more realistic expectations than the "we're a big family" ethos you mention.
It is based on observations I made when working closely
with four leaders that I consider extraordinary: Ed
Catmull (Pixar’s founder), Steve Jobs (Pixar’s CEO), John
Lasseter (Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer), and Bob Iger
So, "extraordinary" in the sense of being extraordinarily unprofitable.
The question is if the money those companies saved by illegally depressing wages was greater than the $415 million cost of the settlement, plus the bad press of the criminal investigation by the DOJ.
I don't think it is as clear cut as this comment makes out. What they did was come to an illegal agreement not to poach employees from each other. There are multiple reasons why that could be good for a company, and I doubt 'reducing wages' is close to the top of that list.
But ethics are important in leadership - I just think the case here isn't as simple as it is made out.
Both parts of the thing you were replying to seem relevant to me.