Tag Archive for manager

10 Traits of Ego-Driven Leaders

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We all struggle with ego — every single one of us. Ego-driven leadership is one of the most toxic elements that can be introduced to a team or organization. How can you tell if your leadership is ego-driven?

1. Ego-driven leaders often measure their success by how much others notice their success. It becomes more about being the center of attention than it does about actually being successful in and of itself.

2. Ego-driven leaders often feel better about themselves when others around them don’t achieve or earn as much as they do.

3. Ego-driven leaders tend to undermine others so that they can appear to themselves and others to be smarter, better, etc.

4. Ego-driven leaders tend to drive others away over time. It’s incredibly taxing working for an ego-driven leader, because…

5. Ego-driven leaders tend to destroy trust and attempt to control others through whatever means necessary. This is exhausting for those who work with these leaders.

6. Ego-driven leaders are always looking for more praise, always looking for the next spotlight.

7. Status supplants service as the true, underlying motivator of the ego-driven leader.

8. Ego-driven leaders tend to be easily offended, even if their own behavior toward others is far more egregious. They’re quick to call others defensive, and quick to point out what they perceive to be faulty attitudes in others.

9. Ego-driven leaders tend to have a burning desire to be right. Every. Single. Time. Or so it seems to those around them.

10. Ego-driven leaders very rarely admit their faults without somehow rationalizing or blaming others.

So what do you think? Did I miss any?

4 Ways Leaders Don’t Really Listen

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(A version of this post originally appeared on CU Insight.)

As the magical line from The Princess Bride goes, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”.

And our teammates? They may not mean what we think they mean either.

Or what we’re assuming they mean.

Or what we’d like them to mean so that it would make it easier for our position in a discussion to appear to be better than theirs.

Of course this all becomes a bit uncomfortable if I’m the only one guilty of these things, but carry on we shall.

There seems to be at least four basic ways we “listen” (I’m doing big air quotes here), but don’t really listen. We’re…

1.    Ignoring

Maybe we’re checking our email, or engaged in a heated debate regarding the superiority of name-brand Pop Tarts over their off-brand counterparts, or even deciding whether or not to pursue our lifelong dream of becoming a professional kazoo orchestra conductor; but whatever it is that we’re doing, we’re doing it while another human is there talking to us. We don’t have a clue what that person is talking about because we’re ignoring them.

2.    Pretending

We nod in agreement while that person is talking, and it’s a very well-timed nod of course. We maintain periods of eye contact for as long as the other person does, but as soon as they break eye contact, it’s back to our previous distractions. It could even take the form of us rehearsing in our minds how we’re going to respond to the very thought that’s not yet been entirely expressed by the other person. A strategically placed utterance of “hmm…” never hurts. Are we really listening to people?

3.    Controlling

This one’s tricky because we can convince ourselves that we’re doing our part as leaders if we’re simply sitting there paying attention and not interrupting while someone is talking. The truth is that we can potentially be controlling and manipulative with or without saying a word. People are influenced by other people’s gestures, facial expressions, body language, breathing patterns, audible noises, and so on in addition to their words. We can make people feel inadequate, or like they need to soften their message, or even like they must wholly acquiesce to our every wish if we’re not careful; because the folks with whom we’re speaking are either consciously or subconsciously interpreting all of that stuff.

The scary truth is that some of us are probably controlling without even realizing it. The scarier truth is that some of us are probably controlling intentionally.

 4.    Projecting

An easy way to get a handle on understanding projecting and the resulting frustration it can cause would be to remind yourself of almost any recent presidential debate. Projecting – be it consciously or subconsciously – is a way of life for many politicians, especially in a debate scenario.

Politician A will be prattling on about this or that when suddenly Politician B will enter into the dialogue, finishing Politician A’s thought the way he/she (Politician B) thinks it goes or wants it to go; following which Politician B is so kind as to offer a preemptive response to the argument that he/she partially projected. Many straw men were born this way. (Darn you, Lady Gaga.)

So what’s the point? Listening isn’t as simple and easy as we think it is, and we may not be listening as often or as well as we think we are. Some refer to listening as an art, and if we think of it that way, doing it extremely well is going to take enormous amounts of practice, experience, humility, feedback, and self-awareness. Looking in the mirror is the first and most difficult step.

Want to be More Creative? Just Say No.

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There are so many fantastic posts on creativity out there, and what follows will certainly not be added to that group; but I think it’s an important footnote to the ongoing conversation in the business world about creativity.

Many of the posts I alluded to above provide great tips to help you be more creative, think more creatively, or something along those lines; but fewer address what I think may be one of the biggest obstacles that stops many would-be creators before they’re able to start. That obstacle?

The inability to say No.

If you look past the smoke and mirrors, the glitz and glamor, the bells and whistles — if you look past all that’s typically associated with the mystery that is creativity, there’s something that absolutely has to be there in order for someone to create anything. What is that thing, you ask? Time.

Without time, none of the rest of it matters. You can have memorized all the steps to being more creative that you gleaned from a recent blog post on creativity, but unless you actually have time to walk through those steps, the creative process — and by that I mean the process whereby you actually exert creative energy and create something — will not happen. It can’t. Because it takes time.

Which brings us back to saying No. If you can’t say No, you’ll also not be able to do some other things that are prerequisites to the creative process.

You won’t be able to gain the knowledge of your field you need to be able to create something meaningful within it.

You won’t have time to find problems to solve, find solutions to those problems, and then find problems with those solutions.

You won’t be able to engage in trial and error. No trials. No errors. (Actually, you’ll still make errors. Bummer, eh?)

No is what guards our time so that we can create. No understands that time is this odd commodity that we need more of than we think and have less of than we realize.

But No has gotten a bad rap. We’ve been taught not to say it, how to say it without actually saying it, how to make people not feel like we’re saying it, and how to turn it into yes. Weird, right?

In fact, we’ve gone so far as to reserve No for only the most extreme scenarios. It is a thing to be said to drugs. And to strangers with candy. And to folks standing on your front porch asking if they can come inside and explain to you how a guy looked into a hat and translated Egyptian hieroglyphics into readable English from these golden plates he happened to find.

But we’re wrong. No is a tool. Better yet, No is the fuel of creativity, for it is what actually creates the context within which people can create.