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Ducks in a Row: Humble Or Charismatic

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edvinajh/5710373433/

Many of the actions of people such as Travis Kalanick, Donald Trump, Parker Conrad, etc., are deplored, yet they seem to have no effect on people’s opinions.

They go their merry way while thousands of far superior leaders are ignored.

When the subject does come up the usual response involves the infamous “yes, but…”

Why is that?

I finally found an answer that makes sense from Margarita Mayo, a Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IE Business School in Madrid.

Mayo terms the first type of leader ‘humble’ and the second ‘charismatic’.

Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments. They have a balanced view of themselves – both their virtues and shortcomings – and a strong appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, while being open to new ideas and feedback. (…)

[Charismatic leaders], despite their grandiose view of themselves, low empathy, dominant orientation toward others, and strong sense of entitlement, their charisma proves irresistible. Followers of superheroes are enthralled by their showmanship: through their sheer magnetism, narcissistic leaders transform their environments into a competitive game in which their followers also become more self-centered, giving rise to organizational narcissism, as one study shows.

Mayo’s research and the other’s she cites (with links) provide proof of the value produced by the humble leader vs. their charismatic counterpart.

However, I think there is another problem happening in the background that is word-related.

Ask most people if they want to be remembered as ‘humble’ or ‘charismatic’ and most will choose charismatic.

Warren Buffet aside, ‘humble’ is more often associated with dorky, weak, shy, and unassuming.

Not adjectives most people would choose to describe themselves.

Thanks to Wally Bock for leading me to this article.

Image credit: Edvin J.

Where To Work

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/9698637692/

There’s a very stupid myth that only the very talented are hired by startups and that the very talented only want to work for startups.

The corollary being that those who work for public companies, let alone large ones, probably aren’t all that talented and certainly not innovative/creative.

What a crock.

Another part of that myth is that working for a startup is the road to riches.

An even bigger crock.

The myth also says that the best place to work is a unicorn, such as or AirBnB, GitHub or Palantir,

And that is the biggest crock of all.

If you are looking for new opportunities and are dazzled by the idea of working at a unicorn I strongly suggest you read Scott Belsky’s post on Medium.

A company’s fate is ultimately determined by its people, so talent is everything. But this old adage bumps up against another one: cash is king (or runway is king, for a fast-growing private company). Without runway, talent takes off. So, it is no surprise that bold moves to extend runway (think late-stage financings at technically large valuations with some tricky liquidation preferences underneath) are done even if they could hurt the company (and its people) in the long run. This is especially true when these financings are ego-driven rather than strategic. The problem is, the employees at these companies don’t understand the implications.

But whether startup or Unicorn, this anonymous post on GitHub is a must read.

This is a short write-up on things that I wish I’d known and considered before joining a private company (aka startup, aka unicorn in some cases). I’m not trying to make the case that you should never join a private company, but the power imbalance between founder and employee is extreme, and that potential candidates would do well to consider alternatives.

The right place for you to work is the one that satisfies what you want — whether that’s the opportunity to work on bleeding edge technology, build a network, upgrade your resume or even plain, old curiosity.

The wrong place is the one you join with an eye to getting rich quick or for bragging rights.

Image credit: Mike Mozart

Entrepreneurs: Informed Choice

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/danmoyle/11715566974/

Wally Bock recently compared high flying CEOs to Icarus and provided three classic examples.

In case you’ve forgotten, Icarus’ wings melted when he flew too near the sun.

Icarus’s father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings or the sun’s heat melt them.

Unfortunately, both traits often find a home in founder MAP.

Hubris: extreme pride or self-confidence… Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Sound like anyone you know or have read about lately?

Complacency seems more unlikely in a hard charging founder.

While Wikipedia considers it synonymous with contentment, Merriam-Webster provides a more accurate and commonly accepted definition.

Complacency: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies; an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction

That probably brings a number of people to mind.

The synonyms listed will surely clarify any questions you have, but what’s most interesting are the antonyms: humbleness, humility, modesty.

But here’s the real kicker. A new study finds that the most effective leaders by several different measures are those exhibiting the antonyms.

As you might expect, leaders who overestimated their own competence were the least effective. But the surprising finding was that leaders who underestimated their own competence were the most effective. Likewise, leaders who underestimated themselves had the most engaged employees.

Now you not only have a choice, you have enough information for it to be an informed choice.

Flickr image credit: Dan Moyle

Stop Humblebragging Now!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36625206@N05/7728607982/

Humblebragging (a brag veiled in a complaint, so as to sound less blatantly like a brag) has to be near the top of today’s more annoying trends.

It’s not really new; I’ve heard similar phrasing for decades, but it was much more rare.

It’s common now, but if you indulge you’ll do yourself more harm than good.

Humblebragging runs rampant on Twitter, but it turns out to be a lousy self-promotion tactic, especially in business situations such as job interviews… Research shows that when given the choice to brag or to humblebrag, it’s better to straight-out brag.

The research described is interesting, because it’s easy to remember being on the receiving end of similar situations allowing you to compare your own reactions to those in the study.

Humblebragging is a close relative of hints that are usually in the form of a poor-me complaint.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of “I don’t know how I can…” which practically forces an “I will help…” response.

An extended family aunt of mine was a past master of this approach, so I learned early on to recognize the words for what they were — manipulation.

Both humblebrags and hints annoy because they are inauthentic and sneaky.

But there is humor to be found when you realize that the worst practitioners are those most offended when others do it.

Flickr image credit: Area 224

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