I like it when I find random new professors/thought people in the management/leadership space because it’s always interesting to see new and differing perspectives. I then like it even more if they say similar things to how I feel about those topics, and that appears to be the case with Harry Kraemer of Northwestern and the Kellogg School. Read this post. It’s titled “Leaders Are Willing To Get Uncomfortable” (logical and true, but potentially buzzword-sounding) and he does talk a lot about “values-based leadership.” I personally think that’s a real and tangible thing, but if you throw that on a PowerPoint deck in front of the rank-and-file, they’ll groan more audibly than a teenage boy’s mother at an Adam Sandler movie. It just sounds like bullshit pushed down from on-high. However, a lot of the concepts behind what Kraemer is saying and trying to optimize are very legitimate — and especially this paragraph:
Self-reflection also leaves one better prepared to deal with the unexpected. “If you’re self-reflective, you’re not going to be surprised very often. I find that the people who get surprised a lot aren’t very self-reflective.” Kraemer says that when he first started teaching values-based leadership, he was struck by how undervalued self-reflection is. He met a lot of bright, Type-A personalities who did not think such a quality mattered. They focused exclusively on their ambitions, which left them unprepared to deal with the contingencies of business and life.
Love, love, love.
Here’s my take:
- Self-awareness is everything, especially in a world where a lot of people directly connect their self-worth back to their job.
- Very few people are self-aware and a massive number couldn’t give a shit about being self-aware.
- Maybe there’s a point there, though: I personally write and think about this stuff all the time, and I wouldn’t call myself very professionally successful.
- With leaders, though, I do believe humility is tremendously important. Without it, you’re basically unable to learn. Honestly.
- That intersection point of “self-confidence” and “humility” is the human sweet spot. If you’re self-confident, people are drawn to you. In a way, you’re at a base level of likability. But some self-confident people, especially at work, are ultimately just brazen assholes. If you combine self-confidence with an ability to be humble, see other people’s point of view, admit your own failings, etc. — that’s the type of person that draws people in AND keeps them there.
- You know what that is? A person who captures attention and holds it, and builds loyalty in the process?
- That’s a leader.
Again, we live in a world where products and processes mean more than people, yes. And most managers are bad, aren’t respectful, don’t understand motivation, can’t ID the strengths of others, and don’t want to be involved with their employees’ development. I get all that. But in this whole rat-on-a-treadmill Busy Trap world we’ve created, isn’t it interesting to know/realize that the whole idea behind leadership is really pretty simple? You just need to stop and look at yourself once in a while, and be willing to open that side up to others here and there.
Of course, that’s a challenge for many.