Course notes: The Psychology of Leadership (Part 3)

Oct 29, 2016 · Leadership

Here are my notes for lectures 6 to 8. As always, let’s step right in.

Lecture 6: Executive Coaching II and Leadership Cultivation I

He first talks a bit more about the topics of the fifth lecture: Executive Coaching.

Executive Coaching II

Focus on the behavior rather than the person. If someone does something good, don’t say things like “You are so smart but rather comment on the time the person spent on achieving the goal, e.g. You really worked hard. You’ve earned that!“.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) = grounded positivism. What can I learn from the past to inspire the present and apply to the future?

Basic assumptions for AI:

1) In every society, organization, or group, something works.

At its broadest level, AI is about discovering value in people, places, and things. It is about discovering the positive core[…] A fundamental concept related to AI is that every person, place, and thing has something of value, some worth, some untapped opportunity; one simply has to inquire into it. – Stavros & Torres

It’s important to actively seek for something special, unique, grounded, honest in someone. See the seed in someone.

2) What we focus on becomes our reality.

AI is not about ignoring the negative, but it shifts the pendulum more to the positive. Focusing on the problem makes the problem grow.

3) Questions influence reality.

Here it is recognized that inquiry and change are not truly separate moments, but are simultaneous. Inquiry is intervention. The seeds of change—that is, the things people think and talk about, the things people discover and learn, and the things that inform dialogue and inspire images of the future—are implicit in the very first questions we ask. – Cooperrider & Whitney

Questions begin a quest: The ability to ask provocative questions is essential for a leader. Asking provocative questions makes you a beautiful enemy.

When you ask questions, you help the other person to develop their own skills and capabilities.

We find that the more positive the question we ask, the more long-lasting and successful the change effort.Cooperrider and Whitney

Sample question: Tell me from a time where you did solve such a problem? What did you do then?

Change takes time and is not easy, and that’s why you need positivism to endure the time it takes.

Leadership Cultivation I

He mentions Warren Bennis and shows the book: On becoming a leader.

Warren Bennis: Leadership development is still in its diapers. We need a lot more experimenting in this field.

According to Ben-Shahar, leaders are not born. Leadership is a skill. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a certain capacity for that skill, but all that this capacity does is defining a range.

Analogy: Basketball players like Michael Jordan were not born as great players and leaders, but they were given a range in which they can learn. And in leadership, the range is much larger than in basketball…

You might not be able to e.g. get a resonant voice like Mandela, but there a lot of things for everybody on which we can work on to improve our leadership skills.

If you truly believe leaders are born to lead, you may avoid engaging in situations and experiences that trigger your full leadership potential. You may even engage in those situations and experiences, but fail to derive the deep meaning from those events that can enhance your leadership development. Your believes about leadership can become self-fulfilling and self-limiting.Bruce Aviolo

Acquired/stable skills (Wood & Bandura, 1989) – Summary: Thinking it is acquired is leading to a belief which then leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As with a lot of other things, it’s the same problem with great leaders: We see the final product of leaders, but we do not see the process they went through.

Reading biographies of great leaders is valuable for learning leadership skills. It’s basically learning from experiences other people make.

Leaders don’t wait to be made by others. Leaders make themselves.

“All of the leaders I talked with agreed that no one can teach you how to become yourself, to take charge, to express yourself, except you.” – Warren Bennis

Great leaders don’t only make themselves, but they know that it’s about making themselves.

Why listen to this course then, if you have to develop yourself? The conditions can be learned (AI, Unconditional Acceptance,…)

Emotional Intelligence is key for leaders: Know thyself, empathy, know how others feel…

“While the precise ration of Emotional Intelligence to cognitive abilities depends on how each are measured and on the unique demands of a given organization, our rule of thumb holds that Emotional Intelligence contributes to 80-90% of the competencies that distinguish outstanding from average leaders – and sometimes more. To be sure, purely cognitive competencies, such as technical expertise, surface in such studies – but often as threshold abilities, the skills people need simply to do an average job.” – Daniel Goleman

Lecture 7: Leadership Cultivation II

A good leader needs to focus on self-awareness, empathy, inter- and intrapersonal relationships, the ability to manage conflicts, communicate… Cognitive skills are important, but these skills differentiate between a poor and an effective leader.

Leadership training needs to focus on the limbic system (which deals with emotions etc.) rather than on the neocortex (where our rational thinking happens).

Establishing change in the limbic system takes time. Developing leadership skills takes time and effort.

“Emotional Intelligence” leadership skills: Self-awareness, openness to criticism, ability to manage one’s own emotions, motivation, self-confidence, honesty and integrity, the ability to develop others, courage.

Ability to manage emotions: Good leaders know how to count to 10 and sometimes even to 10000. When Lincoln died, they found hundreds of angry letters in his house, which he never sent.

Self-confidence: it’s simply developed by acting and going out of our comfort zone.

Honesty and integrity: When you say you will get something done, you will get it done. When you say you will meet someone at x o’clock, then you will meet him at that time… Honesty needs courage.

The thing is: you cannot develop all of these skills equally. You need to identify the things, which you are already good at and then develop them even further while you manage the ones you are weak at.

Why only pick 2-3 and work on them? You need to be authentic as a leader and not someone with a prescribed set of values.

Know yourself and know thyself – this is leadership at its core.

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. – William Shakespear

“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” – Parker Palmer

1) Know Thyself:

Knowing yourself, knowing others: You first need to understand and have experienced the concepts and emotions yourself, otherwise, you experience the emotions in someone else. Otherwise, it’s like explaining a blind person, what the color blue is.

We must remember that knowledge of one’s own deep nature is also simultaneously knowledge of human nature in general. – Abraham Maslow

Interesting scientific research: When people were asked, what motivates other people when looking for a job, they said things like money, prestige, making it in life… (extrinsic motivational factors). When people were asked, what motivates themselves, they said things like passion, an inner calling or making a difference (intrinsic motivational factors). What this actually says is, that probably most of the people who think that people are extrinsically motivated, have it wrong. Therefore most people get it wrong what other people are motivated by.

Why is this important? A leader needs to know what most people are truly motivated by. And most people are motivated by, what you are motivated by. So the best way to identify, what’s really important for a job, it’s best to seek for what you find interesting and important in a job, workplace or leader.

What is most personal is often the most general. That’s why reflection on oneself is so important.

He is again referencing to the 360° Feedback as one of the most effective techniques to gain valuable feedback. With 360° feedback, you can find leverage points to improve on.

2) Be Thyself:

Many people are trying to put a mask on because they think that there is only one type of leader – the charismatic and extrovert one. This is wrong.

If one is exceptionally charismatic or eloquent, then use this gift and develop it even further. But if you are not charismatic and eloquent, maybe you are really good at paying attention to detail – then focus on that and make it your trademark.

Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence… One cannot build performance on weaknesses… It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence. – Peter Drucker

Research: When people were asked in an internationally performed study if it is more important to work on your weaknesses or your strengths, nearly all answered with It’s more important to improve your weaknesses. This study was conducted with people with various different backgrounds (young and old, rich and poor…). When the same study was conducted with the great leaders of our time, they all agreed that it is more important to manage your weaknesses and build on your strengths.

Task: Identify your 2-3 strengths.

Lecture 8: Leadership Cultivation III

Guest lecturer Scoot Snook. He tells a lot about leadership at Westpoint and shows many videos, but nothing really that important, which was not already covered.

Schwarzkopf on leadership: Leaders need competence and character.

Be, Know, Do. Do can be achieved by training, know by education, but it’s all about the be – who you are, your character, your values, your world view. If you have the be, everything else can be taught.

The largest development impact was raising the positive beliefs of followers, instilling in them the conviction that they were better at a performance task than they thought. – Aviolo & Luthans

Research from 2006 suggests that accurate self-awareness rarely drives performance and that in many circumstances, it actively retards performance. Only self-assurance drives performance, even when this self-assurance turns out to be unrealistic.

He then talks about how it is only the goal of a leader to increase the performance of your team and you should not be a therapist. I don’t really like this point; I think that’s what differentiates normal managers from real leaders: therapy without even noticing it.