New Inc.com article: When Ego Destroys Your Vision

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The voice, passion, and power of the new leader are essential when trying to initiate a new direction and new purpose. In fact, at the vision stage, ego is a necessity. Much of the legitimacy of initial ideas stems from belief that others have in the leader. Visionary leaders who focus only on themselves inadvertently stymie the transformation of their vision into reality. They become demoralizing tyrants, marginalizing those who could be key to their success.

The challenge for a visionary leader is to avoid the classical mistakes that emerge when focusing only on themselves:

Read the rest here.

Six Things to Keep in Mind When Dealing with Narcissists

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We are all familiar with narcissists. If indeed of late this has gotten much play in the political arena, it is a phenomenon not unique to it. Narcissism, at least in its most subtle form, can emerge among those who are so confident in their vision and capacity that celebration of self may replace or subvert their originally intended agenda. At that point, they begin to view the world from their own unique perspective. Everything is filtered through the lens of self-aggrandizement and their insecurity.

Those who work with and around the narcissist–those who believe in the underlying agenda but are wary of the self-focused intent of the leader–are challenged with dealing with the narcissist on a regular basis. Specifically, surviving a narcissistic leader demands pragmatic political skills and continuous focus. There are at least six things that you should keep in mind:

1. Keep your eye on the agenda. Keep asking yourself what you’d like to accomplish. What are the specific concerns that drive you? What are the intentions you’re pursing? Don’t let the whims of the leader lead to you drop the ball. If the collective has a goal that you continue to believe in, then it is easier not to be affected or taken off course by a needless side path.

2. Bide your time. Don’t overreact and jump on every comment and every point. Every action doesn’t deserve an equal counter-reaction. Sometimes a reaction can be nothing. There are some things that you can let pass. As your mother might have told you, “Pick your battles.” With a narcissist, everything isn’t a battle unless you make it one.

3. Be deliberate with feedback. Don’t hesitate to give feedback when necessary, but make it specific and concrete. You have to tow the line. But, at the same time, you cannot engage in half-truths and petty obfuscations. You aren’t doing yourself or the narcissist any favors if you sugarcoat the truth.

4. Have a red line. Understand at which point the agenda is completely undermined to the point where you can no longer support it. Even if you are so committed to the cause, something the narcissist says or does is too out-there, too outrageous that you cannot keep up even the most tight-lipped support. Know when it is time to cut bait, and do it swiftly when the time comes.

5. Be careful not to feed the flame. Don’t over ingratiate yourself with the leader. Some narcissists feed on the adulation and kowtowing of others. If your narcissist is like this, pull back. Don’t give him or her positive reinforcement for acting in a way that is frankly not acceptable.

6. Seek support from others. Sometimes there is strength in numbers, but be careful who you confide in. What you view as a getting something off your chest, others may view as ammunition that they will use to fire back in your direction. So, seek support, but be aware that others may not share your motives and intentions.

In the final analysis, it may be the case that you cannot survive the narcissistic leader because you find that your core values are being violated. At a certain point, the narcissist may so overwhelm you that you have no choice but to move on.

 

Key Hiring Criteria: Tenacity, Spark, Trust, Leadership, and Humility

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As the academic semester ends and graduation approaches, the hiring season is in full swing. For over four decades, I have been training and working with undergraduates at Cornell University. To my joy and some pride, among my former students are well-known corporate leaders, public figures, and an array of entrepreneurs. I sometimes reflect on the qualities of my most successful students, and I am somewhat dismayed to think that if some of them were entering the job market today, they would have fallen through the cracks.

As there is more emphasis on mass hiring through recruiting agencies, there is a greater obsession with strong signals rather than weak signals. The alma mater, the grades, the activities, and the cookie-cutter elements that are easily measured and give some benign threshold of achievement, but may be predictive of very little. I’ve found that in my experience with students, the weak but persistent signals can speak more to a person’s character and potential than strong signals. There are several weak signals that are never quite captured in the resume, interviews, or tests, but can be discovered with a comprehensive conversation with their mentors.

Tenacity. The one trait that most of my successful students have in common was their tenacity. These students who took on special projects and sought out opportunity. They went beyond the core course requirements, and involved themselves in extended research and volunteer projects with focused intention.

Spark. These students shared a type of irreverence, a casual indifference to the way things are or should be. Each one had a sparkle. This subtle spark of quickness, intelligence, and wit differentiates the good from the best.

Trust. These students understood moral parameters, knew that need to share credit, and had the commonsense to distinguish acceptable and unacceptable behavior. While ambitious, it was bounded by a core understanding of the rules of the game.

Leadership. These students had taken the lead on projects. They could assemble and motivate a team of researchers. They could map out what needed to be done, and they could follow up to make sure that the work was done.

Humility. Most of these students exhibited a degree of humility. While not lacking in ambition, they had a deep sense of their limitations, which did not enhance their competitive insecurity but strengthened their tendency to work with others.

Last week I was asked to give a reference for a student who had graduated five years ago. He had a good job, but was looking around for new opportunities. While I told the recruiter he was not the best analyst or the very best technocrat, I re-framed the discussion on what I consider to be the four prerequisites of a future leader: tenacity, spark, trust, leadership, and humility. He starts in two weeks.

My advice to organizations seeking to hire the best is to have a comprehensive conversation with the college mentors of their job candidates. There is the battery of questions that have to be asked to fulfill bureaucratic requirements, but put down the list for a moment and go off script. Take the time to dig a little deeper and learn about those things that aren’t immediately evident and cannot be readily measured. The reward will be having some great people on the team.

The Agenda Mover is Now Available For Pre-Order

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Bacharach Agenda cover final Web

The first title in BLG’s Pragmatic Leadership Series is now available on Amazon.com. Published by Cornell University Press, The Agenda Mover outlines how leaders can move complex ideas through complex organizations.

Everyone is capable of coming up with a good idea, but a good idea without execution is hallucination. Leaders, including politicians and corporate officers, are those who have mastered the pragmatic skills that turn creative, innovative ideas into concrete realities. They are able to transform promises into results. The Agenda Mover leads you on the journey from having a good idea to bringing it to fruition. You will master the political competence to assure that your ideas gain momentum and achieve true traction. You will learn what it takes to go the distance to sustain your campaign and achieve your goals. Rather than dreaming about what could happen, you will become an agenda mover who gets things done and makes things happen.

How to Avoid Leadership Drift

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leadership driftAll organizations must be capable of identifying leaders who are drifting and there are at least seven ways the leadership drift can be identified–either your own or that of others in your organization. Read Professor Bacharach’s full article on INC.com.