Most of you that have been reading this blog for any length of time know that I have strong feelings on the topic of leadership. While many of you have read my prepared material on the subject, my guess is that very few of you have had the opportunity to read any of my commentary on other authors perceptions of leadership. So today I’m going to step out from behind the protective veil of my prepared and edited daily posts, and share with you a sampling of the comments that I have made on leadership articles authored by others…

Because of my work in the area of leadership, I am a member of various think tanks, forums, advisory boards and counsels on the topic at hand. The reality is that nary a week passes without something or someone prompting me to author yet another rant on what constitutes true leadership. In many of these venues information, opinions and commentary tend to be a bit more free-flowing, which in turn obviates the ability for me to refine my thoughts prior to their expression resulting in some of the excerpts highlighted below. For the sake of brevity I have summarized the other authors positions on the subject of leadership. Off we go…

Other Author’s Perspective: Strong leadership is good leadership…Start strong and soften as needed or necessary…

Myatt’s Rant: I have nothing against strong leadership when and where appropriate. However, it has been my experience that the best leaders use situational context and environment to determine the appropriate leadership tactics, which may not always call for flexing of the muscles. No single style of leadership will be universally applicable, and you’ll find attempts at such to be akin to pounding a square peg into a round hole. Rather it takes experience and a bit of savvy to understand which leadership style will be best aligned with the situation at hand. There are certainly times to be tough, but being heavy handed in certain situations will likely have the opposite effect of what you are seeking. Fluidity and flexibility are traits possessed by great leaders.

Other Author’s Perspective: The most important leadership characteristic is charisma…

Myatt’s Rant: Charisma ia a good trait to possess, but real leadership is about character and integrity. It is always interesting to read people’s thoughts on leadership as I find them to typically be as varied as the colors of a rainbow. I also believe there are distinct differences between those professionals who play leader and those who are in fact real leaders. Moreover, any person in a leadership capacity void of character and integrity will eventually stumble regardless of the other leadership traits possessed. Virtually anyone can achieve short term success, but to achieve sustainable success as a leader requires sound decisioning, being able to create a bond of trust among all stakeholders and the ability to do the right thing regardless of dissenting opinion, all of which require character and integrity.

Other Author’s Perspective: Great leaders always demonstrate compassion as it is their compassion that makes them great to begin with…

Myatt’s Rant: Being compassionate is a choice. While a laudable trait, it is not universally a good thing, and perhaps more to the point, it is not always the right choice for a leader. While people can become jaded and lose their sense of compassion, I believe this is the exception and not the rule. Rather many people just don’t apply the use of compassion properly. Some over apply compassion, and others are afraid to show compassion at all for fear of being considered weak. As a leader it is not important that you’re always liked, but it is important that you make good decisions. Good decisions sometimes require being guided by compassion, and other times they should show restraint of compassion. In a perfect world I would like to think that the choice to exercise compassion is intrinsically motivated. However I’m not so naive as to think that there are not significant external influencing factors that people must deal with.

Other Author’s Perspective: A leader needs to demonstrate the ability to be politically correct…

Myatt’s RantPolitically Correct Leader? OXYMORON…Great leaders are not politically correct, but they are politically savvy. Putting political agendas and peer pressure aside (as great leaders do), leaders should not make their choices based upon public opinion. Rather they should benchmark their decisions against the question of “is it the right thing to do?”

Other Author’s Perspective: I see nothing wrong with leaders who make emotional decisions…

Myatt’s Rant: Surely you jest…True leaders are not ruled by emotion. However those playing leader often do make the all too common mistake of letting their emotions drive decisions. I have seen countless examples of people who jeopardize their future to indulge their emotions, when what they should have done was protect their future by exhibiting control over their emotions. I have witnessed otherwise savvy executives place the need for emotional superiority ahead of achieving their mission (not that they always understood this at the time). Thanks for your comments and I hope you don’t take tone of this message as displaying a lack of compassion. However, I agree with Dr. Toro that “…emotions are not intelligent!” In fact, I would go so far as to say they are the true enemy and not other people.

How often have we all witnessed a man get upset with his boss and quit (protecting his emotions) only to realize that he now has no means to support his family (not protecting his future). Mature, stable people don’t make knee-jerk decisions rather they solve the problems at hand, or planfully engineer an alternative that doesn’t place them at risk…they don’t just up and quit. As humans we all deal with emotions on a daily basis…Some of us just deal with them better than others. At the end of the day I believe it is mostly about passion, purpose and focus. Passion gives you purpose and purpose allows you to focus. If you have the ability to maintain your focus on the important things in life your priorities will remain aligned and your focus on protecting your future will override the desire commit self-sabotage.

Other Author’s Perspective: I have seen dictatorial leaders actually drive their employee’s to suicide…

Myatt’s Rant: I’m certainly not condoning cruel or abusive leadership, but blaming one person’s emotional choice on the part of another is flawed logic. As tragic as the loss of any human life is, suicide is a choice based on either easing emotional pain for one’s self, or creating emotional pain for others. I often hear the term “suicide victim” relating to the deceased, and in my opinion nothing could be farther than the truth. The victims are the people left behind to sort through all the “what ifs” and “but fors” surrounding the unexplained and forever unresolved death of a friend and loved one. The people who “choose” suicide as a way of dealing with emotional pain, as opposed to resolving the issues at hand in an “intelligent” fashion, are ultimately very selfish people. They regrettably chose to indulge their emotions as opposed to protecting their future by controlling their emotions. Work situations do not cause suicides…peoples inability to control their emotions cause suicides.

Other Author’s Perspective: I believe good leaders create equality in team building and in the workplace in general…

Myatt’s Rant: While I think I understand what you’re trying to communicate, you make a dangerous assumption that developing talent and good leadership are synonymous with striving to create equality. They are not, nor should they strive to be. Equality in teams is a false paradigm, and one that is counter productive. Again you will be hard pressed to point to any team that is highly functioning that would even begin to adopt equality as a key principle of success. “Developing, encouraging, and mentoring other team members” is good leadership, but has nothing to do with equality…There are so many things that sound great in theory, but simply don’t work in practice. I would suggest that the teams you led were productive because of your leadership abilities, your desire for open and clear communication, and your efforts at developing talent at all levels. I would also suggest that your teams were successful because each member was in fact not equal. While they may have been encouraged to have equality in voice, there were in fact roles, responsibilities, alignment of expectations, focus, and chain of command principles that were strictly adhered to.

I don’t agree that equality empowers teams. I believe a more accurate statement would be that in most cases equality neutralizes teams. You referred to this discussion being held in a classroom environment which doesn’t shock me at all. I have been a guest lecturer at many of the country’s leading business schools. I find that often the theoretical discussions that take place in halls of academia while spirited, fun and enlightening, have little to do with the realities that exist in the world of business. You must also keep in mind that the classroom is one of the few remaining bastions of true equality.

It has been my experience that whenever a common aspect of business turns into a “practice area” and the politically correct use said area as a platform to be evangelized, the necessity of common sense and the reality of what actually works often times gets thrown out the window. One of the threads that you and I agree on is the need for candor. I have always encouraged feedback and input at every level of an organization. However this doesn’t mean that everyone has an equal say, because they don’t…Moreover those that hold less vested interest, that don’t have as much as risk, that don’t have the experience or that may be looking-out for self interest more than the greater corporate good should not be considered equal with those that do. I have been highly regarded throughout my career for building extremely effective teams and what I can share with you is that team building is not about equality at all. Rather team building is about getting team members to understand exactly what their roles are, and to perform said duties with exacting precision.

Team building, group dynamics, talent management, leadership development and any number of other functional areas are much more about aligning expectations and defining roles than creating equality. If you examine the most effective teams in the real world you’ll find numerous examples which support the thoughts being espoused in this text. Whether you look at athletic teams, military teams, executive teams, management teams, technical teams, design teams, functional teams or any other team you find that the best of the best have structure, a hierarchy of leadership, a clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and expectations, clear and open lines of communication, well established decisioning protocol and many other key principals, but nowhere is equality found as a key success metric for teams.

While I concur that there is no “I” in team and with many other statements to that effect, such statements are not meant as endorsements for management by consensus. They are simply meant to foster a spirit of cooperation. Understanding how to lead and motivate groups and teams should not be considered one in the same with creating false perceptions of equality that don’t exist. Show me any team created of equals and I’ll show you a team that will never reach its potential…

Other Author’s Perspective: Conflict is something to be avoided at all costs…

Myatt’s Rant: I couldn’t disagree more…I actually very aggressively seek out conflict in order to find it before it finds me…Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to create conflict, but rather engage it upon my terms and conditions before it becomes a bigger issue than it needs to be. Conflict is something we all have to deal with and learning to address it effectively and efficiently will mitigate the amount of pain and suffering one will need to endure. I addressed this topic in great detail in a previous post entitled “Conflict Resolution” which I believe might be of interest to those who have participated in this discussion. And for record I don’t view myself as either or fighter or a runner, but rather someone who chooses how (tactics) and when (strategy) to engage based upon the need/importance of the issue at hand…

Other Author’s Perspective: It is not necessary to have experience in order to be a good leader or mentor…

Myatt’s Rant: While there are certainly exceptions to every rule, rarely will you find it in a lack of experience. Bottom line…if you can’t walk the walk, then you shouldn’t talk the talk…I have strong feelings on this subject, so if my words cut like a knife to anyone reading this comment I apologize in advance. I believe that many so called “expert advisors” are unqualified and do far more harm than good.

Much of my personal practice is focused on the mentoring of CEOs and entrepreneurs and I couldn’t think of doing what I do unless I had walked in their shoes, and had real life experience in knowing how to be successful. Peoples lives and careers are not a practice field for people who think they want to be mentors and advisors because it sounds fun and they desire to create a lifestyle business for themselves…

While certainly no advisor is perfect as everyone has their faults, there is a certain standard that clients have a right to expect from their professional advisors. I will rarely ask a client to do something that I have not had personal experience with and routinely apply in my life. Those people who think they can read a book, take a few online courses, add water and become an advisor are sorely mistaken.

Conclusion: I have hundreds of these types of dialogues that I’ve recorded over the years (don’t worry, I’m not going to share anymore today) and thought it might be fun to let you see the unedited version of the advice and commentary I provide to colleagues and associates. I hope you have found this of use…