Book Summary of ‘The Leadership Gap’ by Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal has seen it all in her years as an executive coach. She’s spent countless hours in boardrooms, executive suites and corporate jets. She’s helped leaders navigate both success and failure.

Through her work she has identified the one thing that separates the best from the rest – great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are. Many leaders get stuck because they rely on what has worked for them in the past, even when it is no longer working. Great leaders, on the other hand, are open to learning and growing to better serve the people they lead.

In her book The Leadership Gap, she introduces us to a system of seven archetypes that will help view yourself objectively so that you can identify the gaps you face as you work towards greatness.

You’ll see parts of yourself in each of these archetypes. We shift between them depending on the situation.

But you’ll also recognise yourself in what Lolly describes as leadership gaps. These gaps sometimes lead us to the “shadow side” of our leadership archetypes, ultimately holding us back from becoming successful.

Once you are able to see yourself objectively, you can start to create a path forward. That’s exactly what we’ll explore as we introduce you to each of the seven archetypes.

The Rebel

The Rebel is somebody who sees something that isn’t right in the world, and then does everything in his power to correct it. In a business context, you’ll notice them overcoming huge roadblocks to save project, or in extreme cases, a company.

When we think of rebels, we think of people like Rosa Parks and Elon Musk. They seem to ask themselves, “how can I push the envelope?” in every situation.

The rebel’s strength is self-confidence, backed up by competence. As Lolly points out, confidence alone is not sufficient. You need both in order to become great as a rebel leader.

The rebel’s leadership gap is self-doubt – in most cases, the irrational kind. Almost every high achiever faces some degree of self-doubt. After all, they are trying to do what other people would not, or could not, do.

When self-doubt creeps in, it leads to the leadership gap archetype called The Imposter. It’s the never-ending sense that somehow you will be “found out.” It’s the need for perfection, when you know that perfection is impossible. It’s comparing yourself to others, when you know that there’s always somebody better, faster and stronger.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this gap and find your inner rebel when you need it most.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  2. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect.
  3. Make a list of your accomplishments to remind yourself that you are indeed capable of great things.
  4. Create an inner circle for support.
  5. Assess your skills and work on strengthening the skills that cause you to doubt yourself.
  6. Constantly remind yourself of the cause you are working towards. Self-doubt has a habit of disappearing in the face of a worthy cause.

The Explorer

The Explorer is somebody who knows when to rely on their analytical mind, but also when to rely on their intuition. In particular, they use their intuition to test the boundaries of what is known, and how things are currently done.

When we think of explorers, we think of people like Jeff Bezos, Sarah Blakely and Neil deGrasse Tyson. They seem to be always asking themselves, “what can I discover?”

The explorer’s strength is intuition. Intuition is knowledge based on experience, stored deeply in your brain, and available quickly on demand. Most people commonly refer to this as listening to their gut, but as Lolly explains, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The explorer’s leadership gap is manipulation. When people trust your intuition as a leader to guide them, it’s a slippery slope to use it to get whatever you want. Sometimes this leads to using intuition to manipulate others to gain their control.

When this happens, we end up with leadership gap archetype called The Exploiter. They will set themselves up as the expert in a situation even when they are not. They will withhold information from others, and they will often make threats to get what they want.

When you find yourself slipping from the Explorer to the Exploiter, there are a number of things you can remind yourself of to get you back on track:

  1. Look for opportunities to praise instead of prey. Don’t take advantage of other people’s weaknesses.
  2. Don’t make others give up something in order to serve your own self-interest.
  3. Mean what you say and say what you mean. The Exploiter will often say things other people want to hear, but aren’t quite true.
  4. Leverage your qualities as an Explorer – the power of self-assurance, the ability of persuasion, the capacity for decisiveness, and the quintessence of preparedness.

The Truth Teller

The Truth Teller is somebody who believes he owes it to the people in his life to be honest, open and sincere at all times. He will the tell truth when it serves others, even when he runs the risk of offending people.

When we think of truth tellers, we think of people like Ronald Reagan, Indra Nooyi, and Winston Churchill. They seem to be always asking themselves, “where should I speak up?”

The truth teller’s strength is candor, which one of the hardest things we can do. A research study at the University of Massachusetts showed that 60 percent of adults can’t complete a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. So, somebody who can speak the truth in all areas of their life is a rare bird indeed.

The truth teller’s leadership gap is suspicion. Truth tellers can easily succumb to the suspicion that those around them aren’t telling the truth. Then, little by little, it becomes easier to justify not telling the complete truth yourself.

Ultimately this path leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Deceiver. Deceivers are remarkably charming (it’s easier to be charming when you’re not restricted to the truth), they are emotionally manipulative, and wonderful at distraction. They are also notorious blamers and never take accountability for their actions.

If you find yourself identifying as a deceiver, here are some ways to get yourself back on track:

  1. Learn to be flexible. Deceivers tend to see the world in black and white.
  2. Communicate everything – the path to the deceiver often starts with withholding information, not outright lies.
  3. Look for solutions, not blame. When you create a culture where solutions are rewarded and mistakes aren’t punished, the truth can be told by everybody – including you.
  4. Model your own high standards – don’t tolerate liars and cheats.

The Hero

The Hero is somebody who takes action while others sit on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to step up. They act in spite of overwhelming odds and opposition. They are willing to put their careers (and sometimes lives) on the line for a shot at greatness.

When we think of heroes, we think of people like Justice Anthony Kennedy, Malala Yousafzai, and J.K. Rowling. People like this seem to always be asking themselves, “where is courage needed?”

The hero’s strength is courage. Science doesn’t yet understand why people take on heroic tasks, but we do know that it’s an activity that has distinct characteristics. It is performed in service of others in need, voluntarily, with the recognition of the risks, and without expectation of external gain.

The hero’s leadership gap shouldn’t surprise us – it’s fear. A hero in one situation can be paralysed by fear in another. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “fear defeats more people than anything in the world.”

Fear can lead to the leadership gap archetype of The Bystander. Why? It’s easier to watch things unfold rather than take action. What you don’t realise is that when you are a bystander to an injustice, you make it easier to rationalise being a bystander as well. It’s contagious, and it’s destructive.

If you find yourself tempted to be a bystander in a situation that calls for action, you can close the gap by doing the following:

  1. Create a bias for decisive action. As Susan Jeffers says, feel the fear and do it anyways.
  2. Stand tall, literally. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities have shown that practicing the “power pose” for a few minutes increases testosterone and lowers cortisol, making it more likely you’ll take action.
  3. Remind yourself that you are in control. You ultimately decide whether or not you take action

The Inventor

The Inventor is a visionary, constantly inventing new products, or improving existing ones. An inventor typically refuses to settle for anything else than excellence. They are experimenters, knowing that small bets pay off in big wins. They are also willing to fail in order to pursue those wins.

When we think of inventors, we think about people like Walt Disney, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Blake Mycoskie. They seem to be always asking the question “how can we make this better?”

The inventor’s strength is integrity. As Lolly says, in order to have integrity you need to know who you are, you need to know what you stand for, and you have to know what your code of conduct is. When an inventor has integrity, there is no stopping him.

The inventor’s leadership gap is corruption. Every single day you’ll face opportunities to let your integrity slide. The seven deadly sins – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony are good places to start.

Once your integrity starts to slip, you are on your way to becoming the leadership gap archetype The Destroyer. Instead of making the world better with their ideas, product and companies, they serve their own purposes and make things worse.

Here’s what to do to close the gap if you find yourself tempted to let your integrity slip:

  1. 1. Look for the good, not the bad. A destroyer tends to focus on the negative in any situation, which makes it harder to stick to your code of conduct.
  2. Set high personal standards, and avoid the temptation to cut corners, even when others aren’t looking.
  3. Get to know yourself. Integrity is created and maintained through constant self-examination.
  4. Honour your commitments.
  5. Take responsibility when you fall short on your commitments.

The Navigator

Navigators know where to go, and they know how to bring people with them. They have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. Even more importantly, they know how to navigate themselves.

When we think of navigators, we think of people like Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. They seem to be always asking “how can we get to where we need to go?”

The navigator’s strength is trust. They trust in their own ability to lead, and they also know how to build trust in those around them. Trust allows people to open up without the fear of being hurt. To take the appropriate risks without the fear of reprimand.

The navigator’s leadership gap is arrogance. When you have a high level of trust in your ability to navigate an organisation towards success, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. “I’ll just tell people what to do and they’ll do it” is something you might find a person like that saying.

This path ends up with the leadership archetype of The Fixer. As Lolly says, a fixer is a navigator that nobody trusts. The fixer feels the need to help save people from themselves instead of leading them. They micromanage.

Here’s what you can do to close the gap if you find yourself slipping into the fixer role:

  1. Learn to fix the fixer – start with fixing yourself.
  2. Be mindful of boundaries – don’t let yourself get swallowed up in other people’s challenges. Give them the opportunity to fend for themselves.
  3. Pay attention to communication, commitment, competence and character.
  4. Demonstrate trust by honouring, admiring, and appreciating those around you.

The Knight

The Knight is a loyal protector and defender with unwavering beliefs. Knights will stand beside you and serve you before they serve themselves.

When we think of knights we think of people like Mother Teresa, Herb Kelleher and Jill Abramson. They always seem to be asking themselves “how can I serve you?”

The knight’s strength is loyalty. Loyalty expert James Kane tells us that there are three specific things that determine whether or not we feel a sense of loyalty to another person, brand or organisation: (1) a sense of trust, (2) a sense of belonging, and (3) a sense of purpose. A knight taps into all three.

The knight’s leadership gap is self-serving. As human beings, we have a bias to serve ourselves first. One of the manifestations of that is to rationalise that what’s good for you is also good for others.

This often leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Mercenary. They have a lack of dedication to the cause, inadequate loyalty, and usually a shortage of competence.

Here are some ways you can get back on the path of the knight:

  1. Realise that thinking about serving others first is what ultimately leads to the highest levels of success.
  2. Pay attention to how people respond to you.
  3. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  4. Get to know the people around you – it’s easier to serve people you connect with.
  5. Be honest with yourself. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you don’t model it yourself.

Conclusion

Being a leader is tough, and you will almost always find yourself in times of darkness. But as Desmond Tutu once said, “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

In those situations, you now have the tools to choose the light over the darkness by choosing the leadership archetype that the situation demands.

The rebel, explorer, truth teller, hero, inventor, navigator and knight are all inside you.

Make your choice, and make it a good one.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click http://business-coaching.com/andy/ for more information

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