Leadership Lens

After a very successful evening at “The Leadership Lens” with Matthew Anderson, read some of his thoughts on the issues surrounding modern leadership and how we can all become better leaders.


What is wrong with the modern view of leadership? It shouldn’t be about profit, success or performance – those are all shorterm-ism. They’re just thinking about the short term; quarterly performance figures etc. There’s a dearth of values – no standard of morality. But it should be about people, social interaction and good interpersonal skills; everyone should feel they have a purpose. In every definition of leadership something about being ‘people centered’ will be mentioned. For example, imagine a fleet of ships – you don’t just make sure your own ship is OK. That would be useless – you’d bang into one another. You need communication and unity.

Egomania is the biggest problem in leadership. When we have our egos boosted it makes us feel better – if we get promotion, told we’re special –it inflates the ego. It’s okay to be a little narcissistic: have some pride, confidence, feel driven but the next step, if people become over-enamored with themselves, is a personality disorder, i.e.  psychopathic. The psychopath reads and sizes people up but not in an empathic way. They record vulnerability and weakness (e.g. I’ve got something on you.) They’re usually compelling communicators and motivators but they have a dark charisma (like Hitler). They will always manipulate and exploit, which becomes destructive in the end. Senior managers are three times more likely to be psychopaths than members of the general public.

The sociopathic individual feels unmoved at the devastation they’ve left behind after making a dramatic decision, such as culling a third of the staff and replacing them with automatons. They will justify every decision: it’s all about their own pride and sensuality, “Look at how well I have done. I’m the one who’s being satisfied.” How do we avoid becoming like this? By being the opposite: showing humility and discipline. Servant leaders are attractive, humbly serving and lifting others. Winning is not always about being successful. Good leaders see the long term vision. They have values. What does it mean to have a vision? How do you know that what you’re doing has purpose? You have to have meaning in what you do. Influence people, don’t direct. Leadership is about power and influence. People are looking for guidance. What impact are you having on your followers? You need to give people a sense of value. Who is the vision for if you’re a leader? It must be tailored for your audience. What do THEY want to see? It’s about their view, not what the leader wants – do they even want to go there? It’s about bringing people to somewhere better. Are you making things better? Be independent in your thinking: how should I behave? How can I connect to my followers? Serve to lead. It’s about the giving up of yourself, creating a new direction to achieve much greater things, to be a performance multiplier.

Performance is made up of potential and psychology; having the right skills, resources and people. Positive psychology, through your attitude, interaction and the way you relate to people, creates better performance. You must have the will to win. When you negatively influence your followers, by unfair criticism etc., you have lost their attention – they won’t be able to concentrate on what you’re saying next. Leaders should have a positive perception of their team and treat them with respect. If you input lots of positives into your team, they will allow for some negatives. If you’re not connecting meaningfully then you’re a toxic leader.

Toxic leaders look brilliant to their bosses. They say all the right things and appear to be effective but watch out; they destroy team unity with their impatience and disrespect. They operate according to Ingratiation Theory – they appeal to someone of higher status to ingratiate themselves, but are they treating their staff members well? If you’re a good motivator your team will exceed expectations. Good leaders listen to people: they must have ENGAGEMENT AND EMPOWERMENT. People need to feel they’re making a contribution, so find out what people’s expectations are. Motivate them; give them a sense of purpose. You may think you’re a good leader but you’re not the best judge. Find out how people perceive you? Do you understand their expectations? Raise morale to be an effective leader.