Hacking Leadership

Summary Written by Martina McGowan

The Big Idea

Leadership is NOT About You

"Any individual who holds responsibility for any person, aspect, function, or task within an organization [including family], is in fact a leader." "- Hacking Leadership, page 63

Every person is a leader in some arena of life. But, not every leader is good at it. Good leadership requires many things of us. It requires a willingness to continue to learn and explore ourselves, others and opportunities. It compels us to have and present both stability and a forward-looking vision to lead people and organizations forward.

Anyone who is a leader has witnessed disconnects in themselves and in others in at least one of the areas that Myatt highlights:

Leadership: A form of entitlement rather than service.
Purpose: Focusing on self-interest rather than impacting and improving the lives of others.
Future: Resistance or refusal to change.
Mediocrity: Accepting and working to maintain the status quo.
Culture: Letting culture run amok rather than managing.
Talent: Not owning up to responsibility when we do not hire or use the best talent available to us.
Knowledge: Refusing to acquire new knowledge because of ego.
Innovation: Confusing ideas with innovation, which are ideas that are solutions.
Expectation: Managing expectations rather than aligning them with our values, purposes, goals, and mission.
Complexity: Making systems unnecessarily complex for ourselves and our customers/ consumers.
Failure: Focusing on failure as the main thing, rather than learning from it.

Each of these gaps come with some “tried and true.” and trite expressions that we all take as common wisdom, like “failure is not an option”. There are two issues at play here. The first is that they are almost invariably false. The second issue is that these old ways of thinking keep getting resurrected, and keep us bound to the paths of mediocrity and apathy when it comes to making decisions about how we lead ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations.

It is only by careful scrutiny of these “truisms” that we all seemingly accept at face value that we can come to see who we have become and do something concrete about it. And that’s where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? To do something about it!

Making organizational change begins with the ability to make changes in ourselves first and foremost. We must begin with how we think and what we choose to see. This must be followed by executing well-thought out processes of advancement. Being able to change is what keep us in the game, in business, and a step ahead of our competition.

Insight #1

Everything is a teachable moment, or a learning opportunity

"Prior proper planning prevents poor performance."- Hacking Leadership, page 153

This is one of Mike Myatt’s favorite quotes. He uses it several times in the book. It is succinct and on-point. Preparation, remaining flexible, yearning to learn, the ability and agility to step into areas of discomfort, stepping away from the illusion that we know everything helps us reach across and fill in those gaps that this book shines a spotlight on.

I shared in a previous summary that we are having a software and learning issue going on at work. Looking closely at Myatt’s list, I can see that we are languishing in at least half of these leadership gaps, or abysses in our case, and that is why we have failed to make progress in rectifying the problem. No one has ever taken the reigns and used a leadership style that has had any teeth in it. So, things the same, we accept mediocre performances, and we do not align expectations of ourselves, others, or even the software. Leadership is neither something mystical, nor is it “rocket surgery.” It is something to be done intentionally!

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Insight #2

Who You Are Is Infinitely More Important Than What You Do

"If you're a superstar at work, but a slacker at home, you're not succeeding at anything other than being a disingenuous, egocentric charlatan."- Hacking Leadership, page 179

In the last few chapters of this book, Myatt takes off his professional mask and gets truly personal. He talks about himself in the light of his family life. One that would make some of us squirm as well. For many of us, we have been sold the usual bill of goods that sacrificing your family on the altar of success—and calling it taking care of them—somehow absolves us of our duties and civility at home. It is a lie! This I can tell you from Mike’s book and from personal experience. I speak often to “youngsters” in my profession as their future self in an attempt to convey this message. There is no excuse, no benefit, and no getting that squandered time back.

The key to good leadership, personally, organizationally and family-wise, is to look inward. Hopefully that doesn’t sound too “New Age” for you. But, to look at who you have become and what you have accepted as unchangeable, and make the decision to make changes. To change yourself, your work environment, and your leadership style to do better work instead of putting up with stuff, punching the clock, getting by or dialing it in. Pick your favorite phrase for not doing your best.

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Mike Myatt

Mike Myatt, is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and Boards, is widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the preeminent leadership thinkers globally, is the author of “Leadership Matters,” a Forbes leadership columnist, a Senior Fellow at The Gordian Institute, and serves as chief executive officer at N2growth. His latest book “Hacking Leadership” (Wiley) will be available in bookstores everywhere on December 16th, 2013 and is available for pre-order now.

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