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Yvonne DiVita

As noted in your new book, Lee, the world is a perverse playground - and if we do not match perversity with like kind, we must suffer the consequences. However, when 'thinking' leadership, where does the kinder, gentler leader come in? My friend, David Wolfe, writes about such leaders in his new book, Firms of Endearment. In your world, it's all about performance... and yet, one wonders where personality comes in. Does the good guy always finish last?

Lee Thayer

That question really messes with our master myth that the good guys always win--or should win--doesn't it? The underlying implication is that being a kinder, gentler leader will make your company more successful and/or more secure in the marketplace. In other words, we are urged to see it as THE means to that end.
In his most recent book, "How You Got Here Won't Get You There" (great title!), our most notorious executive coach Marchall Goldsmith makes much of his assertion that he gets paid only if he greatly improves the "scores" of his clients' 360-degree feedback. Same problem. It's as if we had all OD'd on pop psychology. Nowhere in his book (that I could find) does he offer any substantial research evidence that raising the feedback scores actually contributes to any competitive advantage or to sustainable organizational performance out there in the real world. (Although he does hedge a bit late in the book.)
Yes, it IS all about performance. That's the only thing that can be reliably measured. To some, a character like Zorro (or Don Quixote) was a good guy. To others, he was the bad guy. Who "wins" in the real world depends on many factors other than the players' personalities.

Stephen Martin

Zorro & Don Q. as leadership models, eh? And still "rattling cages" after all these years--that's great! But as my PhD mentor might have reminded me many years ago, the notion of reliably measuring performance, as a pretext to defining leadership, is a Gumpian view at water's edge. "Supid is as stupid does" ain't a stupid mantra--certainly not, if you can model it, publish articles, lead symposia, and coax followers into ... leading the way along the shore. Of course, looking back from the mother-ship, way out on the surf's horizon, near history, the view is downright confused. Whether leaders lead or followers follow is merely a p.o.v., isn't it? The only good definition of leadership, it seems to me, has to be embodied in the leader's role as "the guide in a journey." And, I must confess, if performance is only or mostly a matter of destination, then I'd probably choose to stay home with other like-minded, fellow travelers. Holding a whip over my back or dangling a steak in my face would be about equally ineffective, under normal circumstances. On the other hand, if you can show me the way to a great place to visit and we have a helluva time getting there, then ... maybe I'll help you lead me? Ah, what a great time in history to be alive, when one can while away an hour shooting at such bear.... Please don't blog me & keep up the good work making followers of leaders. Cheers, Lee!

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