The Great Leader Mindset

Empirical LeadershipDave Logan is a professor at the University of Southern California and a corporate consultant. He contributed an article to CBS MoneyWatch, entitled Mindset of great leaders.  He offers, in one sentence, how to prove your worth as a leader to your organization. Here is the secret: Do what the evidence says to do, and then go beyond what’s known and imagine what’s possible. If you wish, you can read the original article here.

When leaders become empiricists, they are guided by all available evidence, letting that data tell them the right thing to do. As an empiricist, he recommends making decisions based on data, and if the data suggests a particular action will get a better result, his recommendation is to take that path. This path does not require believing anything other than empirical data.

Here are a four (4) countervailing facets of empirical leadership that resonated with me.

We hire people based on the number of years of industry experience they have, and then wonder why our company is just like our competitors. We tell people to be inspired by the company vision, when they had no role in setting it and will never be asked their opinion about how to make it better.

We learn what our competitors are doing (called “best practices”) and do the same, and scratch our heads about why we aren’t leading our fields.

We issue orders (like “fly coach”), while executives fly first-class and hope no one notices. We reward our top performers with a raise that is barely above the average, and can’t figure out why we have a motivation problem.

We tell people it’s safe to fail and fire those who don’t hit their numbers when they try something new. We turn culture and values over to the human resources department rather than the CEO owning the effort, and can’t figure out why no one takes the effort seriously.

Five facets of IMPLEMENTED Empirical Leadership that resonated with me.

We’d turn control of the company over to the values that the employees share. This would mean starting with the employees we already have, and discovering what principles, for them, “without which, life wouldn’t be worth living.”

We’d seek places in the market where our values and strengths would give us the ability to earn high margins and win the loyalty of great customers.

We’d find intersections among what we’re uniquely good at doing, our values and those needs for which people are willing to pay a premium.

We’d hire only people with both the skills for the jobs and the values that match the employees we already have. CEOs would own “organizational culture” in the same way they own Earnings.

We’d build loops of communication from the customer to the people making decisions, so that each decision becomes more informed, faster and brings us closer to maximizing our potential as a company.

If leaders were truly empiricists, most of these facets of operations would be and familiar. There are at least two reasons why this type of leadership is not practiced. Leadership training often amounts to personal philosophy, platitudes and motivational speeches and secondly, the change needs to start at the top.

Related Articles:   Insight + Rapport   and  15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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