How to Close The Leadership Gap - with Mike Myatt

Jun 25, 2014
7 Min Read

I spoke to Mike Myatt, who is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and Boards, author of "Hacking Leadership" (Wiley) and "Leadership Matters" (2007), the Chairman at N2Growth, a member of the board of directors at the Gordian Institute. He's been recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the top leadership thinkers globally, and widely regarded as America's Top CEO Coach. He is also a syndicated columnist and contributing editor on topics of leadership, innovation and problem solving. In the following brief interview, Myatt talks about the leadership gap, how leaders can hack the status quo, how to identify your organizational purpose, creating the right corporate culture and getting over the fear of failure.

Dan Schawbel: What is the Leadership Gap and how can leaders start to close that gap?

Mike Myatt: At a high level, the Leadership Gap is the difference between a leaders self-assessment of their ability and the assessment of their leadership performance by those they lead - it's the difference between perception and reality. At a more granular level, the leadership gap is comprised of several smaller gaps (positional, philosophical, relational, operational, organizational, cultural, emotional, etc.) where leaders have blind spots. When leaders awaken to the fact they all have blind spots, and they are willing to begin working on closing the myriad of small gaps that exist at some level within us all, then they can close the gap between perception and reality - they can become a better leader.

Schawbel: How does a leader hack the status quo and preparation gap so they are more effective?

Myatt: I have always believed the status quo to be the arch nemesis of great leadership. Embracing the status quo breeds mediocrity, and at its essence, leadership exists to disrupt mediocrity. As I state in my book, leaders who are bored, in a rut, or otherwise find themselves anesthetized by the routine have a huge problem - they are not leading. To begin hacking the status quo leaders must look beyond what is, embrace the possibilities of what if, and lead in a manner that focuses on what's next. Good leaders don't make excuses, they make changes.

Schawbel: What are the steps to identify your organizational purpose?

Myatt: Individuals and organizations can be rallied around many things, but none more powerful than purpose. A well defined and crisply articulated purpose is the shared commitment that represents the heart and soul of any organization. Organizational purpose is the actualization or living out of a set of core values - it's what gives birth to culture, aligns interests, focuses decisions, and operationalizes strategy. Here are my suggestions for the right steps to take to identify purpose:

Values should underpin Vision, which dictates Mission, which determines Strategy, which surfaces Goals that frame Objectives, which in turn drives the Tactics that tell an organization what ResourcesInfrastructure and Processes are needed to support a certainty of execution.

Schawbel: How do you create the right culture, incorporate diversity and then scale it?

Myatt: Nobody disputes the value of a healthy, vibrant culture, but there is great debate about how to create and sustain it. When you think about culture, think less about complex frameworks and more about people. Great cultures are not imposed on people, they are co-created by them - the people are the culture. Both my research and my experience have shown the best cultures to be cultures of leadership. When an organization views every member of the team as a leader, and allows every member of the workforce to lead, good things begin to happen for all the right reasons. By having a common purpose and a shared vision based upon core values that align decisions and actions you cannot help but create high trust, high performance cultures. In a culture of leadership you don't have to mandate diversity, it happens organically. And when it comes to scalability, here's the secret sauce - you cannot have a scalable enterprise if you cannot scale it's leadership. I've always said, a great leader can accomplish much, but a culture of leadership can accomplish much more.

Schawbel: How can a leader get over the fear of failure?

Myatt: Fear and failure are not dirty words, but you'll find most leaders treat them as such. One of my pet peeves is when a leader labels fear as a weakness and failure as unacceptable. Both fear and failure are normal and healthy. Show me a person without fear and I'll show you a person lacking in judgment. Show me someone who has never failed and I'll show you a liar, or someone who lives in very big bubble. The key is learning how to lead through your fears and have your failures move you forward rather than set you back. Leaders must give themselves and those they lead permission to fail intelligently. If you don't trust your team enough to allow them to fail intelligently, then you have the wrong team.

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