think organisation

How often do you assess or measure if you are a successful leader? How often do you ask your team this question? 

Plan vs Reality

And what does being a successful leader have to do with shoelaces?  

The following video did the rounds on social media over 10 years ago!

It’s a video we often use with clients, because within three minutes you can see how something you assumed you could do (tying your shoelaces) turns into something you (with the other 90% of humans) discover you aren’t actually doing correctly.  

Terry Moore Shoelaces Video

The reason we use this video regularly is because it helps show how changing something small (like having nylon round laces instead of material flat ones) can suddenly render our skills and experience useless. Being a successful leader is the same – one minute our leadership style, expertise or approach works and then suddenly the situation changes and it doesn’t work anymore.  

So what does a successful leader do?  

As a team of experts who specialise in helping organisations understand, measure and continually improve their cultures, we often work with consciously incompetent leaders. This is shown below. At the point that Terry was shown by the shoe vendor how to tie his shoelaces, but couldn’t do it himself, he was consciously incompetent. When Terry thought the shoes were broken and he wanted to return them (much like leaders who are frustrated with their employees) he was unconsciously incompetent as shown below. 

The Four Stages of Learning (based on Howell, 1982) 

Four Stages of Learning - Successful Leader

The challenge with leadership is understanding where we are on the ladder of success. With 57,136 books (Amazon, 2023) currently available explaining what successful leadership looks like, this is no easy task . Even trying to find the Top 10 leadership books is difficult as the links below show, despite there being some consistency, many are very different.  

So have a think about successful leadership:

Success is the accomplishment of a goal, purpose or aim.  
Leadership is the action of leading a group, team or organisation.  

If you would like to discuss this more then please reach out to Steph Durbin – ICF PCC or Sarah Clarke CDir Fellow ABP, if you would like to know how to tie your shoes – watch the video as it really does work! 

Other reading you may enjoy or want to add to your Xmas list: 

Top 14 Leadership Books – Team Building 

CEO Magazine – the Top 10 leadership books for 2023  

The 15 Best Leadership Books 2023 – Hubspot 

The ILM Best Leadership Books 2023 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you provide specific examples or case studies illustrating how leaders can adapt their leadership styles when faced with changing situations?

Specific examples or case studies demonstrating adaptive leadership would enhance understanding of how leaders navigate changing situations. For instance, showcasing how a leader shifted their approach during a crisis or transition could illustrate practical strategies for adaptation.

How do you differentiate between conscious incompetence and unconscious incompetence in the context of leadership development?

Further explanation of the distinction between conscious incompetence and unconscious incompetence in leadership development would be helpful. Perhaps delving into real-life scenarios where leaders recognise their limitations but are unsure how to address them versus instances where leaders are unaware of their shortcomings altogether.

Are there any proven methodologies or frameworks for self-assessment that leaders can use to evaluate their effectiveness over time, beyond just seeking feedback from their teams?

Exploring established methodologies or frameworks for self-assessment in leadership could provide readers with actionable steps for evaluating their effectiveness. This could involve discussing tools or techniques that leaders can utilise independently to gauge their performance and identify areas for improvement, beyond solely relying on team feedback.

Adapted from an article originally published on LinkedIn, December 23rd 2023.

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