Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

Archive for November, 2012

Leadership Arête

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

The Greek concept of arête, or excellence, was one of the Homeric Age’s most important contributions to Western culture. Arête means to strive, to excel, and to be the best one can be. In Homer’s epic poems, The Iliad and the Odyssey, ar

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ête is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with mastery. Men and women of arête are people committed to the highest levels of effectiveness; they use all their knowledge and abilities to achieve real results. In Homer’s poems, even nonhuman things such as noble horses and powerful gods may possess arête. In early Greek education, arête became synonymous with self-fulfillment or self-realization in terms of human excellence.

I believe it is not possible to separate great leadership from arête. Building on Maslow’s idea of self-actualization, Leadership Arête is the idea that a leaders job is to cultivate excellence. To do that, one must be constantly committed to cultivated excellence in leadership in oneself.

Leadership Arête is founded on the simple yet profound notion that effective, long-term leadership drives premiere cultures and outstanding financial results. “Long-term” has to be emphasized because research and experience clearly demonstrate that an organization’s culture can be built quickly, but it can topple just as fast. Moreover, in the short run, other factors affect success such as new product launches, an opening in the market, a major advertising campaign, government legislation, or the state

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of the economy. However, in the long run, the best focus for predicting a firm’s financial success is a clear and detailed understanding of its leadership and culture.

Since the purpose of great leadership in organizational life is to inspire others to produce extraordinary results, our consulting firm operates from a model that we continue to research and refine. We call the model, the Leadership Chain.

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Great leaders get this chain intuitively and constantly strive to better their part such that results consistently improve.

I’m a Terrible Person

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

I got a bit upset with my 9 year old daughter last night. Upon putting her to bed, tucking her in and kissing her good night, I heard her whisper to herself, “I’m a terrible person.”

I said, “What?”

She said, “I’m not a good person.”

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I was shocked and dismayed that she said this to herself. “Why do you say that, honey?” I replied with concern.

“Because I don’t make good decisions.” She was clearly referring in part to the thing I was upset about.

Now in a world where her self-esteem matters to me a lot, I was concerned that she was making an equation in her own mind between making poor decisions (which we all do from time to time and children are particularly prone to doing) and self-esteem. I comforted her as best I could, letting her know that I felt she was a wonderful person and that even wonderful people make poor decisions from time to time. And then it struck me. However often I had let her know how great she was in my eyes, what stuck with her were the moments when I or someone else was upset, or told her she did something wrong or exhibited poor judgment. No matter how much I would tell her the great things I saw, she would focus on the negative and believe those negative things as the accurate picture of her. She is like that. She wants to get better and focuses on what she is not. I am the same way, and so is probably over 95% of the population. We all tend toward a rather distorted view of ourselves. We see how we are not there yet; not quite all we can be; a work in progress. We don’t see so easily how we are already wonderful. That who we are and how we are, are great, just as we are.

And then I wondered about leadership and life. What images are we leaving behind when we give feedback? What messages are we sending? In our efforts to be helpful and point out what is missing or what could be better, are we leaving an unintended message—“you’re a terrible person.” Clearly that is not our intent. It is to be helpful. But I often wonder, how much of our help is truly helpful? How much, instead, leads others to feel discouraged? Even if we are gentle with our corrective feedback, the person on the receiving end, having the same self-messaging system my daughter has, will take that feedback and amplify it five-fold. It is as if our feedback reinforces their own, and accelerates and amplifies it.

I am not suggesting we stop giving corrective feedback. It is helpful and often essential. Nor am I suggesting we do the now well-accepted dictum that we give 5 attaboys for every 1 piece of corrective feedback. That’s way too formulaic in my way of thinking.

I am advocating though, that we are all mindful of how our feedback lands and we do our best to remind people that they

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are wonderful in our eyes and that feedback is simply a crucial element to help us learn. That is all.

And if perchance you find yourself surrounded with people you don’t find wonderful, I suggest you find a different group of people or find yourself a new set of lenses. And if you find yourself feeling how great people are, please remind them, for they may not be able to remember themselves.

And then rinse and repeat.