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The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

by Lolly Daskal

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Do people see you as the kind of leader you want to be? Are your strongest leadership qualities getting in the way of your greatness?

After decades of advising and inspiring some of the most eminent chief executives in the world, Lolly Daskal has uncovered a startling pattern: within each leader are powerful abilities that are also hidden impediments to greatness. She’s witnessed many highly driven, overachieving leaders rise to prominence fueled by well-honed skill sets, only to falter when the shadow sides of the same skills emerge.

Now Daskal reveals her proven system, which leaders at any level can apply to dramatically improve their results. It begins with identifying your distinctive leadership archetype and recognizing its shadow:

The Rebel, driven by confidence, becomes the Imposter, plagued by self-doubt.
The Explorer, fueled by intuition, becomes the Exploiter, master of manipulation.
The Truth Teller, who embraces candor, becomes the Deceiver, who creates suspicion.
The Hero, embodying courage, becomes the Bystander, an outright coward.
The Inventor, brimming with integrity, becomes the Destroyer, who is morally corrupt.
The Navigator, trusts and is trusted, becomes the Fixer, endlessly arrogant.
The Knight, for whom loyalty is everything, becomes the Mercenary, who is perpetually self-serving.

Using psychology, philosophy, and her own experience, Daskal offers a breakthrough perspective on leadership. She’ll take you inside some of the most cloistered boardrooms, let you in on deeply personal conversations with industry leaders, and introduce you to luminaries who’ve changed the world. Her insights will help you rethink everything you know to become the leader you truly want to be.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101981375
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/30/2017
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 659,153
File size: 929 KB

About the Author

LOLLY DASKAL is the founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. With more than thirty years of experience with some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, Daskal is one of today’s most sought-after executive leadership coaches and leadership consultants. She has written thousands of articles and columns for a variety of media, including Inc., Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Surprising Gap in Our Leadership

Greatness lies in the gaps between where you are and where you want to be.

When chief executives come to me for coaching, they generally want me to help them with any of a vast array of leadership, management, and strategic challenges specific to their situation. I've consulted with executives in almost every industry-technology, shipping, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, finance, and more-and every situation that I encounter is unique.

I work with leaders who are smart, nice, and even power hungry-all at once. Some excel at one quality, yet are weak in another. This is natural-it's the human condition. My job as a coach is to integrate all of an executive's qualities-weak and strong alike-to help him become a more balanced leader.

I have had clients who were masters at solving manufacturing problems, but they could not begin to solve people conflicts. I have worked with great visionaries who could not implement plans to achieve goals. I have had clients who were rapturous public speakers, but they were really bad at listening. Each leader has his own way of being, but the ones who make their mark on the world come to understand that great leadership has many facets, and all must be nurtured. Great leaders learn to expand their talents and develop their deficiencies.

What all talented leaders have in common is that they are good at what they do, and they all want to be great. So, ultimately, my job is to help them identify what stands between them and their greatness-what I call their leadership gap.

Many leaders I work with rise to executive roles on the basis of one talent, not realizing that successful leadership requires many. I help them to rethink what they think they know-and pinpoint what they don't know-in order to cultivate the skills they never imagined they needed. I know how to spot people with great leadership potential: they are the ones who refuse to be stuck in their ways. They realize that there is a gap between where they are and where they want to be, and they are willing to rethink what they don't know to overcome that gap.

I have seen the techniques I use with my clients change lives, and I want to teach you how to apply these techniques to change your own life.

The chief executives I serve often find themselves in unbelievably challenging circumstances that may appear to have no good solution. As their coach, I help them find the wisdom to make clarity out of complexity, inject meaning into what they do, and give them hope. Some of my clients have responsibility for many thousands of people-each of whom has his or her own needs and problems that demand attention. Regardless of how successful executives become, or how high they fly, we must remember leadership is a privilege.

As Viktor Frankl explained, we never stop hoping for things to be better: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." He understood that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

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Frankl also understood the wisdom in our gaps. As he once wisely said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom."

Without question, my job is to help my clients get to where they want to go in their careers. In my practice, this begins with helping them understand who they are-not superficially, but deeply-which means acknowledging the parts of their personality they feel the need to hide or keep secret. These are the parts that have been created and cultivated out of fear, ignorance, shame, or rejection. Together we find the gap that keeps them from becoming who they want to be. Carl Jung calls this gap the shadow-"the person you would rather not be."

To make a dynamic shift from where leaders are to where they want to be, I help them rethink what they know. My technique for achieving this can be understood through a set of leadership archetypes that were inspired by Carl Jung. My system of archetypes makes it easy to see yourself objectively. Once you have that clarity, you'll have the awareness not only to identify your leadership gaps, but to leverage those gaps from within and to move toward your greatness. You'll be equipped to rethink what you know, what you believe, and what you call truth. The archetypes that are at the heart of this book will enable you to understand yourself and your leadership style in ways you never imagined possible.

It's important to note that I don't believe anyone has one fixed set of characteristics, neatly boxed up in an archetype. A human being is a unique combination of many parts consisting of polarities that create a whole person. I see leadership style as an arc that is in a constant state of movement and change-we shift from one style to another depending on the situation. But at one time or another, in one circumstance or another, we tend to lean repeatedly toward the same archetype persona. While this may be the case, we are in reality an amalgam of all the archetypes.

Take the truth teller archetype, for example. If you're someone who values truth, constantly speaking truth may feel as if it's a force within you. And if you're like Michael, then leading with truth is nonnegotiable.

Michael is an extremely accomplished man who embodies success. And if there's anything that the people who work for Michael know, it's that he has no tolerance for liars. The reason they know this is because Michael talks about it incessantly. He often pontificates about how wrong it is to lie, and how he would never do it. Unbeknownst to Michael, this drives the people around him crazy.

So when Michael discovered one day that many of the people in his organization not only did not admire him for his utmost honesty, but actually wanted to stay away from him, he was shocked to the core. He couldn't understand why people found him difficult simply because his standards were so high. So he sought my advice.

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do," he said. "Isn't it a good thing to have high standards? Why don't they respect me?"

I explained to Michael that what he viewed as a high standard-not tolerating liars-was creating a wedge between him and his team, his company, and the other important relationships in his life.

Of course, this was not the feedback Michael wanted to hear and it frustrated him. "I am committed to doing business in a very honest and truthful way. I will not lie," he firmly said, "even if at times my truthfulness costs me in business."

Leadership gaps are invisible and insidious-especially to those who have them. I knew I needed to get Michael to look at himself in a way he never had so that he could rethink not only what he was saying, but what he was doing and why.

I began by asking him questions about his success. He had many great stories, one grander than the next. Then I asked him about his past-what stood out and what propelled his success. Michael's response was focused on his honor, how he avoids lying at all costs, and his belief that because he didn't lie, he prevailed in business. Telling the truth was paramount to Michael.

Once he became more comfortable with me and let down his guard, I had another question for Michael.

"Has there been a time in your life when you lied?" I asked.

At first he just stared at me, his face expressionless. But then his eyes quickly grew more intense, and his body language screamed out to me: How dare you speak to me in this way?

But after a long, pregnant pause, Michael answered.

"I always wanted to be a lawyer. As far back as I can remember, I would always tell everyone I would be a lawyer. But I didn't take my education seriously in high school. I thought I could wing it, because everyone said how smart I was. I knew deep inside that if I would just apply myself, I would do well, but I never did. And at the end of high school my report card showed my lack of effort. I knew I was in trouble. My last chance to change things around was to do well on my SAT, so I could get into a great college and law school, and eventually become the lawyer I dreamed of being.

"But I knew I could not learn in just a few months all the information I had ignored during my four years of high school. And then an opportunity came my way that I could not pass up. Someone had stolen the SAT test. I used it to prepare myself with the exact right answers. My high score surprised everyone, including me. I was ashamed and horrified. And when I got called to the principal's office and was asked how I did so well on the test, I lied. Big time."

He cast his eyes away from me, and after another long pause, found my eyes again. "I never told anyone the truth."

We sat in silence for a moment and then Michael regained his composure. "I promised myself, that day in the principal's office, that if I got away with this I would never lie again."

I watched as Michael's pride returned. "It's been more than forty-seven years now. I took that promise to heart-I am an honest man, and I make it my business to always tell the truth."

And there, in front of him, was Michael's leadership gap. We could both see it.

He had been lying to himself for forty-seven years.

Because, you see, what you don't own, owns you.

Michael thought he had come to terms with his lie, but actually it had been wreaking havoc on him for years and he was unable to see it.

Telling the truth became such a strong mantra for Michael that it was getting in the way of his ability to connect with people. But most of all, the way he prioritized truth above all else created gaps between himself and others. This insight was completely counterintuitive to him.

Michael always complained that he was misunderstood. Despite all his accomplishments, he was never satisfied with his life. He feared intimate relationships and he kept friends at arm's length to make sure that they would never discover his secret. He thought his high standards were admirable, but in reality his constant vigilance exhausted him and alienated others. Michael was so afraid of anyone discovering his indiscretion that he avoided getting close to people. Meanwhile, people disliked him and would lie about his positive effect on them, which created a destructive, vicious cycle.

After this moment of clarity, Michael said he felt good for the first time in a long while. He had not realized how he was suppressing his past, or how he carried it with him.

"I can see that you don't judge me," he said.

"I don't," I told him.

After all, I wasn't there to make it right for him, but I wasn't going to let a lie from forty-seven years ago continue to haunt him to this day. I reassured Michael that no one can live up to his standard-everyone lies at one time or another.

The next week when Michael and I met for our coaching session, I noticed he looked more at ease with himself.

"Lolly, I don't know why, but I feel so much lighter and more relaxed," he said. "I see things I didn't see before. I am having easier conversations and making connections with people, and I feel more engaged. What did you do?"

I explained to Michael that the reason he felt lighter was because the secrets that create gaps in our lives weigh us down as if we are carrying stones. "Imagine I handed you a grapefruit," I told Michael, "and then asked you to hold it somewhere so that no one would ever see it. The sheer effort of constantly holding the grapefruit would be challenging, but keeping it hidden would be even harder. Your secret was just as burdensome. And over the years it created a wedge-a gap in who you are.

"But when you allow yourself to show someone your grapefruit," I continued, "it relieves you. And it helps you feel lighter, happier, and utterly liberated. By sharing your story with me, you not only released your biggest burden, but now you can see the gap you had created and can leverage that knowledge to achieve greatness."

We are not just what we think. We are what we hide. And we all have something we are ashamed of. The situation may not be as severe as what Michael endured for so many years, but we all have stories we tell ourselves that make us feel vulnerable, angry, and even afraid. These secrets and patterns create our leadership gap.

Once Michael unburdened himself from his lie, he could stop overcompensating for it by emphasizing truth. He could choose to be more human and empathetic-people make mistakes.

Together we worked toward Michael learning to accept himself in all his glorious imperfections. After just one month, Michael was already becoming a much better person, and a greater leader. The change was evident to everyone on his team and in his company. But more than anything, Michael was grateful because now he could be authentic like never before.

Being real is the first step to being great.

As humans we will never be perfect, but we can be the best versions of ourselves. And the way to become the best versions of ourselves is to recognize our leadership gaps, leverage our knowledge in new ways, and stand in our greatness. It's about learning the two sides of who we are-the side that serves us, and the deceptively identical side that does a disservice to us.

As leaders, each of us must confront our leadership gaps, especially when we're anxious or frustrated or under great stress.

During the course of my many years as an executive coach and adviser, I have found these fundamental truths to be true:

We are all capable of standing in our greatness. Every human being is born with a healthy emotional system. We come into this world without fear, without shame. We don't make judgments about which parts of ourselves are good and which parts are bad. Rather, we dream about doing something bigger than ourselves-we have ideas, thoughts, visions, hopes. Some of us have ideals that are bigger than others', but we all have great visions for ourselves. Until, somewhere along the way, those visions get diluted. Maybe it was the teacher who called you stupid; the parent who said you could do better; the bully who taunted you; the sports coach who called you inadequate. Whatever that message was, you heard it and internalized it. You made the message stick, and because you did, you didn't think you could stand in your greatness.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Surprising Gap in Our Leadership 11

Chapter 2 The Rebel 25

Chapter 3 The Explorer 48

Chapter 4 The Truth Teller 74

Chapter 5 The Hero 97

Chapter 6 The Inventor 122

Chapter 7 The Navigator 144

Chapter 8 The Knight 171

Chapter 9 Where There Is Light There Is Always Hope for Greatness 195

Epilogue: Stand In Your Greatness 204

Know Your Gaps 212

Acknowledgments 213

Notes 215

Index 221

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