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Four Questions to Test Your Leadership
by Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D.


As a consultant for twenty years, I’ve learned a few techniques to pick my clients—to recognize those people who send out a positive and engaging message.

We all enjoy working with people who have a high potential for success.  Perhaps my techniques will enable you to identify, attract and develop future leaders.  And, the same techniques might be useful for you personally, as part of your on-going self-evaluation of your leadership potential.

Among the senior level managers I work with, I have noticed a pattern that presents warming signs to me—and wonder if others have recognized any of the signs I have noted. 

One example you may have witnessed is when a business has grown so fast, the founding entrepreneur begins to feel unnecessary.  Being ambitious and brilliant with a remarkable history of achievements, the individual falls back on the process that worked in the past to solve a problem.  They may forge ahead, making rapid-fire decisions without a full understanding of the situation, forgetting that when they were just starting in business they probably experienced as many failures as successes. Unfortunately, a start-up company may be able to handle some misdirection that can have a much more serious and long-lasting impact on an established firm.  Now, accustomed to being the winner, good people become snared in what could become a self-destructive pattern.

How do you recognize these signals in someone who has become over-extended, in yourself, the clients you are considering or even a colleague you may partner with on a project?

The following are the top four of the key concepts I investigate.  You are welcome to take the ‘test’ yourself, and evaluate your own results. Simply answer each question quickly, without contemplation, and then give yourself one point for every question you answered “yes” and two points for every question you answered “no”.

                Question #1:  Are you replaceable?

                Question #2:  Do you trust your employees?

                Question #3: Do you involve a cross-section of your staff in key decisions?

                Question #4: Do you get your ‘money’s worth’ from your high paid staff?

It might be wise to avoid  clients and colleagues with a score above 5.

Are You Replaceable?
We are all replaceable. The self-destructive leader identified earlier probably realizes that others can do the same job as well – or better. For someone who has invested their entire career in the growth of a business, this can be a difficult life juncture.  I recall the proud owner of a firm whose outstanding growth had even surprised him.  When he began to see the time when retirement could become a viable option, the magnitude of the decision hit him like a physical blow.  He reacted by deciding it was time to re-brand the firm and to acquire a new division.  These quick decisions brought chaos to the firm, jeopardizing the business and requiring him to invest long hours to deal with the new problems.

Avoid having your ego so close to your position that
when your position falls, your ego goes with it. -- Colin Powell


Do You Trust Your Employees?

Lack of trust in your employees is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As a manager, your job is to develop your people because your success rests on their success.  An example is a newly on-boarded senior manager of a major firm.  During his first days on the job he replaced his direct reports, building a team with colleagues he enticed to the new firm from his previous company. The result was a team that did not understand the new company’s corporate culture, history or mores and experienced repeated project failures. Within two years of his joining the firm, the manager and his entire staff left the company.

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men;
 and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes,
and they come back to us as effects - Herman Melville


Do You Involve a Cross-Section of Your Staff in Key Decisions?

Good decisions sprout from equal parts of dissension and humor.  Diversity challenges and inspires, opening new doors that one mind alone cannot fathom. One example is an intuitive business owner who sought to expand the company by hiring an effective COO whose personality was completely different from his.  Existing staff were told that the COO was brought on-board to challenge the status quo; the staff was delighted at the possibilities of innovation and new approaches.  Following the first staff meeting, it became obvious that the strategy would not work as the owner rejected every new idea. The owner quietly replaced the COO with someone who had been on staff for years.  The company’s productivity which had risen during the temporary tenure of the new hire, has since settled slightly below its previous ‘norm’.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking
is our preaching -St. Francis of Assisi


Do You Get Your ‘Money’s Worth’ From Your High Paid Staff?

Assigning a dollar value or establishing a return on investment is always complicated, particularly for the manager who wants to see a result for every dollar spent. Ignoring the intangible benefits of planning and allocation of resources, this manager may choose to assign tasks that are easy to evaluate and in their simplicity lack quality.  For example, seeking to gain media presence, one company President rejected the need to establish a network and build a foundation for a marketing program as being too costly.  This manager requested that an article about a specific topic appear in the media every month.  Seeing a short article in the newspaper brought a temporary illusion of success, as it was a low-impact program completely lacking client retention or follow-up.

As the fletcher whittles and makes straight his arrows,
 so the master directs his straying thoughts.—Buddha


The one common thread in all of the situations given is that they have the drive to succeed without knowing where to direct their efforts. When you are in the role of manager, it is wise to remember that each employee brings a different set of skills that are necessary for your success. You cannot win in isolation: engage your staff, create an environment of trust, develop rapport and encourage empathy for the needs of others.
Perhaps accepting our short-comings, as well as our strengths, becomes harder with our own successes.  Questioning ourselves, challenging our assumptions and radically changing our routine as well as our environment is necessary to remind us who we are and what we are seeking.  There is always something new to learn. 

Learning becomes powerful when ignited by experience and understanding.



The Author

Lucille Maddalena

Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D. is an Executive Coach and Management Consultant providing management skill training, team building, meeting facilitation, conflict resolution processes, and group coaching programs. More than 6,000 managers have successfully completed her popular TRANSITIONS TO MANAGEMENT seminars. Her new workshop, TRAIL SETTING & STORY TELLING, guides participants to achieve life and career goals while clearly defining their own legacy through story telling. See Dr. Maddalena's recently published articles on her website or blogs: .

Many more articles in Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2009 by Lucille Maddalena. All rights reserved.

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