The Biggest Leadership Myth
A Guest Article by Susan Packard
“I’m great at brainstorming and getting things started. I’m not so great at follow through. When will I get to be a complete leader?”
This was a question a young woman asked of me last fall, when I keynoted a Michigan Entrepreneur’s Day in metro Detroit. It was fascinating to learn about the new business ideas these young, just –out-of-college graduates were cooking up. If you read my bio you might think I’ve been one of those “corporate” types, as I’ve worked in established companies like HBO, NBC and Scripps. But from the time I was out of school I, too, loved to build business ideas. And I was like that young woman who asked the question at the event-- process was not my thing.
Due to a combination of circumstance, inquiry and a bit of luck, I landed at companies that wanted to create new divisions of cable programming. It was luck because unlike most of you, those of us on the ground floor of these new divisions didn’t need to find funding; the parent company bankrolled us. But trust me, there are drawbacks to that too. Think: a parent doling out a weekly allowance. There are always strings attached, and some of them are just plain crazy. Like one of these companies telling us we could have $25 million to start up a programming channel, when the market told them it would take more like $200 million. That’s when you really need the brainstorming geniuses!
So back to the young woman. When she asked me that question I had to smile, and here’s what I said. “You’re well on your way to becoming the whole leader, just by asking that question. Your self-awareness at such a young age is remarkable!”
Folks, the ‘complete’ leader is a myth. I’ve never met a CEO who had fully developed right and left brained practices. If you are entrepreneurial by nature, as I am, your process skills are likely soft. If you’re a fantastic operator, you may need help with vision and what is possible with a new idea. If you’re a great sales or marketing person, you may need to hire a finance pro. If you’re technically bent, look for broad, creative thinkers to assist. The best business leaders pick a team that will complement her skills. But in some ways this is the easy part. The hard part is -- can you honestly and objectively appraise your skill set? Can you acknowledge where you need help? There are plenty of tools out there to help you, including 360 appraisals, Myers-Briggs or Birkman tests, and outside coaches.
Effective leaders know their strengths and soft spots, and build a team to complement them. That’s how you become the full package.