The CHOiCE of Leadership: Bridging the Gap Between Simplicity and Complexity

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A X leader has become a leader worth following and builds leaders worth following. Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram wrote The X Leader to help you become a X Leader in all spheres of influence in your life—leading yourself, a company, a team, or a family—and to become a Sherpa for others. Your climb to becoming a X leader begins with self-awareness and courage. Kubieck and Cockram guide you through that process. Leading yourself or others is a balance between the right amount of support and challenge.

It is important to remember that we must begin with support before we challenge.

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Support builds trust. The authors present the Support-Challenge Matrix shown below. You want to operate in the top right quadrant—liberate—as much as you can. Each quadrant represents a different leadership style and the culture it creates. Dominator We tend to dominate others under stress by requiring much but with little support.

Protector These leaders create caution by giving a great deal of support but very little in the way of challenge or reasonable expectations. Wanting everything to run smoothly and without conflict, these leaders tend to hint at what they want rather than coming out and saying it. Abdicator These leaders have simply given up.

Perhaps they are overwhelmed, tired, burned-out, or bored. They create a lifeless culture with low expectations. Liberator These leaders have learned how to liberate in every circle of influence—self, family, team, organization, and community. What is the tendency or pattern most undermining their influence? And How do I help them get to the next level? Being a Liberator means knowing how other people experience you and then helping others to do the same.

The Choice Of Leadership: Bridging The Gap Between Simplicity And Complexity

Once we liberate ourselves, we can then help others see the mountain ahead of them and equip them to get to the next level. Kubieck and Cockram provide a comprehensive look at how to become a X Leader by showing us the mountain and then illuminating the way and providing the tools and equipment necessary to complete the climb.

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Climbing Mount Everest is dangerous and demanding, but without a Sherpa, it is virtually impossible. The X Leader is our Sherpa and teaches us how to become a Sherpa for others. And as with the Sherpa, success is measured by not how many times they reach the top of Everest but by how many they have helped reach the summit.

We see ourselves as pretty good or at least well-intentioned. When we struggle to get along with others or simply get things done, we would be wise to look at our assumptions and behaviors. Even just focusing on improving in one area can do wonders for your leadership and have a huge impact on those who follow you. No matter how good we are as leaders, we all do a little harm along the way. You might be a bad leader if you are motivated by power and status.

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  8. This motivation invariably leads to corruption and unethical behavior. It opens the door for every other kind of mindset we associate with bad leaders. Our leadership must be about something bigger than us.

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    Power is something to be shared. You might be a bad leader if you are easily overwhelmed. It is the nature of leadership to function in uncertainty. What makes it possible is a clarity of purpose about why we are doing what we are doing. Leaders must continuously communicate that purpose to lead others an often volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world.

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    You might be a bad leader if you are too rigid. This is a failure to stay relevant. Staying the course is admirable, but a leader must know the times they are in. They must be effective in their current reality. You might be a bad leader if you lack self-control.


    Leaders are not a superset of human beings. Leaders have impulses, desires, and needs, just like everyone else, but when we fail to control our impulses, we most often get in our own way and derail our leadership. We lose credibility as followers expect—and rightly so—leaders to put the needs of the group above their own.

    Of course, there are impulses that are merely a distraction for others, and then there are impulses that destroy us and hurt those around us. We must exhibit self-control for the sake of ourselves and others. Leaders who lack self-control take themselves down. You might be a bad leader if you think the ends justify the means. By crossing one too many lines, we put ourselves on the road to unethical and even evil behavior. This failure of leadership is based in self-interest.

    Leaders are rightfully judged by their results but not at any cost. This toxic mindset is most often gradual, and when tolerated in an organization it begins to infect all decisions and diminishes everyone involved. You might be a bad leader if you lead by fear. This kind of leader exerts a high degree of control. It also leads to incompetency as the organization can never rise above the leader themselves. In the end, the whole organization is incompetent. You might be a bad leader if you have a lack of respect for others—for just being people.

    A lack of respect manifests itself in being unkind, dismissive of the opinions and needs of others, controlling others, or showing partiality because of status or importance. We respect others when we are curious about them and listen to them.

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    You might be a bad leader if you fail to see beyond ourselves. As leaders, we are responsible not only to the people we lead but to all of those affected by our leadership. It is a failure to do the right thing—to not do right when it is in our power to do right. You might be a bad leader if you lack the competency for our job. Do we have to skills to move forward in the areas we have been tasked to lead?

    You might be a bad leader if you lack emotional intelligence. Leaders must be aware and sensitive to others and importantly, how their leadership is experienced by others. This implies the need for honest and candid feedback and daily reflection. Our ego creates blind spots, so we must always keep our ego in check.

    This is where humility comes in. A good leader leads themselves first. We must be able to recognize the signs of bad leadership so we can deal with it before it undermines us. These mindsets come up time and time again because they are common to humankind. None of us are immune.

    Only by recognizing them when we see them in our own leadership we can effectively deal with them. After all, I was tenured and had supervised dozens of students seeking undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. But in , at the height of the Internet boom, I took a two-year leave of absence to serve as director of system architecture at Akamai Technologies, an MIT start-up located here in Cambridge. That position humbled me and taught me lessons about leadership that I still use today, some 20 years later.

    Like me, most had only worked in academia up to that point, and we assumed our corporate roles and responsibilities with anticipation and a healthy dose of swagger. What could possibly stop this juggernaut of collective brilliance? You see, despite their immense talent, our teams were completely dysfunctional.

    Within weeks, people started to feel disgruntled, and then even worse—angry, jealous, vindictive. Morale sunk, and our productivity did, too. Chuck began teaching the engineering leaders about topics we had never been exposed to before: situational leadership, dealing with diversity and conflict, providing effective feedback, fostering creativity, and how to build a motivated team that leverages individual talents. Remarkably, after only two off-site workshops, our teams started to function better. We were able to focus and work collaboratively toward our goals. To help right that wrong, here are five the most important lessons I learned while at Akamai, all of which I continue to use in my lab today:.

    As a researcher, you simply must value and respect the interpersonal relationships that form the foundation of teamwork. Know thyself Senior researchers become better leaders once they understand how they perceive situations and why they react the way they do.

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    Self-assessment exercises, interactive activities, and other tools can help you gain these insights and leverage your strengths. Mental diversity strengthens teams If you want your work to have the widest possible impact and be the most meaningful, you need to draft teams of diverse thinkers and then ensure everyone can contribute in a complementary way.

    This is the best way to pressure test and improve ideas.