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All leaders talk, but it is what they say and how they say it that determines whether the group succeeds or fails.
Think about it: the leader’s most fundamental and most important job is to be in touch with those around him or her. Whether it is in the hallways or on the phone, in the middle of the workday or after hours, while delivering a performance review to a key employee or a yearly address to thousands of employees, leaders are involved in a constant series of conversations.
Through these encounters, whether brief and spontaneous or scheduled and structured, leaders try to use their time with colleagues, employees, customers, and others to reach a variety of ends. Grabbing a moment, the leader takes the opportunity to influence and direct a member of the sales staff. A weekly meeting becomes a chance to coach a manager and gather information about the department’s morale and its financial numbers. A quick e-mail checks on the progress of a research project and gives a boost of recognition and support to the team. During a strategy meeting, the leader negotiates next steps with division heads and outlines a coordinated approach. At a company awards ceremony, he or she tries to hammer home a message about values and goals. In short, the leader, through his or her conversations, aims to foster relationships, build support networks, and sharpen organizational focus.
Yet outcomes from conversations are too often unclear. Perceptions don’t always match. Influences are frequently not as profound as one would hope. Communication is generally a struggle with mixed, uncertain, and unpredictable results. Too much conversation is ad hoc and hinges on moods, energy levels, relationships, and personalities. Sometimes a leader is right on point. Sometimes he or she clicks and forges a new connection. Other times, the leader misses the mark. Either way, he or she pushes on, lining up the next meeting, setting up the next goal, responding to the latest need for clarification.
Communication is never easy. Inevitably, when a leader is driving change and dealing with conflicting agendas, some conversations provide a challenge that tests the bounds and skill of experience. During the heat of a difficult conversation, you need to fall back on a discipline. You need clear communication that advances agendas, promotes learning, and strengthens relationships. It’s the difference between achieving objectives and having everything fall apart—and the difference between winning and losing.
Imagine having to let a close friend know that he or she is off a project because of poor performance, yet wanting at the same time to preserve the strength of the relationship. Imagine having to make necessary structural changes to an organization, realigning roles and positions in ways that involve cuts in the workforce, yet wanting at the same time to bolster morale and organizational commitment. These are the difficult conversations that High-Impact Leaders face every single day, so what makes them different from any other leader?
High-Impact Leaders are the people who get results. They are the ones who make things happen. They are the leaders who are able to continually advance a clear agenda, get others to buy into it, and move an organization, a division, or a team forward. Being a High-Impact Leader has nothing whatsoever to do with title or rank, because High-Impact Leaders can be found up, down, and across any organization.
-Impact Leaders are the ones who cause no surprises. They are explicit, consistent, concise, and authentic. They sometimes have an abundance of charisma, but that is clearly not a prerequisite. More to the point, High-Impact Leaders are the ones who take charge wherever they are. They are the ones others want to follow. They are also the leaders whose teams others consistently want to join. When they move on to new roles or new territories, they do not travel alone. Others ask to go with them.
These conditions result because High-Impact Leaders use the technology of Powerful Conversations and then match what they say with what they do. Through Powerful Conversations, they develop openness, honesty, and clarity in order to get others to believe and share in their goals, to gain commitments, and to foster trust. And they prove they are worthy of that trust by delivering on their own commitments and by making results happen.
The link between Powerful Conversations and High-Impact Leaders lies in the relationship between two concepts I refer to as Say and Do. I have seen people skilled at the art of Powerful Conversations nevertheless fail as leaders because they fail to live up to their words. As a result, they never become High-Impact Leaders. I have never known a High-Impact Leader, however, who was not also skilled at Powerful Conversations, whether conscious of that designation or not. To be a High-Impact Leader, you have to be able to conduct Powerful Conversations on a consistent basis and live up to the outcomes of those conversations. Why is this important? It has to do with trust—without which conversations cannot progress toward the realization of commitments.
One of the most important functions of a Powerful Conversation is to create clarity, a critical success factor for building trust. I cannot tell you how frequently I have been involved in situations in which a leader, reflecting on problems that have arisen, says, “I can’t believe they thought I meant that. I never had any intention of doing that.” And the followers say something like, “It’s unbelievable. Our leader made a clear commitment to do this and now denies it was ever part of the agenda.” Both sides shake their heads. Barriers go up. Trust is reduced or nonexistent.
True clarity implies that a leader says exactly what he or she means in such a way that his or her statements are received as intended. This requires openness, honesty, and an active and careful tracking of wants, needs, and commitments. It furthermore requires that those clear statements be lived up to with demonstrated actions built on organizational trust.
High-Impact Leaders today lead in a better way because they recognize that the shortest path to achieving objectives is to build trust and gain clear commitments from others. Specifically, they engage in Powerful Conversations to uncover the wants and needs of others in order to understand what will motivate those people to join forces with the leader and live up to the commitments of a conversation. They skillfully orchestrate the Powerful Conversations in which they engage to make clear all parties understand the exact commitments that have been made. Then they check into those commitments and make sure through follow-up conversations that the commitments can be kept. They track the wants and needs of others and find ways to reinforce their own desire to understand the wants and needs of others, often through continued follow-up conversations. High-Impact Leaders do these things because they know that trust must exist if the leader is to achieve his or her agenda through Powerful Conversations to create positive outcomes for their teams and stakeholders.
by Phil Harkins
Over the years, I’ve seen that there is a lot of confusion around this topic – from what type of insurance is best to how much you need and where to get it. With that in mind, below are the five most common mistakes people make when it comes to life insurance. Hopefully, through this list, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of how life insurance works and why it’s a good tool for you and your family.
Mistake #1 – Having no life insurance at all
Many people simply overlook the importance of life insurance. It doesn’t appear to be something they need and it can be viewed as an added expense. But take a second to stop and consider all the important people in your life. If you weren’t there, how would they be impacted financially? It’s not fun to think about, but by “playing dead” you can begin to understand that life insurance is a critical tool to ensuring your family feels financially supported should anything happen to you. For instance, if you have any financial obligations, a life insurance policy will help to ensure that those burdens do not fall entirely on your family members and they can avoid starting a gofundme page in your name to pay for funeral cost. Remember, it is also important to get life insurance sooner rather than later because the cost goes up the older we get.
Mistake #2 – Relying solely on employer-provided workplace life insurance
Life insurance provided by your workplace is an excellent benefit and can serve as a good starting point for your basic minimum coverage. But remember any life insurance provided automatically from your employer is only good as long as you work with the company. Chances are you will not be with the same company for your entire working career either by choice or by force and the insurance does not go with you. You can purchase additional coverage through your employer or on your own to help fill the gap.
Mistake #3 – Only considering term life insurance
Term life insurance provides a “death” or “survivor” benefit, which is the amount beneficiaries receive if you pass away, for a certain period of time (15, 20 or 30 years are common increments), after which the coverage ends. An alternative solution would be to adopt cash value life insurance, which similarly provides a death benefit, but will grow over the years as long as you continue to fund the policy. Furthermore, cash value life insurance can help with financial obligations in a tax-advantaged way, whether it is paying for college, a business venture or retirement. These policies are generally more expensive, but can make a lot of sense if you are able to commit to regularly funding the policy.
Mistake #4 – Leaving retirement savings vulnerable
If you do not have any/enough life insurance, your family is likely to look to your retirement savings for financial support. This may seem like a safe solution for finding additional resources, but I would advise against using funds saved specifically for retirement for another purpose. If you are the higher earner in the family, your spouse may have been relying on those savings for his or her own retirement. Similarly, if your spouse is forced to liquidate or take large loans from the retirement account, it will hurt the potential long-term investment gains that would have benefitted your family down the road. It is important that the money you are saving is allotted for different goals – from life insurance to retirement – so that you are making the most of each savings opportunity.
Mistake #5 – Guessing on how much life insurance you need
Many people who walk into my office have no idea how much life insurance they need. Is it five times annual salary? Ten times? Some other figure? There are many factors to take into account to figure out how much life insurance is right for you. Often this is where a financial professional can really help with the process. We can help quantify how much and what type of insurance makes the most sense for you and then help get that coverage in place. There are also many online calculators available to use as a starting point.
At the end of the day, we all just want to know that our loved ones will be taken care of after we’re gone. I have seen firsthand the peace of mind a life insurance policy can deliver. So this month, as life speeds up again, take a few minutes to pause and think about the future. Life Insurance Awareness month may only last 30 days, but a good policy will last for years to come!
The level of abundance in your life in any area (love, friendship, success or finances) is a reflection of your inner state — what you hold in your mind and heart.
Want to create a healthy and loving wealth consciousness? Here are seven ways to transform your money mindset.
1. Forgive your past.
So many of our unquestioned beliefs and behavior patterns today around money are simply things we picked up at childhood or our past. They are not true and they don’t serve our highest good.
Forgiveness is a way to release them from our heart and energy field, so we are no longer blindly re-creating the same patterns and keeping ourselves stuck at the same level of abundance.
Grab a piece of paper and write down all of the painful memories you have around money –involving your parents, lovers, bosses or even yourself — that make you feel icky, stressed, anxious or frustrated.
Now, go through your list and practice forgiveness until you release the negative charge from each memory. You could try:
(a) Using a mantra such as: I forgive you. I’m sorry. I love you.
(b) Placing your hand on your heart and simply letting yourself feel the emotions that arise — giving yourself permission to feel them fully without attaching a mental story to them. Often as you let your feelings rise and observe them without judgement, they will naturally dissolve.
(c) Having compassion. Maybe your parents fought in front of you or didn’t have enough money and it caused you pain, but they were doing their best from their level of awareness — and they were probably re-creating the patterns they had learnt when they were children. Everyone is a divine loving inner spirit deep down — sometimes our true nature just gets temporarily obscured, like a cloud covering the sun.
2. Change your story.
The poet Rumi once said: “This world is like a mountain. Your echo depends on you. If you scream good things, the world will give it back. If you scream bad things, the world will give it back.”
He is referring to the Universal law of creation. Your inner world (thoughts, beliefs and feelings) creates your outer reality.
Do you find yourself saying or thinking things like: I’m so broke… Making money is hard… I’m always down to my last dollar… I never have enough… Wanting money is bad or greedy…?
Try changing your story around money. Start saying and thinking things like: I’m so blessed… I have everything that I need… the Universe always takes care of me… I give to the world and I receive… it is safe for me to have abundance… I am provided for.
3. Open your mind to infinite possibilities.
When it comes to manifesting, your logical mind can be your worst enemy.
It has a limited capacity to think beyond what it already knows, and it can be quick to tell you things like: Well, you can’t earn more from your current job, so receiving more money is, frankly, impossible.
When you have unexamined assumptions that you can only receive money in certain pre-determined ways — like a pay cheque from a day job — you block the Universe from finding other amazingly creative ways to bring you abundance.
Begin asking the Universe: What would it take for more money to flow to me? What would it take for me to get paid for being me? What would it take for creative ideas to come to me?
4. Practice gratitude.
The world is a reflection of you. When you look around your life and see and feel lack, the Universe receives the message to send you more lack.
So many of us suffer from a condition called Onlyness. We look at our bank balance and think: I only have $42. We look at our wardrobes and think: I only have these clothes to choose from. We look at our lives and think: I only have this much love, friendship, success, wellbeing or happiness.
When you start looking around your life and seeing everything as evidence of abundance, and feeling thankful and deeply grateful, the Universe sends you more abundance.
Look at your bank balance and think: Wow, I have a whole $42 to spend, that’s awesome. Look at your wardrobe and thank: Wow, I have warm clothes for my temple, how amazing is that? Look at your life and think: Wow, I already have this much love, friendship, success, wellbeing and happiness, and I am excited for even more. I am so grateful to be alive, adventuring in time and space, and I am going to soak up and appreciate every moment.
Bless your money as it goes in and out of your life. Bless it as you buy something as simple as your morning coffee. Pause and give thanks to the Universe for providing so much for you.
5. Create space.
When your life is full to the brim with old energy, memories and clutter, you are not symbolically or energetically creating space for abundance to come into your life.
Do a life assessment — look lovingly and honestly at your home, possessions, bank balance, love life, friends, career, leisure time, wellbeing and lifestyle.
Where are you not being true to your heart, soul and values? What needs to go in order for you to feel freer, lighter and liberated?
The more you remove anything that no longer serves you, the more space you create — physically and emotionally — for new people, opportunities and abundance to flow into your life.
6. Know your worth.
You are a divine spiritual being having a human experience.
You are the Universe experience itself through you. Your creator desires for you to experience endless happiness, peace and fulfillment.
Until you know your true nature and worth, you will probably experience feelings of guilt and doubt around receiving and abundance.
When you wake up to who you really are, you begin to realize that you are not here just to struggle and survive – you are here to love, create, expand and thrive.
7. Take small steps to cultivate the feeling of abundance.
Abundance is not a number on a bank statement, a large house or a luxury holiday. Abundance is a feeling.
Think about what abundance means to you. Does it mean freedom? Does it mean generosity? Does it mean indulgence?
When you know what abundance means to you, you can start taking baby steps to cultivate the feeling of abundance on a daily basis.
You can do this through visualization (imagining your dreams already being real) or by looking around your life and coming up with creative ways to feel the way you want to feel.
Maybe you feel abundant when you: spend a whole hour with a good book and a glass of wine; cook dinner for friends; have freshly washed hair and wear your favorite outfit; or carry a $100 note in your wallet. Start doing these small actions more often.
When you create the feeling of abundance within you, the Universe will pick up your new signal and start bringing you circumstances to match your new vibration.
Elyse Santilli Writer and life coach at NotesOnBliss.com, your guidebook to happiness and creating a beautiful life
Elyse is a writer, life coach and happiness teacher at NotesOnBliss.com and the creator of the Beautiful Life Bootcamp online course. She teaches people to align with their inner spirit, design a life they love, and expand their happiness and inner peace. For updates and inspiration, sign up now.
By Rachel Grumman Bender of LearnVest
Even if you pop out of bed with every intention of having a productive day, it’s easy to get derailed.
Let’s be honest—who hasn’t gotten sidetracked first thing in the morning checking social media or reading up on what everyone thought of last night’s Walking Dead episode?
Here’s the thing: How you kick off your morning can set the tone—and momentum—for getting things done throughout the day.
So we’ve rounded up six quick (because we know how important getting enough shut-eye is, too) and easy ways to jump-start your morning with power and purpose to set yourself up for a killer productive day.
Power Morning Move #1: Fit In a Seven-Minute Workout
While we know it’s easier said than done to roll out of bed as the sun is coming up, budgeting some extra time to exercise in the AM can help give you lasting energy for the entire day.
Research shows that fitting in a workout helps improve mental functioning and memory—helping to make you more productive.
And did we mention it can also help keep you trim? A 2013 study found that working out before breakfast helps burn 20% more body fat than if you schedule a workout later in the day.
The Morning Move
Check out The New York Times’ “The Scientific 7–Minute Workout,” an at-home routine that features 12 high-intensity interval-training moves that use just your body weight, a chair, and a wall.
There’s even an app for it so you can exercise anywhere, anytime—even in your pj’s.
Power Morning Move #2: Bliss Out With a Two-Minute Meditation
Convinced you don’t have the time or the discipline to meditate every day? Well, if you can spare 120 seconds, you do.
While that may not sound like much time, multiple studies have shown that even brief doses of meditation come with a slew of benefits that can boost your career—from making you cognitively sharper and more focused to improving decision-making.
The Morning Move
Zen Habits blogger and best-selling author Leo Babauta recommends sitting still and, for just two minutes, keeping your attention focused on your breath as it comes into your body and goes out.
“When your mind wanders, take note of that, but then gently come back to the breath,” Babauta has said. “That’s it—no mantra, no emptying of the mind, no perfect lotus position, no meditation hall or guru. Just pay attention to your breath.”
Babauta explains that these small bouts of meditation each morning can help you feel a bit calmer, less distracted, and less reactive during the day—especially when work stress creeps up on you.
Not bad for two minutes of your time, right?
Related: 5 Outside-the-Box Ways to Combat Work Stress That Really Work
Power Morning Move #3: Draft a Thoughtful Things-Not-To-Do List
We all have mile-long to-do lists that we semi-diligently try to tackle each day, but a surprising productivity secret is actually doing the opposite-thinking of things that, no matter how much you may want to do them, you can skip doing for 24 hours.
The Morning Move
Make a short anti-to-do list of typical time wasters you want to avoid that day, recommends Carson Tate, author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style.
Maybe your list includes dodging unnecessary meetings or even limiting the amount of time you spend on that ultimate time waster—email!
While you probably can’t go email-free for too many hours of the day, Tate suggests at least not starting your day by checking email.
“It’s counterintuitive, but I always tell clients that emails in your inbox are everyone else’s agendas,” Tate says. “They represent what everyone wants from you—their goals and objectives. Why not start your day with your own goals and objectives?”
Related: Power Hack of the Week: How to Tackle To-Dos Like a President
Power Morning Move #4: Listen to a Power Podcast
The “5 AM Miracle” is a weekly podcast that’s dedicated to “dominating your day” before breakfast by focusing on healthy habits, personal development, and productivity.
“Waking up with intention, with a plan and with a solidified purpose can make a dramatic difference, not only in your day but more importantly in your future success,” host Jeff Sanders notes.
The Morning Move
Tune in to a new podcast once a week or download one of the 100-plus shows from the archive.
Sanders and guests cover an array of topics geared toward becoming more efficient and productive, such as “How to Create Your Ideal Morning Routine,” “A Sharper Perspective on Getting Things Done” and “The Definitive Guide to Inbox Zero.”
Power Morning Move #5: Do the Dishes (Yes, You Heard Right!)
Rolling up your sleeves to hand wash a sink full of dirty dishes from last night’s dinner may be the last thing you want to do first thing in the morning, but a recent study found that mindfully cleaning dishes—in other words, staying in the moment while scrubbing away—reduced anxiety and made study subjects feel more inspired.
Who doesn’t want to kick off their day this way? But in order to truly reap the benefits, you have to do it right.
The Morning Move
Buddhist monk “Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that, while washing dishes, we should only pay attention to the experience of washing dishes and attend to the full sensory experience—the warmth of the water, the scent of the soap, the texture of each dish or utensil,” explains the study’s lead author, Adam Hanley.
Hanley chose to study dishwashing because it’s such a common task and so sensory-rich—and subsequently found that study participants who mindfully washed dishes reported a decrease in nervousness and a boost in inspiration.
Meanwhile, another group that simply washed dishes without practicing mindfulness didn’t experience any emotional changes—just clean plates.
Power Morning Move #6: Name Your Top Two Goals for the Day
We make choices all day long—from picking an outfit to deciding how to approach a major project at work.
The problem is that making one decision after another uses up mental energy, leading to what’s called “decision fatigue,” which means you may have already used up your best brainpower for the day by mulling over the options for your AM latte.
But there’s a way to combat decision fatigue—with one simple to-do.
The Morning Move
When you wake up and you’re at your freshest, “decide on the one or two things you want to accomplish,” Tate says, adding that even if you just spend a few minutes doing this, you’ve still prioritized your day.
And to help keep your decision-making sharper for longer, consider creating a morning routine that minimizes decision-making, such as eating the same breakfast each day.
“You don’t have to make grandiose, sweeping changes in your life,” she explains. “It can be really subtle, but you’ll see a pretty significant pop in productivity.”
By Scott Kriz
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless.
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Scott Kriz, CEO of Bitium.
All too often, I see people at networking events exchanging business cards and starting up superficial conversations for obviously one-sided, self-serving purposes. But what happens when you leave the happy hour or the conference? How many of those conversations resulted in something substantial? Networking should be viewed as the beginning of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. While there’s no formula to creating a valuable network, there certainly are guidelines. Here are five lessons I’ve learned while building and strengthening my network:
When I was fresh out of college, I used to attend events and come home with a pile of business cards, trying to figure out how each person could benefit me in my career. Guess how many of those turned into valuable relationships? Not one. Realizing this, I stopped bringing cards with me to events. Instead, I started attending events with smaller groups of people and focused more on getting to really know everyone on a personal level. Over time, I found that people with whom I shared common personal interests tended to provide more value than those with closer professional ties.
Listen and ask questions
While I love sharing stories, I have never learned anything by hearing myself talk. So I try to focus on learning from other people’s experiences by taking a genuine interest in that person and asking them questions instead. For example, a few years ago, I found out the CMO from Microsoft had retired and was living in Southern California. Marketing has always been an area that fascinated me because it didn’t come naturally. I wanted to learn about marketing from the top mind in B2B marketing software so I could better understand it for my own business.
Through my network, I found out that she was going to be at a local accelerator event so I decided to attend as well. It’s amazing how generous people are with their time and their knowledge when you express genuine interest. Mich Mathews is now an investor and board member for Bitium–and a close friend of mine.
Seek out people that you like
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless. Every one of us has our own opinions, tastes and tolerances. Spend your time with people you like and you will find natural alignment. When I started my current company, I was lucky enough to have a co-founder that I had enormous respect for both personally and professionally. We wanted to hire the smartest employees, of whom we also enjoyed working with. Everyone on our current team has been hired through a personal or professional connection. I’m proud of this, not only because I love what we do as a company, but because I love the people that I am building the company with.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Some of the best networkers that I know are busy and overcommitted by nature. In order to leverage their networks appropriately and get the introductions I want, I’ve found that the less intrusive and more specific that I can be, the more likely they are to help out. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is being solicited and read the content of the email as if you are that person. Make your email request is concise, specific, not completely self-serving and most importantly, easy for them to forward on to the person you want an introduction to. Help them help you.
Remember that everyone is just a person, no matter what they have achieved or how well-known they are. It’s easy to get star struck when meeting someone you’ve read about or who is considered a ‘celebrity’ in your industry. Approach them like you would anyone else at an event. Too many times people try to force a conversation because they really admire someone and want nothing more than to be associated with that person. Relax, have fun and don’t try to foster relationships that aren’t natural.
Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?
How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.
The one question you have to ask everyone you network withby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.
3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.
Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.
Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.
How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.
The only thing you need to keep in mind when networkingby William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.
NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.
By Minda Zetlin of Inc.
Can toys and cartoon characters really make you a better leader? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
That’s the word from Seth M. Spain, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Binghamton University. He and his colleague Peter Harms have turned their analytic skills on the Transformers, the popular Japanese-American toys, comic books, animation, and movie characters that can turn themselves from robots into vehicles and other types of machines. Spain and Harms found that the lessons in their character descriptions are full of wisdom about what makes a great leader.
Why study the Transformers in the first place? For one thing, Spain explains, each toy comes with both a rank and a rating of the character’s abilities, which makes it easier to compare them to each other. Also, “Peter knew I was a general-purpose mid-30s nerd and the Transformers would be something I’d be interested in.”
The two put together a database of each Transformer characters using the toys’ rankings and “my painfully extensive knowledge of the cartoon series,” Spain says. They published their findings in a Psychology Today blog post titled “What Would Optimus Prime Do?” In it, they make the argument that emulating the leader of the Autobots (the good Transformers) really can improve your leadership skills.
“What was most surprising—given this is a toy and cartoon series for fairly small children—was how representative the findings were of what we know about leadership from regular academic study,” Spain says. Here’s a look at some of the wisdom you can glean from the Transformers:
1. Don’t Have Too Many Bosses
Leaderless, flat, and more democratic organization structures are getting lots of attention these days—mostly because they work surprisingly well and sometimes outpace the competition. That’s because removing management layers and the high salaries that go with them allows such companies to run leaner and more efficiently.
Same goes for Transformers. “The Autobots have a flatter, less hierarchical, more equal organization,” Spain says. “Whereas the Decepticons (evil Transformers) are more vertical, with a despot ruling by fiat.”
2. Be Very Smart
“The most important quality for Transformer leaders is intelligence,” Spain says. “We looked at good guys and bad guys separately and the best predictor of rank was a high rating in intelligence.”
That mirrors the real world. “The academic literature says that intellectual ability is a predictor of both leader emergence and leader effectiveness,” Spain notes. “We’re not necessarily talking book smarts or academic achievement,” he adds. “It could be what used to be called a shrewd business sense. There’s a certain swiftness of mind.”
3. Know Who You’re Leading
“One of the main things we did was look at followership in the cartoon show,” Spain says. “We broke it down into examples of both constructive and destructive followers. The Decepticons have really good examples of both excellent and really bad followers.”
One outstanding example of a really bad follower is Starscream, a lieutenant in the Decepticons. “He’s constantly plotting to overthrow the leader Megatron, but Megatron keeps him around for some reason, even though he often tells him he’s not smart enough to be a leader.” That strategy backfires in an early animated episode when the Decepticons are about to defeat the Autobots until Starscream mucks things up with an assassination attempt against Megatron.
“On the other hand, Megatron has other followers who are extremely loyal and dependable,” Spain notes. “One lesson from that is to be aware of your followers and what they’re all about.” That may be difficult for a leader such as Megatron, he adds. “Classic Dark Triad leader may not be paying a lot of attention to their followers and may miss a lot of information,” he says. “But even evil leaders need good followers if they’re going to succeed.” (Here’s more on the Dark Triad and how a small dose of evil qualities can benefit every leader.)
4. Care About Everyone
Caring for others may be the most important attribute that sets Optimus Prime apart from Megatron. “Optimus Prime is constantly trying to make sure his followers are OK, and that human beings aren’t harmed in the fights between robots,” Spain notes. Compassion and integrity are vital traits for a leader, he adds.
That’s really the central message of this research. “The sociological point we’re trying to make is that narratives of all kinds can communicate norms and expectations about leadership,” Spain says. “So holding up a popular example can be very useful.”
In other words, try asking yourself “What would Optimus Prime do?” It really can lead you to the best decision.
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