Wise Leaders Embrace “Benign Subversives”

Benign Subversives

We all hate naysayers, snipers and back room gossips. They subvert our vision, undermine our message and divert attention from our objectives. They must be rooted out, disciplined, fired!

“Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.” ~ Henry Steele Commager

Valuing the Truth

I understand you, I really do. But if you are to excel as a leader you must develop a taste for high quality. sometimes unpalatable,  knowledge about the “State of the nation.”

You need to discern clearly between corrosive people and other people who simply don’t see it your way, but are nonetheless well-meaning and really want the organisation to succeed.

These are the “Benign Subversives.”

As a leader, you should embrace them as important allies, uncomfortable as it may be at first!

Recognizing the Benign Subversives

How can you recognise Benign Subversives and how best to employ their energy? The answer is to re-frame your impression of them and their objectives and see how you can learn from them in support of your own strategy and aims.

History is littered with examples of leaders, organisations and even governments whose drive to uphold an increasingly untenable core vision mutates into self-fulfilling “groupthink.” The organisation ends up assuming the best of everything and never prepares for the worst.

Schlomo Ben Hur, Nikolas Kinley and Karsten Jonsen describe this destructive scenario wonderfully in their paper “Coaching Executive Teams to Reach Better Decisions.”

“Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right that they’re not interested in listening. And that leads to a lot of suboptimal solutions in the world.” ~Jacqueline Novogratz

The Benign Subversive is Your Antidote

Leaders readily employ expensive external executive coaches to assist in their personal quest for understanding and success. They accept their challenges and inconvenient observations and pay highly for the privilege.

Great coaches act like human mirrors showing their clients the truth in their thinking, feeling and acting.

If you re-frame each internal Benign Subversive in this role you’ll see them as a positive force for purposeful change not an enemy.

Recalibrating Your Team

If you publicly affirm their valuable contribution and encourage them, the quality of their contribution improves as they become more internally motivated.

What’s more, other less assertive people will begin to contribute.

The richness and utility of this transparent information stream is the granular intelligence that great leaders and organisations thrive upon. For a research perspective De Dreu and West concluded in 2001 that, “minority dissent stimulates creativity and divergent thought, which, through participation, manifest as innovation.”

What the Benign Subversive observes may remain inconvenient and uncomfortable, but is a vital contribution to avoiding failure or achieving success. Rely on them to give you another view, one which would otherwise be invisible to you.

As leader you then have the choice to accept or reject their views but at least your decisions will be based on more complete information.

Remember this…

“It is easy to believe in freedom of speech for those with whom we agree.” ~Leo McKern

Taking the Next Steps

Now consider this:

  • Notice who in your team or organisation exhibits the characteristics of a Benign Subversive. How do you view them – problem or solution?
  • Gently encourage objective, non-judgemental observation and criticism; how do people respond? Decide how best to exhibit meaningful responses.
  • Notice the balance between your positive constructive versus negative destructive criticism is response your team or organisation reports to you.
  • How do you react emotionally to a report who disagrees with you or brings you inconvenient news?
  • Notice what happens when you receive objective criticism with a simple “Thank you I will definitely consider what you say”.

Recommended Reading
Managing Corporate Communications in the Age of Restructuring, Crisis, and Litigation: Revisiting Groupthink in the Boardroom by David Silver

Get your free mini-version of “Your Personal Leadership Book of Days – Avoid Cookie Cutter Solutions by Using Your Adaptive Intelligence,”


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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On Leadership, Communication and Your Email Address


If you make a list of your pet peeves about work, I bet high on the list are, being kept in the dark, being patronised, and being misinformed.

Contrary to this type of workplace environment, healthy and successful organisations communicate as transparently as they can and keep secrets only as long as is absolutely necessary.

Great delivery also depends upon great communication, which should start at the top.” ~ Sir Richard Branson

Misunderstanding Communication

Talk to many leaders about communication and they think about, “how can I get my message out to the staff?” This is a symptom of how they perceive their relationship with their followers. They are in charge, they’re paid the big bucks to create the vision and strategy and they make all the important decisions.

Consequently they see communication as top-down delivery of their important information which should be understood and acted on in proscribed ways. This “information” is generally perceived by the recipient as poorly cloaked instruction and coercion intended to drive the company’s agenda.

In doing this leaders miss the purpose and full power of authentically open integrated communication entirely.

A Two-Way Street

Communication is at its simplest a two-way interaction but more often than not (and often unintentionally) is multi-directional.

On the one hand, your response to a message from your boss might be restricted to your own thoughts. On the other, you discuss the matter with a colleague who in turn talks to another and so on, with the inevitable distortion created by the rumour mill.

As is the case with the physical conservation of energy, human communications can never be destroyed, they are simply converted into other forms of communication often with unforeseen, unwanted and uncontrollable consequences.

Transparent Communication

Victor S. Sohmen (Drexel University) clearly explains the fundamental role of transparent communication in his paper “Leadership and Teamwork: Two Sides of the Same Coin” in the Journal of IT and Economic Development.

Ask yourself this:

  • If all communications are multidimensional, are never truly secret and you can never learn less from them, why not take full advantage of its power for good?
  • Why not give out your e-mail address to everyone and invite them to use it?

Create equally powerful multiple well-integrated lines of communication bottom to top as well as top to bottom in your organisation. The rest is about building flexible yet robust systems to manage information flow and integration.

Open Authentic Communication

In an excellent article “Relationship between Organizational Culture, Leadership Behavior and Job Satisfaction”, Yafang Tsai clearly describes the fundamental foundation of open authentic communication to building high performing organisational cultures.

Imagine a scenario where the brother of someone who cleans the toilets knows someone who is the father of a genius kid who has recently invented a new widget which could revolutionise your business. If you always excluded that cleaner from contributing their ideas they’ll cease to bother and you will lose out. If that sort of communication disconnect is a cultural norm in your organisation, then you are in trouble.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” ~ Peter Drucker

Best-Centered Communication

I am convinced most leaders are well-meaning and attempt to improve communication, but their efforts are generally self-centered and inevitably come across as patronising and back fire disappointingly. A good rule of thumb is to “ask” twice as many times as you “tell”.

As Vincent van Gogh said, “It is the little emotions that are the great captains of our lives.”

If we know that day-to-day we’re really heard, truthfully informed and treated as adults we feel valued, are more internally motivated and are much more likely to identify with our place of work and go that extra mile for the team.

Too many organisations feel that incentives will drive staff to behave like the 300 Spartans who laid down their lives at the battle of Thermopylae in an attempt to drive back invading Persians; THEY WON’T! But if they feel they can influence the future of their organisations THEY JUST MIGHT!

Closing Thoughts

Ask yourself these questions today:

  • Do you feel communicating with staff is a chore or a key element of business?
  • Did you communicate to your staff today? If your answer is “no”, why didn’t you?
  • What information did you send out today, to what extent might it be viewed by the recipient as patronising, opaque or misleading?
  • What open questions did you ask your staff?
  • Who has your e-mail and phone number; why them?

Make a brief cost/benefit analysis if you opened up your lines of communication.

A really good place to find your voice is “Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future by Terry Pearce.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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Hey Leader: Become an Organizational Life Giver


Are your goals actually YOUR goals? Since the development of organizational strategic planning became a standard operating practice, organizations have set goals toward which they strive and around which they base decision-making.

Goals serve several purposes. Goals:

  • Defines future direction
  • Provides a tool for measuring success
  • Prioritizes resources
  • Aligns the collective efforts of the organization

Goals are essential to the success of any organization. So it makes sense to have them to help teams get their jobs done. But sometimes the very best intentions around setting and implementing goals end up causing unintended problems.


Does this scenario sound familiar?

The senior leadership team in your organization holds a strategic planning day, usually off site, and your Director comes back with a new set of strategic priorities and a renewed enthusiasm for the great things the organization will accomplish at the completion of this new plan.

Now the task falls to each department to come up with their departmental goals that fit within the plan. You and your colleagues spend a few sessions brainstorming, defining and prioritizing goals to set the direction for your department. The team is motivated and energized and embarks on the journey to accomplish the ambitious goals.

At some point your department hits a road block and has to compete for the resources to continue.

What started as an execution of well-intentioned, well-thought-out plans becomes a frustrating power struggle between departments with competing priorities.

The relationships between departments breakdown and silos develop.

The Shape of Organizational Health

Picture the hierarchy in your mind. What shape is it? Probably a triangle, most are.

The fewest people at the top hold the most power. All of the weight of the organization rests on the shoulders of the people at the bottom. They give life to the mission. They are the first to know when something isn’t working and they are the first to know how to fix it. Yet, getting that knowledge to the top of the triangle is like swimming upstream.

Flip the triangle on its head and it resembles a filter. Now the power is at the bottom of the triangle, supporting the people with the knowledge, the skills, and the direct access to customers. Imagine that valuable knowledge flowing easily down through the filter to inform strategic decision-making.

Then those decisions conform to the reality and the knowledge from the “life-givers”, rather than the employees fitting into a mold that may not be what’s best for the company.

How could the triangle be flipped? Who are the “make it happen” people? Has your company struggled to implement something that front line people resist? Where are the voices of the “life-givers” heard? Where are they not heard? I would love to hear your thought!


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Jacqueline De Leebeeck

Jacqueline De Leebeeck is founding partner of Savvy
She facilitates leadership capacity building and team development
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Hubris: The Megaphone of Overblown Confidence


Finding the right “confidence/hubris” balance is critical for leaders. And when the balance tips toward hubris and too far away from humility, problems can arise and impact an entire organization, country, or society.

No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.” ~Barbara Tuchman

On Charisma and Confidence

Society selects charismatic, confident and expert leaders who give a reassuring impression of their personal comfort with power. Over time and with the right circumstances leaders can progress from confidence to hubris.

Many examples of world leaders exhibiting hubris come to mind including:

  • Tony Blair
  • Bill Clinton
  • George W Bush
  • Barack Obama
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Winston Churchill

But excessive hubris isn’t limited to politicians. I am sure that sporting and entertainment stars and business leaders with excessive hubris soon spring to mind.

Order or Disorder?

Former UK Foreign Secretary Lord Owen and his collaborator Jonathan Davidson (Duke University Medical Centre) studied 100 US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers for evidence of hubris arguing it as a personality disorder.

What is Hubris Syndrome?

Hubris syndrome is a personality trait defined by fourteen key characteristics.

Proposed criteria for hubris syndrome (5, 6, 10, 12 & 14 are unique to hubris)

  1. A narcissistic propensity to see their world primarily as an arena to exercise power and seek glory.
  2. A predisposition to take actions which seem likely to cast the individual in a good light.
  3. A disproportionate concern with image and presentation.
  4. A messianic manner of talking about current activities and a tendency to exaltation.
  5. An identification with the nation, or organization to the extent that the individual regards his/her outlook and interests as identical; (unique).
  6. A tendency to speak in the third person or use the royal ‘we’; (unique).
  7. Excessive confidence in their own judgement and contempt for advice or criticism.
  8. Exaggerated self-belief, bordering on a sense of omnipotence, in what they can achieve.
  9. A belief that rather than being accountable to the mundane court of colleagues or public opinion, the court to which they answer is: History or God.
  10. An unshakable belief that in that court they will be vindicated.
  11. Loss of contact with reality; often associated with progressive isolation.
  12. Restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness; (unique).
  13. A tendency to allow their ‘broad vision’, about the moral rectitude of a proposed course, to obviate the need to consider practicality, cost or outcomes; (unique).
  14. Hubristic incompetence, where things go wrong because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to worry about the nuts and bolts of policy.

“We’ve seen the hubris. And now we’re seeing the scandals.” ~David Gergen

It Depends on Context

Whether hubristic leaders are recognised and remembered as being more or less successful depends on their specific context and circumstances.

  • Winston Churchill was right for war, but not for peace.
  • Steve Jobs thrived in a rapid innovative world, but would he have been appropriate for a more placid business environment.

Whilst entrepreneurial endeavour requires a degree of measured overconfidence to succeed, organisations can also develop destructive Hubris Syndrome, think of Enron.

As with all behaviours, self-awareness is our most powerful buffer against excess; so how hubristic are you?

Detecting Hubris Syndrome

How can you detect Hubris Syndrome?

The way we all use language is a reflection of our thoughts and fortunately for researchers, hubristic leaders are so convinced of their personal mission that generally they make little or no attempt to sanitise their public pronouncements.

Instead they have a primal drive to tell us exactly what they feel about themselves, their ideas and their justifications!

Dr Peter Garrard  (St. Geoerge’s, University of London) has developed a method based on linguistic analysis to detect hubris in written material, and identified clear differences in word usage by the hubristic UK Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair compared with the more measured John Major.

 A Cure?

The antidote to hubris, to overweening pride, is irony, that capacity to discover and systematize ideas. Or, as Emerson insisted, the development of consciousness, consciousness, consciousness.” ~Ralph Ellison

Finding the right “confidence/hubris” balance is critical and prevention by raising awareness and developing preventative systems is much more effective and less disturbing  for all concerned (including the potentially hubristic leader) than attempting a cure; by prosecution, coercion or revolution.

In their excellent research paper, Beyond hubris: How highly confident entrepreneurs rebound to venture again; Mathew L.A. Hayward (University of Colorado at Boulder) and his colleagues explain why, “More confident founders of new ventures that fail are better positioned to start subsequent ventures; and, become better equipped to start another venture.

Curiosity is Your Protection

Constant non-judgemental curiosity about our thoughts, motives, words and actions is a brake on overbearing hubris developing.

This moment of mental re-framing gives us a breathing space to exercise that irony and consciousness so important for keeping both feet on the ground. How each of us achieves this dance in the moment is our business.

Want to spot your own hubris potential? – Ask yourself this:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10 where do I lie for each Hubris factor.
  2. If many of my scores are higher than 5 can I observe any specific expressions of my hubristic behaviour and the effects they trigger?
  3. How do people react to me when I behave confidently – over-confidently – arrogantly or hubristically?
  4. Does my hubristic behaviour nurture or deplete others?
  5. Does my hubristic behaviour achieve my goals and my organisation’s?
  6. Am I prepared to modify my behaviour if it ensure’s my organisation’s success?

Recommended reading

The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair & the Intoxication of Power – David Owen


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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On Leadership, Core Values and Adhering to Principles

Core Values

Everyone knows we should have core values, yet the litany of disasters where companies and people failed to live up to their own core values grows yearly. Public cynicism is understandable given so many organisations claim laudable core values but their behaviour screams “we don’t care about them.

Don’t get me wrong: Profit is fine, but don’t hide behind a mission that is fake.

Culture and Core Values

The culture/core values relationship is at the centre of everything. Complex reasons lie behind core value misalignments.

They include:

1) Fundamental misunderstanding of the worth of core values.

Steve Jobs understood the need to identify, understand and live by core values. The two phases of Apple’s outstanding success under his leadership happened when they aligned their core values and actions.

2) Failure to exercise and embed core values in everything we do.

The complex dynamics of a disconnect between Enron’s culture and espoused core values was described elegantly by David Burkus in his 2011 paper in the Journal of Values-Based Leadership.

Core Values and Principles Must be Non-negotiable

Core Values

Core values are expressions of who we are, why we do what we do and are inherently non-negotiable. That’s not to say they can’t mature over time. They should belong to you and not be influenced by someone else’s opinion of moral or ethical norms.

“Leaders honor their core values, but they are flexible in how they execute them.” ~Colin Powell

Getting to grips with our real core values is challenging and requires we understand ourselves at a fundamentally honest level. Daniel Goleman in “Focus – the hidden driver of excellence” cites research indicating self-awareness as a crucial characteristic of successful leaders of equally self-aware organisations.

Sadly we usually start by ruminating on words claiming the hypothetical moral high ground; listing characteristics of “worthy ethical people or organisations”. Beware, this list is biassed by current mood, recent events and personal history. Organisations generate bland mission statements describing values they believe will appeal to clients and staff. To aspire to Steve Job’s view of core values we must re-frame and re-invent this process to create a dynamic living tool capable of steering our decisions and actions meaningfully.


Even the worst despots have core value, reprehensible though they may be to most people. Therefore, it is the principles and ethics that we hold to be truths which in turn asset in the creation of our core values.

“Principles are natural laws that are external to us and that ultimately control the consequences of our actions. Values are internal and subjective and represent that which we feel strongest about in guiding our behaviour.” ~Stephen Covey

The Physics of Core Strength

Dancers, athletes and gymnasts depend on core strength to achieve excellence. In the video notice, no matter how extravagantly she moves her arms and legs her core remains steady. Core strength comes from deep muscles around the pelvis working semi-automatically to maintain balance and connection between our legs and upper body.

We all rely on our core strength to sit, stand and walk.When we ask our bodies to do something out of the ordinary our core muscles must work harder. This excessive demand can become uncomfortable. We may lose balance and fall over. Dancers and athletes enhance balance by training their core, allowing them to do more adventurous movements.

What we see is “effortless” performance.

They also refine conscious and unconscious sensing systems feeding back to support yet more adaptation to changing demands.

Consider your personal and organisational core values as a dancer might exercise their core strength; holding you true and level whilst you experiment and  innovate. Start from the mindset of the novice by exercising a particular value, trust for example, be curious about your reaction to trusting.

How do others react to you trusting them? You might end up moderating your value to “smart trust.

When values don’t fit, you sense imbalance, an uncomfortable internal tension manifesting as feelings of hypocrisy or dishonesty. It you feel such sensations, rely your senses and know this value can’t really be yours; it needs modifying or rejecting. As you assess each core value in turn, testing your response to exercising it, you create your authentic immutable list!


Core Values Cards

Core Values Cards

Determine Your Team’s Core Values


What’s Next?

OK, I have my list of core values, now what a I meant to do?

You have in your hands the very thing Steve Jobs held so valuable, your core strength as a leader. More than that you have a practical tool for exercising and sensing the impact of your values and decisions as you become more adventurous and innovative.

You will also rely on your core values to absorb the inevitable hard knocks and develop personal and organisational resilience.

Real-World Impact

Do core values and principles make a difference?

  • People function best when they have purpose and feel in control.
  • Organisations staffed by people who feel in command excel.
  • When performing at their best athletes describe “being in the flow.”

They’ve so embedded their core strengths during training they perform unconsciously. Developing your core values by asking yourself, “is this decision or action aligned with my core values?” seems artificial at first, but with practice it becomes automatic.

Organisations reaching this level of insight thrive both in times of plenty and scarcity because they avoid wasting time on unnecessary internal tension; instead they concentrate on what they do best.

For a list of the core values of 15 successful companies take a look at YFS Magazine.

Do you understand your awesome purpose? What are your non-negotiable core values and principles? Do you exercise your core values every day? Is your company’s culture fully aligned with your core values? What feedback systems do you have to test your core values? Are their alarms bells ringing indicating a breach of your core values?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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On Leadership and Vulnerability


For some reason, people in leadership roles have this idea that they have to be impervious – that showing emotion, vulnerability, or weakness of any kind somehow devalues their status.

It’s like business leaders view themselves as ruthless pirate captains or generals at war, as if the first sign of weakness will cause a mutiny.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

True Leadership

True leadership is achieved when a team identifies with their leader as a real human being, and that includes faults, fears, shortcomings, and of course, vulnerability.

Accepting the fact that you will sometimes be vulnerable, that sometimes a plan will fail – that you aren’t perfect – will actually make you a stronger, more capable leader, both in your own mind and in the minds of your team members.

This is true for a couple of reasons.

  1. By recognizing that you are, in fact, not superhuman, you allow yourself to prepare for failure, and to think creatively when things don’t go as planned. Suddenly change doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Vulnerability isn’t a trait of weakness; it is a trait of humanity. Human beings sometimes falter.
  2. By allowing your team to see that you are susceptible to the same emotional pitfalls as they are, your perseverance and leadership skills truly shine as you work through the problems. By being honest about the adversity you face, you further inspire your team to overcome similar obstacles.

“Because most of us suck at it, if you can master the art of vulnerability, you have a distinct advantage. It may very well be the one leadership skill that endears you to others, creates unwavering loyalty, and sets you apart from the pack.” ~ Shelly Prevost

Authentic Leadership

Something about mutual vulnerability (read: openness, honesty, transparency) helps bring teams together. Showing your true self, including the parts you might not be terribly proud of, allows people to get to know one another in a real and meaningful way – this inspires compassion, collaboration, and a true sense of community within a team.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.” Dr. Brene Brown ClickToTweet

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Acting like there aren’t ever problems, or that nothing ever bothers you, only separates you from your team. Moreover, it won’t make you appear to be a fearless leader – it will just make it seem like you don’t care.

So, how are you doing with vulnerability in your leadership role? Are you, or not? How would being more vulnerable help you be more true and authentic to your followers? Do you wish that people who have led you in the past were more vulnerable? Would it have helped them be more influential? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
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In It to Win It: The Strength of Competition


What exactly is the point of a participation trophy?” you ask. If everyone gets a trophy, how do you distinguish who won? To you, activities are pointless without a way to win. 

The “self-esteem at all costs” mantra is a waste of time. To you, this quote makes more sense:

Self esteem does not lead to success in life. Self-discipline and self-control do.” ~ Roy Baumeister  ClicktoTweet

In It to Win It

Rather than focusing on issues of personal feelings, equality, or self-esteem, you see competition everywhere. You feel that if you are not first, then you are last.

  • You time how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, and try to beat that every day when you wake up!
  • Maybe you even race people on the drive home, regardless of whether they know it’s a race or not.
  • You push yourself to make sure your metrics are always the best.
  • If Susan in Accounting beats you at the Holiday food drive for most cans donated one more time, you may explode!

Sound familiar? If so, you almost undoubtedly have the strength of Competition.

The Strength of Competition

Those of us strong in Competition are constantly comparing. You are inherently aware of other people’s performance and use that as your measuring tool.

Even if you achieved everything you set out to, even if you produced the best project you could have, if you did not win, you may feel unsatisfied.

Now, there is always a chance your primary competition is against yourself, but that doesn’t discount your drive to win.

Understanding Your Drive to Win

In your early years, you may have instigated races at recess, or asked everyone what grade they got on their math test. You may not have revealed your own scores, you only needed the measurements to compare so you could compete, and win.

Eventually, you learned the things you could win, the things you weren’t so likely to, and based your entrance into competitions on the likelihood you’d win.

You refined your skills and learned when to be boisterous about your win, and when it was time to be graceful and a good winner. Other people may not even notice how competitive you really are if you are sophisticated enough.

However, the difference between you and others who compete is very clear; you do not play for the fun of playing, you’re in it to win it.

The Value of Competition As a Leader

When utilized in a sophisticated manner, your competition Strength can be very valuable.

For one thing, you always know where you stand.

Metrics are important to you, primarily because they allow comparison, which is necessary for competition. Whether they are company produced metrics, or ones you’ve produced yourself, you are very clear about your abilities on the job.

You know what tasks you can execute on successfully, and the ones you cannot. If you know that you are not exceeding expectations somewhere, you probably know who is excelling in that space.

Since you have learned how to compete for the win throughout the years, you can also understand the importance of a team designed to win.

Building Winning Teams

Your constant awareness of metrics can come in handy when you are building teams, be it your own or a peer team. If it’s your team against another, you’ll make sure you have your star players exactly where they need to be based on one thing:

Do they win in that position?

Your drive and focus on being the best will set a high standard for those around you, and encourage others to step up to the plate.

Leading A “Competitor”

Leading someone with Competition, especially if you lack it, can be difficult. They may appear to be too aggressive and competitive about everything.

Some of their peers may have difficulty working with them because of this.

As their leader, there are several things you can do to push them toward sophistication with this strength.

  • If you don’t have measures for their performance, create some.
  • You don’t have to pit them directly against their teammates, you can compare their performance to goals you have set for them, or their previous performance.
  • Pair them with a high-achiever on your team- it is likely this person will not be intimidated by Competition, even if they don’t possess it, and it will give your competitor something productive to compete with.
  • Encourage them to turn mundane tasks into competitive games.
  • Celebrate their victories when they have them. This doesn’t mean you need to throw them a party, each person is different.
  • Ask them how they like to be rewarded for a job well done (a good practice for every leader for every member of the team).
  • Once you have that information, make sure you use it!

Having a sophisticated Competition on your team can be a powerful and influential tool to drive performance and results.

So, do you know someone with Competition as a strength? Are they sophisticated or unsophisticated? How can you tell? As someone with Competition, how do you adjust your competitive nature to the situation? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP
Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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