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By Biagio “ Bill” Sciacca

My publisher and I have been collaborating on a project that takes into consideration a philosophy of leadership, as well as the pragmatic behaviors needed to make leadership successful. It has developed into a project called Provocative Leadership, and should be reading for the publishing machine by the end of August.

I have taken the liberty, this month to use my “white space” to highlight some of the attributes of the new project. As always, your comments are much appreciated.

The skills that spur leadership in an individual are often the primary focus of a leadership learning process. These skills become dominant when they should be viewed as ancillary. Without a solid foundation upon which to build, they are only presented as cursory information and never establish a lasting foothold in the mind and nature of the participant. The antithesis of training for success is training with expectations of failure, without the proper values, principles and attitudes learned. This becomes counterproductive and self-destructive long-term. Failure should never be viewed as a definitive outcome. It is understandable to fail the first few times as long as one understands that very experience carries with it important lessons that could be useful in the future. At the same time, failure should never be viewed as an acceptable outcome. That is the problem in this hypothetical situation. When someone hasn’t invested the proper time in learning a certain skill and they then fail, the failure isn’t so harmful because if the person is honest, they know that they expected the failure. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. If on the other hand, the person invests the appropriate amount of time and effort to learn something and their hard work still hasn’t paid off, this becomes a compounding problem. Not only have they learned to use important skills improperly, they have entered a self-defeating cycle. This exacerbates complacency and lowers self-esteem. Once someone loses confidence in their own abilities and self-worth, rebuilding this becomes a more difficult task than the one originally undertaken. This is why it is crucial to learn the skills properly. And this goes for any skill; a physical skill like riding a bike or golfing. Or a mental skill such as new ideas revolving around leadership. Some hold the view that gaining any new and helpful information, even if incomplete, is positive because at least something new is being gained. This view is false. Acquiring skills that when put to practice are destined to produce a failing result is more destructive than never having learned them in the first place. This harkens back the self-destructive nature of diving in without a proper foundation.

If, on the other hand, these skills are integrated properly, they will not only become useful tools to call upon when necessary, they will be strengthening an already established and powerful leadership foundation. Concentrating on specific leadership skills must follow the establishment of this solid footing. This yields maximum benefit, allowing these skills to flourish in the appropriate psychological environment. Conversely, the skills can be utilized once or twice and discarded. This can be true of leadership courses and innumerable analogous situations. Whether it is someone investing in the most expensive home gym equipment, the most advanced language learning software, the guaranteed top-of-the-line leadership course, if that person is not prepared to confront the question, “Why do I want this for myself?,” they are destined to fail. Someone who does not build the appropriate foundation, understanding that leadership must become a mindset beginning with answering that question, has created the ultimate conundrum and their efforts will prove futile. All anecdotal skills that can be accessorized will not allow the participant to overcome this penetrating issue. Someone must adopt the leadership conceptual framework and it will become the mantra through which all future ideas must filter. However, they must WANT to adapt it; they must personally embrace it. Our job as leaders is to create a climate of acceptance so that our employees can move forward.

Accountability questions:

What do you consider to be your best idea or take away from the material?

How will you use that idea in a. your business life, and b. your everyday, personal life?

Can you use that idea in a way to develop your employees?