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3 Signs You Are A Counterfeit Bold Leader And How To Improveby Zenger Folkman July 20, 2017

bold leader red pencil stands out from black pencilsAfter writing several articles about the benefits and positive impact of bold leaders, I received pushback from a number of people who had observed bold leaders that did not create the same positive impression. These leaders were perceived as being bold but created dissatisfaction and frustration within their organizations.

While on the surface these leaders may appear to be bold, I identified three characteristics commonly found among bold leader counterfeits:

1. Aggressive leaders are hyper focused on their own needs and successes. They take extraordinary steps to make themselves look good, often at the expense of others. They will look for ways to blame others and are unwilling to accept responsibility for errors.

2. Autocratic leaders rarely ask for input or advice from others, desiring to make all the decisions alone. They prioritize maintaining control over providing opportunities for others to grow. They expect orders to be followed and no one is allowed to question the decision or solution.

3. Arrogant leaders are always “right.” They are not teachable and believe that others’ decisions and solutions are inferior to their own. Because they resist feedback from others, they become defensive when challenged. Their business decisions are often centered in ego and personal agenda.

Leaders who engage in these behaviors have the façade of being bold, but truly lack the many positive benefits of genuine bold leadership.

In analyzing data from over 50,000 leaders, my colleague Jack Zenger and I discovered that genuine bold leaders were rated as more effective, had more positive performance reviews, and were more likely to be a high potential leader. They also had significantly more satisfied direct reports who were not likely to think about quitting their jobs. Overall, these leaders were very effective, well liked, and generated engagement across the organization.

The reason some leaders utilize the counterfeit bold behaviors of aggression, an autocratic style, or arrogance, is that in the short term these behaviors generate results. However, employees end up being motivated out of fear rather than respect or inspiration and will abandon ship as soon as possible. What we have found in our research is that it is possible for leaders to develop a genuinely bold style, but only if they avoid these three destructive leadership behaviors.

Genuine Bold Leadership

Through our firm’s ongoing leadership research, we came to a consensus that a series of seven behaviors effectively described the characteristics of a genuinely bold leader. The seven behaviors are:

1. Challenges standard approaches.

2. Creates an atmosphere of continual improvement.

3. Does everything possible to achieve goals.

4. Gets others to go beyond what they originally thought possible.

5. Energizes others to take on challenging goals.

6. Quickly recognizes situations where change is needed.

7. Has the courage to make needed changes.

In a further look at our data, we identified the leaders who were in the top 10% in terms of their boldness as rated by these seven behaviors. We then compared the results for these leaders against all other leaders in our database to understand what was different about their behavior. We found that they were rated significantly more positive on the following characteristics:

• Persuaded, instead of demanded, others to stretch.

• Constructively challenged rather than aggressively challenged.

• Inspired and energized others rather than expecting others would accomplish difficult tasks simply because they were assigned.

• Helped others understand rather than simply telling people what to do.

• Found ways to improve others’ new ideas rather than forcing their ideas on others.

Developing genuine boldness is a worthy goal for any leader. It can inspire others to peak performance, invite innovation, and spark new growth for organizations. By carefully assessing if behaviors could be perceived as aggressive, autocratic, and/or arrogant, you will easily be able to identify if a leader, or your own style, is counterfeiting bold leadership. If you are curious about your preferences around bold leadership behaviors, I invite you to take a quick self-survey by clicking here.

This article was originally published on Forbes.


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