Quora Saturday: effective leadership, spontaneity, introversion, high performance leadership, rejection from Harvard/Stanford/Columbia, and cheating
Continuing my Saturday series on posting my answers to questions from Quora, here are my next questions answered:
- What makes an effective leader?
- How can I be more spontaneous?
- How can I use my introversion as a business leader?
- What books or articles describe the high performance leadership framework (as taught at Stanford)?
- Should I feel bad about getting rejected from Harvard/Stanford/Columbia
- Is it ethical to search the cell phone of my partner if I’ve been told he is cheating?
Q: What makes an effective leader?
A: Rather than describe the qualities and behaviors that effective leaders have, Iâ€™ll answer it takes to make someone an effective leader.
More than anything else, leaders are made through experience. Before a leader can take on a big challenge, he or she has to have taken on smaller challenges, developing and mastering the skills, experiences, and beliefs that it takes to handle big challenges.
While reading and talking about leadership doesnâ€™t hurt, ultimately you have to take on challenges of motivating others to achieve goals together. Sometimes it will work. Other times it wonâ€™t and youâ€™ll have to learn. You still have to find problems that you can solve with others and lead them to achieve the goal with you.
Thatâ€™s what makes an effective leader.
Q: How can I be more spontaneous?
A: The great dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, called the Picasso of dance, expressed how to develop spontaneity better than anyone, in my opinion. It isnâ€™t easy. What she says about dance applies to all creative work:
The dancer is realistic. His craft teaches him to be. Either the foot is pointed or it is not. No amount of dreaming will point it for you. This requires discipline, not drill, not something imposed from without, but discipline imposed by you yourself upon yourself.
Your goal is freedom. But freedom may only be achieved through discipline. In the studio you learn to conform, to submit yourself to the demands of your craft, so that you may finally be free.
And when a dancer is at the peak of his power, he has two lovely, powerful, perishable things. One is spontaneity, but it is something arrived at over years and years of training. It is not a mere chance. The other is simplicity, but that also is a different simplicity. It’s the state of complete simplicity, costing no less than everything, of which Mr. T. S. Eliot speaks.
It may sound paradoxical that spontaneity, which seems fleeting, should come through years and years of training, but only by mastering your craft can you speak through it fluently.
Learn your craft. Practice. Rehearse.
Q: How can I use my introversion as a business leader?
A: I recommend not using the mental model of introversion to describe yourself as it lowers your potential to grow and learn. Iâ€™ve written on an alternative view on what people call introversion and extroversion.
I recommend reviewing my blog posts:
- Master introversion AND extroversion
- Introversion is not the opposite of extroversion, part 1
- Improve your life by rejecting mental models that inhibit freedom, joy, and other reward
Even if you donâ€™t agree with the views there, it may give you alternative views. Some readers have found the views transformative and liberating.
Q: What books or articles describe the high performance leadership framework (as taught at Stanford)?
A: I didnâ€™t take that class, but this page shows that someone who teaches that class, David Bradford, wrote a book called Power Up: Transforming Organizations Through Shared Leadership.
Also, I took a class called High Performance Leadership at Columbia Business School and the professor, Michael Feiner, wrote a book called The Feiner Points of Leadership, which you may find helpful. I found the course and professor fascinating and helpful.
Q: Should I feel bad about getting rejected from Harvard/Stanford/Columbia
A: I recommend feeling motivated instead.
Hereâ€™s something that might motivate you:
I read a study of students accepted to both Penn and Penn State. Most people would choose the Ivy League school. For various reasons some chose Penn State (probably family or budget). The study tracked the students for years after college and found roughly equal success between the groups. I interpret that finding to mean that people will find the resources anywhere to achieve to their potential. If I remember right, the article I read said that while the students at Penn State had fewer Ivy-League-caliber resources than the Penn students, there were fewer students of their caliber, so they had more access to them.
Sorry I canâ€™t cite my source so if you want more details youâ€™ll have to look it up, but the big picture, as I see it, is that the choice of school wonâ€™t hold you back. Your asserting yourself to reach your potential will determine your success.
Q: Is it ethical to search the cell phone of my partner if I’ve been told he is cheating?
A: I recommend two different questions than if itâ€™s ethical:
- What alternatives do I have?
- What will the results of my actions be for each alternative?
Even if you think itâ€™s ethical, he might not. Then he might consider you more wrong than you consider him and something salvageable could be ruined. There is no absolute measure of whatâ€™s ethical. If there was, you would have consulted it and had your answer.
If you think of as many alternatives as you can, youâ€™ll more likely find a result that will work better for you than this one, independent of whether people call it ethical or not.
Also, creating new alternatives often leads to more perspectives and solutions. Since you have to consider his perspective, you gain empathy and compassion.
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