Three "Spire's" of Great Leadership

slc church spire smallMy presentation at the emetrics summit in Washington DC is on the topic of “Creating a Data Driven Web Decision Making Culture” and the slides are forming in my mind right now.

One important element of a great culture is great leadership. Team’s, companies, organizations are truly a reflection of their leaders, it is really spooky how much that happens.

There are more books on leadership then you can count and even more points of view on what makes for great leadership. The great benefit of having a blog is that it is easy to add to the discussion. There is little damage I can do to the general world knowledge by adding one more point of view to this great topic. : )

There is nothing uniquely Web Analytics about this post, but for the last three years I have lead a Web Research & Analytics team and so perhaps there is something that that might have influenced my perspective.

When I think of great leadership in my mind it comes down to three extremely important things, I call them the three “spire’s” of great leadership (just like that picture you see up top).

So what is a spire:

spireslc church spire 2 small12
1. A top part or point that tapers upward; a pinnacle
2. A structure or formation, such as a steeple, that tapers to a point at top
 

The reason I choose this word is because when I think of great leadership I think of something high and up there and inspiring and something to look up to and something that points “upward” (translate that into some greatly inspiring thing, like this closeup of the middle spire in the picture).

The first “spire” of great leadership is:

aspire
1. To have a great ambition or ultimate goal; desire strongly: aspired to stardom
2. To strive toward an end; aspiring to great knowledge.
 

Great leaders aspire for greatness. For themselves, for their teams, for their companies, for each and every individual around them.

They are not content with what exists or what is possible. They are long term thinkers. They naturally want to knock the ball out of the park every time they are at bat. They have an elevator pitch handy of what their vision is, what they are trying to get done and how the team they lead can contribute to value for the employees of the company, the customers and the shareholders.

Great leaders are hungry, they want more and they are never satisfied with status quo. They want to change the world (even if it is their little ecosystem), again I stress for their employees, their companies and themselves (in that order).

They don’t care what is their business and what is not, they are content to “poke their nose” in any company business in order to satisfy a company customer, they are willing to fight “HR” for their employees.

They come to work because they want to and because they have a vision of what to do and how to achieve it. Vision that is not simply in the service of making money but vision that is in service to “making meaning” in this world. (And yes you can make meaning in the work selling tax software, as we do, or innovating plumbing supplies or running websites or writing blogs.)

The second, middle, “spire” of great leadership is:

perspire
1. Hard-working; industrious
2. Resistant to pressure; not readily penetrated
3. Performed with or marked by great diligence or energy; a project that required years of hard work
2. Sustained effort; “coming up with compelling plots is a little bit inspiration and a lot of sweat equity”

Great leaders work hard and work smarter, and more so with every passing day. My observation is not that great leaders are slave drivers who stay at work until midnight or make people work weekends (that is counter productive), but rather great leaders simply bring 110% of themselves to work during work hours and set a awesome example for all those around them.

There is often a misunderstanding that a great leader can review at a high level and cruise by, that is probably five people in the world. For the rest us us it is summed by by this quote:

Get up early, Work hard, Strike oil. – John D. Rockefeller

Great leaders stay focused, they don’t give up easily, they care about nuances and simply because of their love and passion to make meaning get everyone around them to bring their complete self to work.

The third “spire” of great leadership is:

inspire
1. To affect, guide or arouse by divine influence
2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion; hymns that inspire the congregation
3a. To stimulate to action; motivate; a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus

4. To draw forth; elicit; a teacher who inspired admiration and respect
5. To be the cause or source of; bring about; an invention that inspired many imitations
 

(The definition of inspire above is concocted by excerpted various different definitions to communicate all that I envision the word inspire to mean, its standard dictionary definition somehow felt, well, not inspiring.)

Great leaders inspire, above and beyond they are have this raw, unrestricted, awesome ability to inspire. It is not just sufficient to aspire, it is not sufficient to just perspire. No woman/man is a island that can succeed by themselves. Magnificent success (personal, professional) comes from the ability to inspire all those around you to contribute to create meaning in this world.

In my prior life I used to be a Senior Project Manager. Then I was “promoted” to be a Manager. During that transition I learned a very valuable life lesson: In Project Management you deal with Resources and in a Manager role you deal with People. The lesson was People are not Resources. It was a eye opening experience.

The greatest leaders are very good at communicating a vision, articulating a path to get to the promised land, and motivating each individual in a way that connects to that particular individual to get to the promised land.

They inspire because they aspire. They inspire because they perspire.

There is one other element that is the foundation for our “spire” structure. IMHO a deeply important quality that differentiates great leaders from ok leaders.

It is their ability to have empathy for those in their teams, people around them. Not sympathy, empathy. This is specially true for people managers.

The BBC Home / SOS Teacher website defines the difference between these two words as:

Sympathy is when you are able to feel sorry for a character, but empathy is when you can actually understand exactly what it would be like to be in their shoes. Empathy goes a lot deeper and you would fully understand someone’s thoughts and feelings and you would feel far more strongly about them and their situation.

While not the perfect Webster or Oxford dictionary definition it captures exactly how I like to think of these two words.

In my experience if a great leader does not have the ability to empathize it is much harder to motivate and inspire. If you don’t understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of people you are leading it is much harder to lead.

While this post is not directly related to my normal arena of Web Insights, I hope you find it meaningful. Please share your feedback / critique / lessons you have learned via comments.

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Comments

  1. 1
    JIm Sterne says:

    I aspire to perspire enough to inspire as well as Avinash.

  2. 2
    Lars says:

    A great leader must:

    Acknowledge that his or her profile is not the ultimate profile. Dare to employ your complete opposite. Get a diverse mix of ages, gender, cultural background, interests and personality traits. Look up MBTI, Keirsey and Belbin to make certain that you're thinking outside of your own box when staffing. Dare to run the risk of hiring someone who won't just bring you sunshine but dares to rain on your parade from time to time.

    The next step is to understand the driving forces behind each individual in your team. What makes John and Jane tick and thrive? Not everyone wants or needs the same leadership style. Individualize your leadership. No size fits all. Allow differences to build a dynamic team. You will be challenged way more often and be more creative and more successful than if you're hiring ten carbon copies of yourself.

    Just my two cents. Or my two öre if you will.

  3. 3
    Bruce Boston says:

    First and foremost, great post!

    And, let's not forget: 'Conspire'…

    Viva la Analysez!!

    -bruce

  4. 4

    Wow, I like that your thinking about your presentation at the Emetrics Summit this far ahead. I'm looking foward to hearing it in person.

    Leadership – where do I start? Without the leaders – there's no insight. Hard Work? I figure if your going to work hard, it might as well be for the right idea.

    When I think of Empathy, I think of someone like Alexander the Great, who would fight battles along with his soldiers.

    In Web Analytics, I would think, Empathy goes two ways – Empathy towards the Stakeholders(the people who need your data – you need to understand and feel their pain) and Empathy towards your employees (when you lead a group – like you do).

  5. 5

    Lars: In terms of personality profiles I like the Enneagram because it accommodates for complexity of human mind in different environments. Myers-Briggs type tests are "limited" because they tend to "bucket" us into one group of the other.

    Ennegram's accommodate for the fact that a person behaves one way when they are in their "comfort" zone and another way when they are in "uncomfortable" situations.

    You can read about ennegram at: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

    You can take a free test at: http://similarminds.com/personality_tests.html

    Specifically: http://similarminds.com/advtest.html

    (and once you know your type go back to the ennegram institute website to read the in depth data for your profile)

    Going back to leadership, you are absolutely right that great leaders complement their weaknesses as they make hiring decisions. But what you point out about self-awareness is even more important.

    Great leaders are extremely self aware of their strengths and weaknesses and their "profiles". Be it from taking tests or from simply asking for feedback from others. Self awareness is a journey and a very critical one.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Trackbacks

  1. […]
    Hello there I made a informative piktochart on Avinash Kaushik’s article on the Three Spires of Leadership!
    http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/three-spires-of-great-leadership/
    […]

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