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The Understated Leader, Continued

Over the past 3 years I have submitted more than 114 blog posts here. By far, the most read piece is on the understated leader. This has been a fascination to me and I have no solid ideas about why this topic has captured the imagination. Employees are tired of asshole bosses? People are looking for a different leadership model? Women leaders hope this article tells them they are okay? Shy people unite?! I haven’t a clue. But it has made my antennae twitch when I see good examples of this type of leader. It has also amused me when I see leaders who are the exact opposite.

To restate my definition of an understated leader: Someone who has low ego needs, does not need to hear the sound of his/her own voice, coach and mentor to many, let’s the light shine on the team instead of self and a lower key demeanor. These people get lots done, deliver the results through their people and are sought after bosses.

Here are comments I’ve heard from various leaders recently that are good examples of understated leaders.

After surpassing very bold goals and being publicly congratulated: “I thank you for the recognition but your praise is misdirected. We never could have accomplished so much without the enthusiasm and determination of the clients. And our team was relentless in reaching out to the clients. It was a true community effort.” This woman oozes potent leadership and blushes and deflects from recognition. And it’s not because she is shy or lacks self confidence.

“In the midst of the craziness of being acquired I have so much more to do. But, honestly, I spend as much time as possible making sure my staff lands well when the dust settles. I’ll be fine no matter what happens because I’m an executive. But they need support, focus and help if they decide to leave. That’s my number one priority now.”

“I’m most satisfied when my direct reports are working well with their peers around the company and we executives just leave them alone.”

And here are some remarks from folks who believe they are humble.

“It’s not that I care about my own status or title, I just want to get the right stuff done. For that to happen my boss has to make it clear to the organization that I am her proxy in all matters. People need to know that I have been granted executive authority.”

“These younger staff members are so bright and passionate. I love them. But they have no respect for authority.”

“I’ve been operating without a direct boss for awhile now. That’s mostly okay because I know what I need to do but I miss that contact and supervision. But I interact with the CEO nearly every day so I suppose that counts.”

At the root of a less ego driven style of leadership is genuine humility. You can’t learn that. You either are or you aren’t. I’m not advocating for only one effective style here. I’m saying don’t overlook the leaders who don’t spend loads of time managing up or tooting their own horn. They will get less of the CEO’s attention but they sure have a large staff following.

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