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On the surface, it seems like the concerns of a Fortune 500 CEO are drastically different than a manager of four employees, but as leaders, they actually have a lot more in common.
According to Lolly Daskal’s new book The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness, every leader, no matter their field or level of experience, has at least one of the seven types of leadership gaps. A leadership gap is a shortcoming a professional has that directly correlates with their strengths in the workplace, holding them back from reaching their full potential. Daskal has identified the most common gaps everyone has and paired them with their corresponding archetypes or remarkable abilities as leaders.
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As the CEO and founder of Lead from Within, a leadership consulting firm, Daskal has seen these patterns emerge first hand as she has coached hundreds of executives at companies worldwide dealing with a range of circumstances.
I spoke with Daskal about how she came up with a framework to determine anyone’s leadership style and what we all can do to become better leaders at work.
Q: Reading The Leadership Gap resonated with me because it seems like we all face similar types of problems at work, whether a person manages a team of two or is responsible for thousands. The issue most leaders face stems from relying too heavily on what’s always worked. What’s the wake-up call every leader needs in order to be open to changing the way they operate?
Daskal: Most leaders wake up one day and find themselves wondering why what they wanted so badly didn’t happen. The goal they so desperately wished for wasn’t achieved; the target they yearned for wasn’t reached; the milestone they craved wasn’t accomplished. This is the beginning of the wake-up call.
At first, they will wonder why, and then they’ll blame others or find fault with their circumstances. And it’s only after they try and fail again that they see that their lack of success has nothing to do with others or the circumstances. It has to do with who they are more than what they do, or how or when or where they do it. And it’s when they come to this realization that they begin to understand something needs to change and it needs to change fast.
Q: Of the seven leadership archetypes you’ve identified in the book, I fall under a few archetypes at once, and I’m sure most people do at different stages of their career. How do you recommend a professional best identify which leadership archetypes best describe them, so they can ultimately determine the leadership gaps that hold them back?
Daskal: The thing that makes my book different from every other business and leadership book out there is that it doesn’t go along with the desire to place ourselves in a box. We’ve done it with Strength Finders. We’ve done it with Myers-Briggs, and we do it with the Enneagram.
What we fail to understand — and my book gives you the answer — is that we are not one thing. Our strength and not our weakness, our greatness and not our gaps. We are the sum of all our parts — that is what makes us whole. In essence, we are each of the archetypes mentioned in my book’s RETHINK system.
R — the Rebel, who is confident
E — the Explorer, who is intuitive
T — the Truth teller, who speaks with candor
H — the Hero, who is courageous
I — the Inventor, who has integrity
N — the Navigator, who is trusted
K — the Knight, for whom loyalty is everything
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The seven archetypes have seven virtues. These virtues are within us and at any given moment, depending on the situation, we must choose who we want to be in that circumstance because it has a bearing on our decisions and choices. For example, if we don’t choose the confident Rebel, we might end up leading from our gap with the Imposter, who has self-doubt. Or if we don’t choose to be the intuitive Explorer, we might end up leading from our gap with the Exploiter, who is manipulative.
As we see, each archetype has its leadership gap — a polarity of character. This system allows us to RETHINK who we want to be in every given moment — knowing and understanding that at the choice we make can either lead us to our greatness or to our gaps.
Q: You say that when a leader leverages their gaps, it’ll help them find their path to greatness. How do we know if we’ve achieved our full greatness as professionals and as people?
Daskal: As a professional, it can be a title, a position, a business. But at the end of the day, those things will stop filling in the gaps, and you will be left always wanting more.
If we seek greatness, we will always be a work in progress because life will give us challenges so we can do better and be more, surpassing who we were yesterday, on our way to being greater tomorrow.
The definition of greatness is as personal as your definition of success. What I have come to understand, in working for more than three decades with people around the world, is that while greatness has meant different things to different people, everyone wants to find purpose and meaning in their lives.
They want to know they are making a difference. They want to know people appreciate them for who they are, and they want to know they are making an impact. The bottom line is people want to know they have mattered and contributed in this lifetime.
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Q: How do you recommend finding leaders at our companies or in our communities worth modeling ourselves after?
Daskal: The leader we usually want to model our behavior after is usually the one who has the archetypical virtues discussed in The Leadership Gap. They are confident and intuitive truth tellers, they lead with integrity and courage and trust, and they are loyal.
When you see these virtues in others, you want to be able to say you have them in yourself. Sometimes what we admire in others is a wonderful mirror. It shows what we yearn to have within us even if we have not yet developed it.
Q: What ongoing assessments should we be using to ensure we’re properly managing our gaps as leaders?
Daskal: Self-assessment and self-reflection are the best tools to help us manage our gaps. Self-reflection is a humble process, essential to finding out why we think, say or do certain things. I have found that people who do little self-reflection are often impaired by huge reality blind spots. What you feel, you attract; what you imagine, you create; and what you think, you become.
So many of us spend our time transfixed by all the ways we can reflect ourselves out into the world that we barely find time to reflect back deeply on who we are within. If you want ongoing assessment, you have to properly manage yourself before you can manage anything else.
There are many ways to assess who you are being — it can be a moment-to-moment application of the RETHINK system from The Leadership Gap. And you can ask yourself in any given situation, "who do I need to be in this moment?"
I have created an assessment that most of my clients take. It allows you to see who you are being as you are leading and which archetype you tend to lean into. But it must be understood that we need all seven archetypes to be a whole person and to unleash our greatness.