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  • Kit Allowitz

Don’t Pull the Chicken Switch….and Lead!

I love a definition of leadership offered by one of my leadership thinker heroes:

“There are 2 classic leadership mistakes: One: The belief you can lead others before you have learned to lead yourself. Two: The belief that you can lead others instead of allowing others to lead themselves against a shared set of expectations.” Stephen R. Covey

One: The belief you can lead others before you have learned to lead yourself.

Leading yourself includes taking time to look at the way you see things. Often when we take that time, we discover the way we see things changes (evolves, matures, gets wiser, gets more holistic). I have always been a fan of the Anaïs Nin statement, “We don’t see the world (leadership, discipline, time management, goal completion, etc) as it is, but as we are.” … and therein lies the potential for problems (italics added).

Looking at ourselves first, our tendencies, our way of being, our habits, behaviors, actions, and perhaps hardest of all – our mental models, we often discover areas of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially related to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

Psychological consistency exists when we don’t know what we don’t know (this is called a blind spot). When confronted with new information, cognitive dissonance can drive us to question what we believe what we are taught and exposed to regarding leading, leadership, leading ourselves as well as leading others. Taking time to simply think about what we believe about leadership can produce a-ha moments on our path towards being wiser leaders.

In my twenties as a first-time leader, I was convinced that the harder I pushed my team, the more I demanded numbers, and the more hours we worked equaled results and wins. I threw health, balance, mission, vision, training, listening, understanding, coaching, mentoring and patience out the window in the name of achieving the goal. My set beliefs about leadership impaired my ability to see that to truly get long-term sustainable results, I had to get in check; my code, my values, my beliefs about what success was and truly meant…. for myself first.

Mistake Two: The belief you can lead others instead of allowing others to lead themselves against a shared set of expectations.

Mission is why we exist. Vision is where are we going. Values are the code we live by. Strategy is how do we get there. Mission, vision, values and strategy, when effectively communicated allow employees to lead themselves against this shared set of expectations and desired outcomes. Now, with that said, is there still the need and the wisdom for a leader to lead?


Avoiding mistake two allows the leader to foster an interdependent relationship between leader and direct report, rather than “I’m better than you as leader” or “I’m the supervisor because I possess some ‘super vision.’”

I work with a company that is working diligently and with passion to wisely communicate its mission, vision and strategy to its employees while also asking them to identify and then match up their values with the company’s values to find synergies. Once that exercise is complete, employees will more readily lead themselves against a shared set of expectations and preeminence is much more likely.

We can avoid falling for the 2 classic leadership mistakes by taking time to think.

For as we take time to look at the way we see things, the way we see things changes.

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