From Fast Company, September 2005
By Marcus Buckingham
“We’re on a leader-building bandwagon. Companies are lining up to trade in the notion of the celebrity CEO and his all-star C-suite team for a grassroots approach that grows leaders deep within the org chart. By instilling leadership traits — integrity, creativity and initiative — among the troops, companies hope to build lasting organizations that thrive beyond any reigning chief.
A few months ago, I was invited to give a speech to a group of human-resources employees at a major investment bank. Unbeknownst to me, it had recently begun a similar leadership-development program that seeks to groom ranks of leaders far outside the executive suite.
Toward the end of my talk, I told the group that the core characteristics of leadership are self-assurance and authenticity. The best way to achieve those qualities, I said, isn’t by developing what you lack but by amplifying the areas where you are most true to your best self.
Something about the stillness in the room made me pause and scan the audience. Every face in the crowd bore what I perceived to be an expression of enlightenment. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at least I thought what I was saying was ringing true.
During the Q&A session that followed, however, I quickly discovered that my analysis was in need of some fine-tuning. The first woman I called on told me about the firm’s new initiative, and how it would measure people on a list of competencies and suggest they develop the ones they don’t have. “I’m worried what you just told us doesn’t really fit with our model,” she said.
I quickly realized that the look on the faces of my audience hadn’t been one of mutual understanding. What I had witnessed was a collective million-mile stare.
Their confusion is understandable”.
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