Good Leadership Isn’t About the “How”—It’s About the “Who”

“If you know who you’re going to be, then the ‘how,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘when,’ even the ‘why’ start to make sense.”

READ ON TO DISCOVER:

  • The seven leadership archetypes
  • How to overcome impostor syndrome
  • Three books that you should check out right now

Lolly Daskal is founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City. With more than 30 years of experience with some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, she is one of today’s most sought-after executive leadership coaches. She recently sat down with world-renowned business thinker Whitney Johnson, author of Build an A-Team and host of the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, to discuss the common pitfalls we should avoid and the crucial questions we should ask on our way to becoming better leaders.

This conversation has been edited and condensed. To listen to Lolly and Whitney’s full conversation on the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, click here.

Whitney: The idea of [your] book, The Leadership Gap, is that leaders stick with what they know, even after what they know has stopped working for them. Tell us more.

Lolly: Being a coach for some of the most famous Fortune 500 CEOs, I’ve realized that sometimes they want to take themselves to the next level, and they find themselves stuck, or feeling like something isn’t right. And most of the time, it’s that they rely on what has gotten them to where they are, but now that they want to go to the next level, they don’t know what to do.

Whitney: Why do you think that happens, and what do you recommend they do?

Lolly: When we talk about business, success, [and] leadership, we’re so busy having the conversation of, “Tell me how, tell me when, tell me where, tell me why.” But the most important question is “who.” Who are you going to be? Because if you know who you’re going to be, then the “how,” the “what,” the “when,” even the “why” start to make sense. I always say, “Get yourself right to get your business right.” And that’s what this book is about.

Whitney: Let’s go straight into the archetypes that you talk about in the book. Can you share what those archetypes are?

Lolly: Absolutely. The seven archetypes are the Rebel, the Explorer, the Truth Teller, the Hero, the Inventor, the Navigator, and the Knight. The Rebel is a disruptor who is tired of the status quo, who wants to make an impact on the world in a significant way. The Rebel is driven by confidence, and in times of stress, they have a leadership gap of the Impostor. But most people misunderstand what confidence is; competence plus capability will give you confidence. Confidence is believing you’re able, but competence is knowing you’re able, and when you know you’re able, that’s where the disruption happens.

“If you know who you’re going to be, then the ‘how,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘when,’ even the ‘why’ start to make sense.”

Whitney: [Say] you’ve got a client, and they’re saying “Lolly, I’m stagnating. What do I do?” [What] do you say to them?

Lolly: If you are stuck, you’ve allowed the gap of who you are in your leadership to take over. And that is the Impostor, who has self-doubt. The Impostor comes from the impostor syndrome, the drive of [which] is comparing ourselves to others. If you’re constantly looking over your shoulder and saying, “Look at her, look at him,” you feel that you’re not measuring up, and then you start feeling like a fraud. It happens to all of us—the impostor who has self-doubt is so busy looking over their shoulder that they can’t work on themselves.

I think of it this way: each one of us has a polarity of character—we always have the light and the dark, the strength and the weakness.

Whitney: Carl Jung.

Lolly: Absolutely, that’s where this comes from. At any given moment, any one of us can ask, “Do I want to stand on my greatness, which is the Rebel, or do I want the Impostor, which is my leadership gap taking over?” And knowing the difference—the polarity of character—gives us more control, more choices in our lives. People always come to me and say, “I have no control. I have no choices.” That’s not true. At every moment, at every meeting, in every encounter, you can ask yourself, “Who do I need to be?” And even if the Impostor shows up, we know what it takes to be confident, so all we have to do is go back to that.

Whitney: As you go through your coaching, do you find that people—CEOs in particular—fall into any one category more often than not? Or is it pretty evenly distributed among these seven archetypes, or virtues?

Lolly: Let’s go back to Jung—what does he say? We’re the sum of all our parts. These seven archetypes stand for truth, trust, honesty, integrity, and loyalty. Do we have all these virtues within us? Yes. Do we choose them all the time? We might not.

“People always come to me and say, ‘I have no control. I have no choices.’ That’s not true.”

[Let’s] take the Explorers, who are always about being intuitive—their leadership gap is the Exploiter, who manipulates. Nobody wants to see themselves as an Exploiter who manipulates, but when you are stressed and feel that things are out of control, we try to rein things in, and we might say something that is manipulative without even realizing it.

Another archetype is the Navigator. The Navigator is someone who is very smart, pragmatic, and practical. They’re very good at connect the dots and coming up with solutions. And the gift of the Navigator is steering and guiding people, without [directly] answering their questions.

The leadership gap of the Navigator is the Fixer, who comes across as arrogant. Someone comes to them with a problem, and the first thing they do is tell them what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Most of the time, when people come to you, they’re not interested in the solution. 99% of people just want you to understand that there is a problem, and for you to listen. So this is a very important archetype, and people might say, “Oh that’s not within me.” But it’s within all of us. This can save a marriage, this can save a partnership, this can save a business.

Whitney: In your work, you reference Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Share with us about how some religious traditions talk about opposition in all things—and certainly in psychology we talk about the light and the dark—and yet we’re so quick to disdain the dark, to try to find scapegoats so we don’t need to look at that side of ourselves.

Lolly: Everything that I’ve ever taught stems from the work of Viktor Frankl, Joseph Campbell, and Carl Jung. Think about it this way—you can’t have a shadow without a light. [Even] the bright, beautiful sun creates shadows all the time. And it’s the same thing in mythology—you won’t understand happiness if you haven’t gone through sadness. You won’t appreciate your strengths if you haven’t suffered from your weaknesses. I am not a one-sided human being. I have two sides, and to be a whole person, I have to learn not to balance them, but to integrate them.

If you read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self, and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I guarantee that your life will never be the same. It changed my whole perspective.

“I have two sides, and to be a whole person, I have to learn not to balance them, but to integrate them.”

Whitney: You encourage leaders to question who they are while they are leading.

Lolly: Absolutely. At any given moment, we get caught up in distractions. Think about what a leader goes through on a given day—not only do they have to worry about what’s happening in the outside world, but they have to worry about what’s happening within their organization.

And this is even about parents. You’re worried about your children, you’re worried about running the house a certain way—this applies to everyone. We have too much going on, racing against time. And when we’re racing against time, we’re concentrating on the “how”—“How are we going to get through this? How are we going to make this happen?” And what happens is we tend to lose ourselves; we tend to forget what’s important, and what’s important is the virtues of who we are.

When we’re stressed, we become Exploiters, we become Deceivers, we become Mercenaries. We become self-serving and corrupt. So we have to concentrate on the archetypes that lead us to greatness. The question that I always ask my leaders to ask themselves is, “In this meeting, who do you need to be? In this conversation, who do you need to be? In this venture, who do you need to be?” And what that means is, “Which virtue are you going to come with?” And that’s the most important part—the “who” is attached to a virtue.

Whitney: Disrupting yourself is the hardest work that we do.

Lolly: It’s the most meaningful.