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#28: Great Leaders Aren’t Perfect ft. Joe Folkman

February 16, 2022 in

Great Leaders Aren’t Perfect ft. Joe Folkman


Let’s say, your boss offers you a developmental opportunity and she says, you’re going to get a 360 assessment. You’re going to be evaluated by me, your peers and your team. And you’re excited for this opportunity because you want to progress in your career. You want to start leveling up, kind of want to see what’s.

So you take the 360, everyone fills it out and you get your feedback. What’s the first thing you look at. If you’re like most people, it’s probably something along the lines and skip over all the good things and jump right to the developmental gaps. You say to yourself, “once I fix that, that’ll be a good leader and I’ll be ready for the next stage of my career.”

On this episode of Coaching Through Stories, our guest is working to change this approach in leadership development. Joe Folkman is co-founder and President of Zenger Folkman, a firm specializing in leadership and organizational development.

As one of the Nation’s renowned, psychometricians his extensive expertise focuses on survey research and change management. He has over 30 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s most prestigious and successful organizations in both the public and private. Joe’s research has been published in several publications, including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, National Business Employment, Weekly Training and Development Magazine, and Talent Quarterly. Additionally, Zenger is the Author or Co-author of 10 books.

In this episode, Joe shares a bit about Zenger Folkman’s widely used leadership competencies. Which includes 19 behaviors that fold up into a tent comprised of character, personal capability, leaning change, focus on results and interpersonal skills. Joe shares how his research has shown that if you have a strength in just one of the 19 behaviors they measure, your leadership is in the 64th percentile. And if you do three of the 19 behaviors, it jumps up to the 81st percentile. The biggest takeaway here is that anyone has the ability to be a great leaders without having to be perfect. Leaders can have a tremendous impact on the people they lead, even if they have gaps; so, let’s not focus solely on our gaps.

When you get your 360, don’t just look at what was rated bad. Instead, look at what you do well and what you did well. Something Joe mentions to be aware of is how “fatal flaws” can overshadow a leader strengths.  In executive coaching, some clients will focus on addressing a fatal flaw while also working on building complimentary skills to their strengths. Joe talks about how a leader doesn’t attempt to turn a fatal flaw into a strength. Rather, the goal is to reduce the fatal flaw’s ability to overshadow all of a leader’s strengths. But, if a leader doesn’t have a fatal flaw, it is better to focus on a leader’s strengths and build complimentary skills to support those strengths instead of addressing weaknesses.

Key Points:

  1. A leader who has gaps can still have a significant impact on those they lead.
  2. When you get your 360, don’t just look at what was rated bad.
  3. When a leader does not have a fatal flaw it is better to focus on building complimentary strengths rather than addressing weaknesses.

Episode Highlights

  • [3:24] How we can be great leaders and have a tremendous impact on the people we lead, even if we have gaps.
  • [5:22] Joe’s role in his corporation and what does he do?
  • [10:00] It’s your strengths that really help you succeed.
  • [25:16] You don’t have to be perfect to be a good leader. Progress not perfection.
  • [25:49] The role of competitiveness in leadership and how a leader can use these competencies on their own?
  • [26:45] On how the best leaders are both empathetic and competitive.
  • [27:50] Figuring out who your enemy is and who you are competing against?
  • [34:46] Addressing your fatal flaws.
  • [39:52] Asking people to do hard things is a great formula for you to be inspired.
  • [46:40] Joe’s take on leadership trends and development for the next five to ten years.
  • [55:50]  High level of trust is an important factor in leadership.

Resources Mentioned:

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