Self-knowledge Reigns!
Every Interaction Unique!
Their Eyes, Not Yours!

I happened across a New York Times interview, from April 10, of Andrew Cosslett, CEO Continental Hotels Group. I was particularly taken by the following two quotes from Cosslett, as he explained his success:

"I think having a sense of self-awareness is very important, like how you impact each of the people you're with individually. ...

"The whole thing about staying alive on a rugby field is about reliance on the guys around you. You need to gel them as a team, but each one responds individually. So it's about dealing with them on their terms, not yours. I'm very sensitive to how people are feeling at any given moment."

The powerful notions, for me, are:

(1) "how you impact each of the people you're with"
(2) "sensitive to how people are feeling at any given moment"
(3) "dealing with them on their terms, not yours"

Many of the top leadership authorities, such as Warren Bennis and Marshall Goldsmith, have long put self-knowledge at the top of their lists of leaders' success traits. Fact is, research shows, the large majority of us are downright lousy judges of how we come across. Working on this self-knowledge is a big project, not to be taken lightly.

Major league baseball consists of a whopping 162 games in the regular season. To listen to the best managers, they field 162 different teams, depending on where the heads and hearts of their players are on any given day. The work year consists of about 250 "games"—and, indeed, each one differs from the one before and the next one to come. Conscious awareness of "where the heads are at" of our 25 colleagues on the project team on 25 May 2010 is of paramount importance to the leader; again, evidence suggests that many of us are found wanting on this score.

Finally is the paramount idea of "their terms, not yours." It is a commonplace, often ignored, that we deal with the world as seen through our own eyes, leaden with our feelings of the moment; and often are oblivious to the trials and tribulations of "the other"—alas, this seems to especially be the case with spouses, and for males. Seeing the world through the other's eyes does not in any way mean being a patsy, as so many seem to assume. It is possible to be just as tough, when necessary, looking through the other guy's spectacles. In fact, it can readily be argued that "being tough" (if necessary) is more effective when looking through the other's lenses; that is, many/most acts of toughness backfire precisely because they fail to account for the mental state of the other person.

All three of these ideas are near the core of effective leadership. And none of the three is easy to take aboard, let alone master. Yet it is not a stretch to say that success or failure on these three dimensions is the key to success or failure as a leader.

Thank you, Mr Cosslett!