Being a Leader is Not for Everyone

I have seen leaders succeed and I have seen leaders fail.  When I look at both situations, it makes me want to reflect on the reason why?  The ingredients for a successful leader are both simple and complex.  I believe the central leadership characteristics for success are drive, selflessness, and curiosity.

Drive.  If a leader is not self-motivated, it is all for naught.  There must be an inner passion and determination to achieve goals that are bigger than just one person, goals that have a positive impact on people in the immediate sphere of influence and maybe the world.  Drive causes the leader to rise in the morning with a new energy and vision for what he wants to accomplish today with the help of others.  This leader is generally optimistic about the future.

Selflessness.  A leader who thinks of others first is a servant leader.  The leader is more worried about how to put others in the limelight than him or herself.  This giving and caring leader wants to achieve success for the customer, the team member, the company, and the community.  This leader is generally involved in ways above and beyond the everyday to do list.  The selfless leader is humble.  It does not mean that the individual does not want recognition, it just means that he or she wants the recognition to envelope the whole team.  This leader is asking the question, “how can I remove barriers for my team so that they can take care of the customer (internal or external) in the best way possible?”

Curiosity.  An often-overlooked trait in an effective leader is curiosity.  In a leadership role curiosity means that the person is interested in others as human beings – What makes them tick? Who are they when I am not looking? What can I do differently and creatively to reach them and teach them?  Curiosity is not sticking one’s head in the sand but looking around and observing keenly.  This leader is fascinated by people and how things work together to achieve positive results.

I also believe the characteristics in leaders who often fail are anger, narcissism, and lack of trustworthiness.  Sometimes, these traits are called derailers.  The leader has a lot going for them – intelligent, gets things done, and stands out from the crowd.  Nonetheless , even one of these traits can get in the way of longevity in a job.

Anger – You have seen leaders who come unhinged when someone makes a mistake.  It is not a pretty sight.  Everyone who is around is embarrassed for the leader and for the individual who is the brunt of that anger.  The reaction is typically way out of proportion to the crime.  The team member or small group who are the victims will either leave the organization or become so cowered that they do just enough to keep from getting fired.  No one is motivated to go the extra mile by anger and the fear that comes with it.  What a mess anger leaves in its trail!

Narcissism – There are many papers and articles written about narcissism.  One that I read some time ago talked about the 16 different types of narcissism.  Another word I have heard to describe this trait in its extreme is “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is a tactic for manipulating someone in a way that makes them question their own reality.  A narcissistic leader needs to have his or her ego stroked whether it is deserved or not.  This is someone who has been falsely nurtured to believe they can do no wrong.  This is  a leader who will probably never say “I am sorry” or “I messed up”.  This leader likes to be front and center.  This type of leader lacks sympathy or empathy.  He or she comes across as arrogant but can be charming too.  Enough about that nastiness!

Lack of Trustworthiness – I have worked for leaders who I did not trust for various reasons – they did not remember having agreement about next steps, they flip-flopped on decisions sometimes without communicating the new decision, they talked about me and others behind the back, they discussed confidential matters openly, they did not stand up for me when questioned by a higher up leader, etc.  Not much fun to work for this type of leader.  These non-trustworthy leaders may have hidden agendas or lack values and purpose or are just unpredictable.  We want the leaders who we follow to have integrity.  We want them to be transparent about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish.  Trust and respect are huge in developing teamwork and a workplace where team members want to stay and be productive.

These thoughts lead us to ask, “Can a leader change?”.  The answer is “It depends.”.  Is the person willing to work towards being a leader who has more drive, selflessness, and curiosity?  Is the person willing to do the really hard work to become more in control of their emotions, less self-centered, and more trustworthy.  I do believe that some leadership skills, knowledge, and behaviors can be learned and practiced and will over time help them to evolve into a good manager and leader.  It is just much easier if the person who wants to be a great leader has some of the inherent traits to begin this life-long learning journey.

To sum this up, here is an entertaining video about bad leaders vs. good leaders.  Hope you enjoy!  Now, go out there and be a great leader, one who others what to work with and emulate!!!



In the scheme of things….

It is 2023 and I am not sure I believe that things have changed as much as we think they have.  You hear people talk about the good old days or ask, “What’s this generation coming to?”.   We just don’t seem to accept that some things just never change or change very little.  I still believe that today and yesterday there were good people and not so good people, that some people were thoughtful about the future legacy they are leaving and some people don’t think about it at all. 

This was confirmed (that things don’t change as much as we think they do) when I found Tom’s grandfather’s employee handbook from 1934.  Here are some comparisons in content excerpted from it to a sample employee handbook of today.  How interesting!!!

Leave of Absence


Employees will not be granted leave of absence for a longer period than six months, except in the cases of sickness of himself or family or when agreed to between the employee and management.


An extended leave of absence can be available as a reasonable accommodation.  An employee who desires such an accommodation should communicate this to the Human Resources Manager.  The Human Resources Manager will engage in an interactive process with the employee by which the possibility of a personal leave of absence can be fully explored.  See FMLA for more information.



An employee disciplined or who feels unjustly treated, shall upon making written request to the immediate superior officer within ten days from the date of advice or occurrence, be given a fair and impartial hearing within ten days thereafter and a decision will be rendered within twenty days after completion of the hearing.  The right to appeal to the Manager of Personnel is conceded.


The Company seeks to deal openly and directly with its employees and believes that communication between employees and management is critical to solving problems.

Employees that may have an issue or problem that needs to be resolved should work with the supervisor, first, to attempt to agree upon a resolution.

If a resolution cannot be agreed upon, the employee should present his or her issue, in writing, to the next level manager.  The issue can be raised through the chain of command including:

  • Administrator
  • Vice President
  • President

The decision of the President is final.

A Day’s Work/Hours of Work


For eight hours pay eight hours work shall be performed.  Eight consecutive hours, exclusive of the meal period, shall constitute a day.  Regular assigned daily working hours shall not be reduced below eight except by mutual agreement between employees and supervising officer. When less than eight hours are worked for convenience of employees or when due to inclement weather interruptions occur to regular established work period preventing eight hours work, only actual time worked or held on duty will be paid.


The standard workweek for full-time employees is typically five days, eight hours per day.  Schedules (beginning and ending times, meal periods, etc.) may vary based on the Company’s and customer’s needs.  Employees may not deviate from the Company’s hours of work unless the supervisor approves a modification.  It is understood that employees may be required to work additional hours to accommodate certain deadlines.

If the employee chooses not to work when the work area, work site, or location is designated as open, and there are severe weather conditions, the employee will be required to use PTO, if available. If PTO is not available, the employee will not be paid.

Supervising Employees/Exempt Employees


Employees whose responsibilities and or supervisory duties require service in excess of the working hours or days assigned for the general force will be compensated on a monthly rate to cover all service rendered.


Exempt Salaried Employees typically work more than 40 hours per week and are exempt from overtime pay requirements under federal and state law and therefore are not entitled to receive payment for overtime regardless of how many hours they work per week.

Wow!  Hope you find this as fascinating as I do.  People and times have not changed much.  For more information about change/not change, see the article “It’s Time to Stop Talking About Generations” by Louis Menand published in the New Yorker last year.


Every leader goes through many stages of development, which typically begins with taking a fresh look at yourself as a leader.  During the first stage, you listen and learn from everyone and every situation.  The second stage involves beginning to prove yourself as a leader, especially in your decision-making and problem-solving skills.  By the third stage you begin to have successes and deliver results based on the potential others saw in you. The fourth stage is when you start to question your abilities, especially when something has set you back a bit.

After a few iterations of the other stages, you enter the 5th stage – the one where you exhibit a little more maturity as a leader.  You discover a sense of humility and humor – the stage where you realize that those you surround yourself with are just as important, if not more so, than you are.  If you are a leader that takes yourself too seriously, you may find work life more difficult than it needs to be. 

In a Forbes article by Chinwe Esimai titled “Great Leadership Starts with Self-Awareness” she states that self-awareness has been cited as the most important capability for leaders to develop.  Successful leaders know where their natural inclinations lie and use this knowledge to boost those inclinations or to compensate for them.

Key points to self-awareness:

  1. Know yourself.  How self-aware are you?  How keen is your emotional intelligence, that ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others?  How are you effectively using that awareness to manage your behavior and relationships?  Are you honest with yourself about areas in which you need to grow?
  • Identify external factors that trigger both negative and positive behaviors.  How can you control your negative reaction to triggers?
  • Gather trusted feedback to help you understand the impact of your actions on others.  Are you unaware of your blind spots that may limit your effectiveness as a leader?
  • Consider the circumstances by thinking about when to utilize a personality trait to your advantage and when it’s best to leave it on the sidelines.  Most self-aware leaders have learned to identify their natural tendencies and have adjusted their behavior in some way, in order to change how they are perceived.  They did not change their personality, but they did learn how to change their behavior, when needed, in both business and personal situations.
  • Assess behaviors in light of your values and priorities by being honest about what tendencies you would like to change and which ones you would like to build upon.  The best outcome of self-awareness is to figure out what makes you amazing and be more of the excellent you.
  • Stay curious about yourself and others.  Curiosity will help you continually learn, grow, and develop as an effective leader.  Remember, you can learn from each person you interact with throughout the day.

If you want to go a little deeper regarding self-awareness, listen to this TED talk. (18:09)  The Power of Self-Awareness by William L. Sparks

“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” – Carl Jung

What transformational leader is lying silent in you, encompassing all of the talents and gifts that can enable you to become the next-generation you?” – Robert McMillan

“If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.” – Kazuo Ishiguro

How to be a good communicator at work

Top Things to Remember about Being a Good Communicator at Work

  1. Be a good listener. Make the effort to listen to your boss, your teammates, and your customers.  Don’t be the person who over-chats to the extent that your fellow team members begin to avoid you.
  2. Be positive. Minimize the negatives. Play up the positives.  Make sure your tone and body language match that positivity.
  3. Encourage new team members. Be welcoming.  Help the new person fit in.
  4. Give others a heads up. Tell other employees what you know.  You may know something about the work that they don’t.
  5. Be a friend. Be friendly but stay professional.
  6. Have a sense of humor. It is good to have a sense of humor just make sure your humor is not hurtful and is not aimed at another person.

“THINK before you speak.

T – is it true, H – is it helpful, I – is it inspiring, N – is it necessary, and K – is it kind?”

– Author Unknown

The Who, What, Why, and How of Personality Assessments

I am a big fan of personality assessments used in the workplace or for any type of teambuilding.  We use this tool often in our work. Besides being plain ol’ fun, it provides individuals, teammates, and supervisors insight they would not otherwise have.



The assessment can be used for individual employees, teams, boards, groups or even families.



A personality profile describes who you are as a unique person. The assessment we have chosen to use is the Workplace Big Five. It provides general information (see two sample assessments below) about each person who completes the assessment questionnaire based on 5 essential personality characteristics.  Each individual will get scores in the following categories:

  • Need for Stability
  • Extraversion
  • Originality
  • Accommodation
  • Consolidation

The assessment only takes 15 minutes, but, if the individual doesn’t overthink their responses and goes with their first response, reveals much. We learn, among many other things:

  • How they respond to stress.
  • Whether they are stimulated by people and activity or not.
  • Whether they are open to change or prefer the status quo.
  • How they respond to authority.
  • How much they plan.
  • How each of these characteristics interacts with the other.



The purpose of completing the assessment can be multi-fold or for one aim:

  • Selection
  • Promotion
  • Validation
  • Development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Collaboration

It is always helpful for each individual who participates to become more self-aware of his/her personality, individuality, competencies and motivations. There are no good or bad scores. The results help the individual explore their unique personality styles, how their personality exhibits itself in the workplace, and how it helps them relate to team members.

In a group setting, it is so freeing to see how you are alike and different from your teammates. If someone discovers she has a low ‘warmth’ score, she might become more conscious of how this effects her encounters with others. Conversely, there are ah-ha moments such as “Oh, ______ is not acting like that to get under my skin, that is just who she is.”

The estimate is that 60% of your personality is based on who you were at birth (nature), while 40% is based on what has occurred since then (nurture). The old adage, “A tiger can’t change its stripes” comes to mind. Did you know that under the tiger’s fur, the skin is also striped? The interpretation is that we can’t change our essential nature. We are who we are down to the skin. Nonetheless, being self-aware can make all the difference in the world.



If you would like to learn more about assessments and how they can be used with coaching or teaching, we would love to hear from you anytime!



Powers & Associates is certified to assess the The WorkPlace Big Five by:

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WorkPlace Big Five Assessment Samples

See a sample trait report here:  Trait Report

See a sample narrator report here:   Narrator Report


The Good and the Bad in Leadership

I often listen to NPR radio. On one such occasion, there was a series of soliloquies about the 7 Deadly Sins. The purpose of the program was for presenters to talk about one Deadly Sin and how it comes to bear in less obvious ways. This led me to thinking about these sins as they apply to leadership.

Let’s explore them one at a time but let’s also look at the flip side of each sin.

Greed. Greed can quickly get you derailed. The leader who becomes greedy may make short-term decisions rather than long term ones. They may choose to pay key people less so that their year-end bonus will be more. Greed could create a positive influence if it yields giving generously or creating goodwill. This type of greed could have a leader  greedy for acknowledgement or being unselfish in making decisions about other people rather than selfish, e.g. taking a risk on promoting someone who is not quite ready, because the leader sees the potential rather than the immediate gain.

Sloth. Sloth in a leader can lead to many downsides. I have had the unfortunate experience of working for a boss who was slothful. I am sure you have had similar experiences with a boss or co-worker. This individual does just enough to get by. They pawn off work to anyone who is ready, willing, and able. When you follow-up with this slothful leader on tasks you thought they were going to do, somehow it has bounced back to you. On the positive side, a leader who holds back and lets others lead the way, allowing them to demonstrate their talents, gifts, and skills, knows that letting others shine doesn’t take away from their own competence.  What might look like sloth, could very well be good leadership, so be careful that you are not quick to judge.

Pride. You’ve heard the old adage, “Pride cometh before a fall.” Unbridled pride in a leader can create a huge narcissistic impediment. This is the leader who takes the credit for anything and everything, whether he accomplished it or not. Also, this is the leader who is potentially to prideful to own up to mistakes or short comings.  On the winning side, pride can help a person stay afloat when getting through a difficult time. The leader who takes great pride in the work is motivated to do his/her best. The operative phrase is ‘in the work’. Great leaders are typically pretty humble people.  The leader who holds out critical self-judgement and believes in themselves, can often see the pay off.

Lust. Lusting after anything – another person at work, your boss’ job, the corner office, the next wrung on the corporate ladder, the competition’s market position – creates more negatives than positives. It focuses the leader away from his/her own priorities, planning, and deployment AND leads to the next sin, Envy. A positive form of lust could be passion. Passionate leaders are those who help make things happen. They are on a quest for the next steppingstone and tend to take others with them in advancement.

Envy. Green (with envy) is not an attractive color in a leader. Envy creates resentment. The envious leader is sitting in a meeting thinking about why someone else gets away with not accomplishing a task or goal when s/he is held accountable. The thought, “Gosh, I wish I had it as easy as __________.” is one that often plays across the envious leader’s mental screen. Envy can also create a leader who is jealous of others’ abilities, especially when they are better at something that is a weakness for the leader. In this situation, the leader may sabotage an action of those s/he is envious of. On the positive side of envy, it may help that someone pays attention to what the others have that they want. So a leader who observes someone who is getting ahead because they care about other people may begin to ask themselves deeper questions about how they could begin to care more.

Gluttony. Gluttony can be similar to greed. It means excessive indulgence. So a leader who is gluttonous may do everything in excess – take on huge projects for a team that is under resourced, underestimate the time that is needed to complete a project when assigning it, becoming a workaholic, and creating stress by his/her unrealistic expectations. Gluttony creates MORE and MORE and MORE. It is not much fun to work for a gluttonous leader. The only positive of this type of leader is that s/he will also use excessiveness in the recognition of team members and the celebration of team accomplishments. Expect wonderful parties!

Wrath. The angry leader is indignant, wanting to deliver punishment rather than information.  Little injustices can create an instant trigger of anger. I have personally witnessed the angry leader who throws things, jumps up with waving arms to make a point, who explodes and lets you know they are angry by facial expressions, body language, and pointed words. There is no question in your mind when they are hot under the collar. It is very difficult to know when to approach them about anything. They are NOT very approachable. You typically have to work around the angry leader. The positive characteristics of someone who is intense is that they are willing to fight the battles for the budget, the team, and the company. Bring it on! Of course, it is better to have them on your side. This type of leader would be a formidable enemy.

Summary. As a leader in any situation, explore your motivations, especially when you react strongly to what is happening. Is your reaction driven by one of these sins? If so, rethink your viewpoint. Drop those preconceived ideas about people and about yourself. Often the line between the positive and negative side of these sins is thin.  You may spin it one way, but take cues from those around you in evaluating where on the spectrum you may stand.  Stand back, humble yourself, and start over. Apologize, if appropriate. Be as honest with yourself as possible.  Exercise self-control. Use positive words and deeds in your role. It is easier to abstain from the sins than clean up after them.  It is not an easy task to break the bad habits caused by any of the seven deadly sins, but self-reflection and honesty will go a long way to righting the past wrongs of a leader.

Professional Empathy: Walls, Barriers & No Tresspassing Signs

Wall: a continuous structure that encloses or divides an area; generally permanent.
Barrier: a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access; a circumstance or obstacle that keeps people or things apart or prevents communication or progress.
Trespass: to enter an owner’s property without permission; make unfair claims or take advantage of something; commit an offense against another person. Tresspassing: the act of intrusion on said property or personal space.
I have observed all of these in the workplace.  Just this week as I was meeting with a young woman who works for a client, we talked about how it feels to share your turf – whether work responsibilities or office space – with another person.  Things can be going along swimmingly, even harmoniously, when one person goes too far in the eyes of the other – taking over a project, using their dominant personality to get their way, acting as if they are your boss when they are not, etc.

In the workplace of today, teamwork is common, even mandatory, and generally accepted as best practice in a dynamic work environment.   That being said, the spirit of individualism is alive and well and can lead to moments of tension or awkwardness.  Striking the proper balance between teamwork and individual expression can be difficult.

You have probably experienced individualism push back against teamwork both ways – on the giving and receiving ends.  When someone steps into your work territory your hackles go up.  When you offer help to someone (or even more just do a coworker’s task without prior discussion) you are very surprised (even shocked) when they are not happy about it.

Why in the world would someone not want your input, ideas, creativity, and possibly even genius thoughts to be brought to the table?  There are several possible reasons.  They:

  1. Have their own ideas about the task or project.
  2. Don’t want to appear incompetent or as if they need help.  They are concerned about perceptions of their boss or peers.
  3. Are a little bit insecure.
  4. Know their role, have been doing it for a while and are comfortable with the established boundaries.

These same points can be used to measure your reaction as well.  Maybe you are able to see the big picture better than others.  You may understand and appreciate the advantages of hearing, seeing, and experiencing others’ ideas.  Even if this is so, it can still feel strange and awkward when you sense a trespasser.  If this is something you can identify with, use that to help generate or hone a sense of professional empathy.  If someone bristles at your help, then think about why you would bristle at someone else’s help and proceed with caution.

Beware!  When you are helping someone in your organization and you are entering someone else’s territory without permission (or even with permission – vocally or by omission) you may not get the appreciation you think you deserve and you may leave behind a bad taste.

Yes, walls need to be broken down sometimes.  Yes, problems need to be solved creatively. And, yes, collaboration is a good thing.  But tread softly the first time.  Be sensitive to others being hurt or offended.

Ensure that you are working toward a common goal and not just pushing your agenda. I will leave you with these suggested steps in the collaborative process:

  1. Assess the situation.  Be aware of the personalities involved, especially those who have more competitive personalities.
  2. Secure permission to be involved.
  3. Be flexible while being a part of the process and solution.
  4. Allow time for discussion, feedback, and debriefing.


Brenda Haughney   –  President


“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan