Effective Leadership: Is Volatility Synonymous With Success?

Temperament in the corner office is something that deserves consideration when thinking about effective leadership. Unfortunately, volatility is sometimes correlated with success, but correlation is not causation.

One of my best clients asked my thoughts on Elon Musk. “Brilliant carnival barker,” was my response. His was more articulate, but we were on the same page. I hope Musk is successful with all his ventures, but I don’t think I’ll change my view of him.

Being a brilliant entrepreneur doesn’t make you a good candidate for the corner office. Brilliance and bombast are no better than bullshit and bluster when it comes to leading others — companies or nations. 

In addition to recent headlines about Elon Musk and El Presidente, I recently read “Bad Blood,” the story about Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. These “leaders” all captured my client’s attention, because he’s a moral, fiscally conservative, temperamentally solid guy. He doesn’t tweet obnoxious falsehoods every morning, abuse his people, bend the truth about results, or show volcanic tendencies when criticized, yet he runs a damn good business. Imagine that! Sounds like fake news, doesn’t it?

Many passionate leaders are volatile and successful, but I’ve met more who are emotionally intelligent and channel their passion into thoughtful action than I have screamers. Those who have self-awareness, self-control and empathy combined with passion get people to follow their lead and accomplish great things. Heck, even a smart narcissist knows that self-control and feigned concern for others is more effective.  

There are a lot of bad examples out there, some of them successful in the short run. Ignore them. They may dominate the headlines, but you can find better examples to learn from. John McCain, who just passed as I write this, offers some great examples of how to work with others, for instance.

Don’t be an asshole. And, by the way, it’s not your vote that counts!

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