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The Qualities of Great Leaders

Updated on May 1, 2012

Great Leaders Are Consciously Incompetent

In life there is one indisputable fact; we are all incompetent in some aspect of our lives. In fact the truth is that we all succeed or fail based on our level of incompetence and our ability or inability to recognize it and change it. Therefore we rise to the level of our own incompetence. Some of us are incompetent when it comes to speaking another language, which inhibits our ability to communicate with others who might be important to our success. Some of us are incompetent when it comes to having the right education to pursue a specific job or career. There are many aspects of our lives where incompetence affects us. The most important aspect of incompetence is to be conscious of it. Know what you don't know. By knowing what you don't know, you're able to take steps to either learn about it or to partner with someone who does.

Leadership, whether in business, politics or in life, exhibits those same qualities. In business we've all had experiences with leaders or bosses that were totally unconsciously incompetent when it came to their management skills. They were horribly incompetent when it came to listening, motivating or mentoring. Or they didn't have a clue on how to build a team or recognize great performance or gain alignment. They were incompetent, but so unconscious of it that they never took the steps to correct it and the company and all its employees suffered.

Great leaders are, as we all should be, very consciously incompetent. They know what they don't know and make every effort to recognize it and do what they can to correct it. No one expects everyone to know everything, but great leaders understand that if they don't know something important to their success, they surround themselves with partners and associates that do. While you can't hold a leader accountable for being an expert or having experience in every aspect of their responsibilities, a great leader should be held accountable for the people they hire and partner with to offset their incompetence. We should judge them by the company they keep and competence of the people they hire.

In politics, as in business and in life, if an elected official is unconsciously incompetent and not able to recognize and correct it, everyone suffers. Their ability to represent the electorate is damaged and we will, as a country, rise to the level of their incompetence. It is critical to our individual success that we display the qualities of great leadership and strive to be consciously incompetent, whether it's with our family or friends in our personal lives or with co-workers or bosses in our business lives, We all should objectively strive to know what we don't know and always align ourselves with and elect and select other leaders and associates that are the same way. If we all do that, we, and all those around us, will all rise to the highest level of our conscious incompetence.


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