Epic means larger-than-life, on a grander scale, and above and beyond the ordinary. Epic is the magnitude found in a Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster movie with enormous sets, panoramic views and large crowds of people. They are like movies envisioned by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, JJ Abrams and James Cameron.
When I apply epic to leadership, I want you to think of leadership that is scalable, based on the situation, circumstances, and demands of the organization and needs of the people. The Epic Leader has the skills, abilities, talent and capacities discussed over the 31 Day Leadership Gauntlet. They produce gargantuan goals and vision, with the courage to be empathetic, resilient and able to adapt style, structure and emotions to be empathetic and emotionally intelligent.
The Epic Leader is in the mind of the beholder; the followers are made bolder because of their ability to shoulder the burdens together. They are effective in working as a team. Size matters to the follower because the Epic Leader is big enough to coach, mentor and lead where leadership is required. The followers feel they can trust them because of their reputation and trustworthy interactions. The Epic Leader also, has a grander vision, a sense of purpose with their egos intact as they develop their people to have the curiosity, strength through interdependence in turbulent times, with the spirituality and curiosity to be creative and able to overcome fear.
The Epic Leader is humble and their humility will not allow them to say, “I’ve got this or I am enough,” but you know it is true from the leadership versatility they exhibit and the leadership power that is granted to them by their followers. The Epic Leader makes others into epic followers. The followers feel like somebody. They feel they are going somewhere and to ready to do something great.
The Epic Leader creates impact players, who are students of the game, in the right role, powered by a dream and who are always created with high standards. They are continuous learners. They are familiar with the work and leadership practices of Gen. Colin Powell. Their people have grit. It is the grit that is talked about by Angela Duckworth and defined as passion and perseverance. The Epic Leader wants to take their people and organizations from good to great as Jim Collins discussed in his book. They have the vulnerability that Brené Brown writes, speaks and researches. They are equipped with the emotional intelligence referred to by Daniel Goleman and Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. They understand the Givers and Takers as outlined by Adam Grant and Start with Why according to Simon Sinek, and the strengths of their people as championed by Marcus Buckingham.
The Epic Leader ensures their followers will have the appropriate mindset, therefore a they put forth the right effort and preparation. They work to be culturally competent from reading Malcolm Gladwell in his books Blink, the Outsider and Talking to strangers. The epic leader understands unconscious bias through the work of Sondra Thiederman, Making Diversity Work, and the research of Mahzarin R. Babaji and Anthony G. Greenwald summarize in their book about hidden biases, Blindspot. He took the Intrinsic Association Test (IAT) at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/.
You do not start out saying you want to be an Epic Leader. They would not be the mindset of a person focused on humility. It is a distinction bestowed upon you by those who look up to you and learn from you. You have been a breath of fresh air on their development and they realized how you have improved their environment and enriched their lives.
May you unlock your leadership greatness and become an Epic Leader. May you continue to magnify and multiply; magnify your impact and spread your reach to positively influence more people. I am hopeful that your 31 Day Leadership Gauntlet journey was a mind stimulating, heart inspiring and faith affirming adventure into becoming an Epic leader. May your Epic followers be instrumental in helping you to change the world
The Epic Leader
The Epic Leader surveys the terrain
And ponders the strategy, yet remains
True to the mission; put their people first,
As they seek the best and plan for the worst.
The Epic Leader ascends and descends;
Adjusts and gains trust as they comprehend
The magnitude of the crisis at hand,
To manage chaos, while taking a stand.
Their mission is clear, their vision intact
They may have charisma that will attract,
Or humility and a strength of will
To lead the people with dreams to fulfill.
The Epic Leader has the confidence
Of someone emboldened by competence
And guided by a mission and vision;
A philosophy that shapes decisions.
The Epic Leader walks across the stage;
There is alignment, as people engage
In the moment, confidence exuded,
As people feel affirmed and included.
The rivals don’t always attack at dawn
And competitors charge with weapons drawn.
They have monumental ability
To focus on mental agility.
The Epic Leader manages to rise
To the encounter, but look in their eyes,
For there lies the energy on which they feed;
As power flows from what the people need.
The Epic Leader prepares and repairs.
To show us that leadership shares and cares.
They can get by on a wing and a prayer.
Resourceful, vulnerable, self-aware,
Emotionally wise and capable,
When change is truly inescapable;
Uncertainty is a root of the norm,
They will translate, transcend, as they transform.
Step out in excellence. Individuals and organizations mired in mediocrity failed to reach their potential, fall short of meeting customer expectations and do not achieve the best. Excellence demands dedication, creativity, innovation, cooperation and coordination between teams and departments. The analogy of the impact player works to explain the high bar necessary in today’s environment.
Impact players are peak performers, game changers and difference makers. They are recognized as the superstars in our organizations, schools, communities and families. They are the stars on the team, the leaders that people respect and emulate. The greater the number of impact player available, the more it accelerates and creates a critical mass necessary to reach your goals.
Organizations cannot afford wholesale mediocrity within their ranks. They must select the best talent, develop the best talent and retain the best talent. Just imagine how productive we would be if we increased the number of impact players within our group. They would realize that they are in need group of performers. Their presence would have a synergistic effect on the group. Employees would be more engaged and productive; students would achieve higher grades and test results. Businesses would consistently reach their productivity and financial targets.
There are 10 principles observed in impact players from academia, athletics, entertainment and business. This is not an exhaustive list and all of them may not be present in everyone.
A Natural Fitfor the Role
Excels in areas where their talents, skills and abilities are fully utilized
Powered by a Dream
Driven by ambitious and stretch goals to fulfill potential and purpose
A Student of the Game
Continuously learning information about their field and related areas
Masters the basics through practice and mental rehearsal
Sets High Standards
Fully engaged to beat their personal best, which exceed job requirements
Develops new ways to improve work and play, with a style of their own
Aggressively implements plans and checklists to stay on tasks
Lead by Example
Personal actions match their words
Make Others Better
Elevates team performance by teaching and challenging the effort and results of peers
Willingness to share talent and resources – give back – pay forward
Courage is not the absence of fear but proceeding in its presence. Courage is not necessarily acts of bravery against a life-threatening adversary. Courage can be defined as a situation where you are prompted to rise, step forward and risk something, to benefit yourself or others. You must be willing to go to the front of the line to demonstrate bravery. Therefore, Courage is not always about us. It is performed as a practice, a template, a role model to benefit others.
There are instances during a day or a season when you are being watched by your family, group, team, peers and community. How will you respond in difficult situations? When a fear generating dilemma appears, there is a courage stimulating response that is required. How will you respond? Will you be brave?
When an intimidating moment appears in the leadership gauntlet, it is a perfect opportunity to stand up, show courage and be on the front line and take the lead with your people. What does courage look like? It varies with the demand and the scale of the crisis. Courage could mean standing up for them when they are bullied by peers, strangers or management. It could be when unfair assaults on their skills, reputation and performance occurs during a meeting or performance review. Courage could occur during periods of uncertainty when patience and guidance are needed to help someone make it through a frightening predicament.
Courage could also manifest itself in the ability to show weakness, vulnerability, empathy and compassion. Courage provides the opportunity to let down your guard and connect with people. Look for opportunities to show people that you are on their side, that you can identify with them and fight with them. You can roll up your sleeves, join the fight and work with them.
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are familiar with the customer referred to as the “Know-it-all doctor.” The connotation was not just a physician who knew everything, but an individual who was arrogant and spoke to people in a condescending manner. There was a feeling of superiority which made it difficult to deal with others. The air of arrogance made it hard to be effective as a leader. The person who knows everything and feels no one can teach them anything, is difficult to talk to and may not be open to receiving important information.
Many times, we use arrogance to cover-up for an insecurity. We don’t want people to recognize a deficiency in some aspect of our behavior and we do not wish to be challenged. On other occasions we do not wish to be questioned because we feel we are better than everyone. Humility is not a skill that makes them comfortable.
When you make the commitment to move beyond arrogance, it must be done with authenticity. Here is an example of what not to do. A manager received feedback that addressed his arrogance of feeling he was always right. It revealed that he did not listen to his direct reports, did not solicit their comments, but when they were given, he would not value or use them. It was described as follows.
He would adopt the stance of a good listener, someone concerned about his staff’s point of view. He would lean forward, establish direct eye contact and use transitional phrases such as, go on, is that so, I did not know that and tell me more. At the conclusion, he would thank them for their courage and valuable input. He would close by saying, he was glad to have the opportunity to know how they felt, but he would continue with his idea and the original plan. His subordinates were confused and wondered why ask for their opinions and bother going through such a pointless exercise. His actions curtailed their ideas and reduced trust. Why give comments if they did not matter?
Personalize your actions to prevent arrogant behavior by focusing on these areas.
Beware of arrogant tendencies.
Listen to others.
Involve others in your decision making
Include their ideas to show you value their suggestions
Do not respond in a threatening manner when you don’t like what you hear
People do not wish to support the arrogant person. They may withhold information. They may watch someone go down the wrong path and remain silent. They will surely not give them their best effort. They will do just enough to keep their jobs. They will engage in OMDB (Over My Dead Body) behavior and thinking. Review the poem below and reflect on it and discuss with others.
Many of us may be blind to our arrogant ways. In order to change we must be open to critical remarks without taking them personally. Act as if people may feel you are arrogant, and request insight. A manager read the poem below and was offended, for it struck a nerve. He was offended by the content because he thought I was speaking to him. However, members of his staff contacted me and confirmed that it was an accurate depiction of his arrogant leadership style. Let’s act as if this might be the case. Remove personal anxiety and allow people the opportunity to give you comments that are good for everyone.
As children we were told that curiosity killed the cat, but our response was always, but satisfaction brought them back. On one hand we accused curious people of being nosy. However, curiosity was a good thing when you were called precocious. Curiosity is a critical characteristic to possess. Cultivating the habit of being curious is a precursor to creativity and innovation. Employees who constantly approach products and practices with a curiosity lens, are an asset to you, for they will develop ideas to improve your organization.
A corporate culture saturated with curiosity is vibrant and expanding. These individuals examine the status quo to understand its origins, as they look for ways to improve design and execution to increase overall quality. One of the tools of the curious is an enhanced ability to ask questions. They know that the right question will provide them with the information they need to understand and improve overall performance. Why have we always done process, this way? Many professions depend on the ability to ask questions; lawyers, salespeople, counselors, coaches, teachers, parents, years, psychiatrists and lawyers.
Curiosity paired with questioning skills will uncover information needed in an environment of continuous improvement. Think of ways that you could be more curious and set up a process to establish a curiosity infused workplace. Have fun with it because it will be exhilarating.
Developing new skills requires a change management mentality. New skills must be practiced and reinforced over time, with continuous application. The more powerful and experiential the training with total immersion in the new skills, will result in new behaviors that are sustainable.
However, you must deal with inertia, which is resistance to change. Secondly you must contend with the temptation to resort to previous behaviors in the face of difficulty. Observation and experience reveal that in a crisis, if the new skills are not firmly embedded in the subconscious, we revert to previous behavior. We retreat to what is known, comfortable and firmly established. We may discard the new information, new practices for the comfortable behaviors of the past.
If change is not fully incorporated into your rote memory or natural rhythms, you may easily relapse. Therefore, it is important to have powerful implementation procedures that are rapidly reinforced repetition to replace the memorized subconscious behaviors.
Additionally, you must firmly believe in your people and adhere to your leadership pledge to their success. In the heat of battle, turmoil or a crisis, remember that your long-term effectiveness as a leader may hinge upon the following. Your ability to be steady, call while refusing to relapse and abandoning new programs and practices for the old way of doing things.
Survival is our strongest need, according to many philosophers. Abraham Maslow lists it among our basic needs, which we must fulfill before we move on to satisfying other needs on our list of priorities. Survival is dependent upon making the necessary adjustments to changes in our environment. We must include these adjustments, as a part of our evolving skills.
The quality of survival is linked to our adaptation ability, therefore our success in making adjustment to competitors in the marketplace or whatever environment surrounds us. Our objective is to aim higher , rather than barely making it. We do not want to do just enough to get by. We want to thrive and prosper. A standard of living above the baseline of existence is a desirable goal. But to achieve this enhanced quality of life, we must make continuous adjustments to our behavior.
The poem Adaptation addresses the adjustments we need to make educationally, relationally and professionally to improve our prospects for higher earning power and fulfillment of purpose. Charles Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest and that holds true in the development of species and in developing a personal profile competitive enough to make it in the business world. Adaptation encourages the survival of the fit; those who take the time and make the effort to anticipate challenges and respond to change. Only progress is satisfactory. Movement is essential to momentum.
If someone has not seen you in several years, what change would they notice?
How has your business environment changed?
What adjustments have you made or must make to keep up with new demands in your profession?
How have you adapted to the technological demands of your profession?
How do you stay on top of matters that require your attention?
Alvin Toffler mentioned that technology has accelerated in this world of high tech, but we have not changed that much socially, in something he calls high touch. How are you socially keeping up with the times?
How are you adapting to find time for the ones you love?