Great leaders humanize

All companies beyond a certain size are sociopathic colony organisms that regard their employees as inconvenient gut flora (to borrow an expression from Cory Doctorow).

At some point in their growth, many companies consider whether to stack-rank employees by their performance ratings; or publish management guidelines referring to groups of humans as “resources"; or undertake vast re-orgs solely on the basis of metrics-based abstractions.

These efficiency- and profit-seeking behaviors will inevitably be suggested and discussed, though they are universally dehumanizing to employees.

Your highest calling as a leader is to remember that your company requires employees in order to function, that employees are humans, and that the only thing that differentiates your company from an “immortal paperclip-maximizing artificial intelligence” is how you treat them.

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Ensure your happiness with a "pre-mortem"

One of the best ways to improve a system is to carefully and objectively analyze its failures. You’re probably familiar with getting a group of engineers together for a “post-mortem” conversation after something went terribly sideways.

A post-mortem, when done correctly, is almost magical in its effectiveness, which is why they have become so common. But when it comes to figuring out what you really want, and what will give you lasting happiness in work and life, well… Waiting until it’s over is too late!

But, interestingly enough, we can use one of the same tools we bring to bear in a post-mortem to create a clearer picture of what our values are and how we want to show up in the world.

Let’s call it a “pre-mortem.”

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To improve productivity do nothing

Let’s say you want your workers to be more productive. As the leader of a large and complex organization, there are numerous levers that you could pull… But which ones will improve the work output?

As it turns out, the answer is none of them. Or all of them.

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What's your cathedral?

One of my favorite topics is culture and incentives, which I’ve written about before. Culture is the name we give to all the behavior of a group, which is mainly influenced by incentives.

Part of your job as a leader is to create the culture by aligning values, incentives, and your own behavior. But when it comes to getting the day-to-day work done, ordinary incentives aren’t always enough.

That’s where the cathedral comes in.

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What are your tendencies?

Do you know enough about yourself to lead with confidence?

Great managers are curious. Curiosity leads to new awareness, which leads to opportunity, which ultimately leads to success. People with more self-awareness perform better at their jobs, get more promotions, and lead more effectively1.

Today I’ll offer the first of many tools for improving your self-awareness: The Four Tendencies.

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