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Good or Bad Leader?

A quick guide to evaluating leadership performance in times of crisis

· Leadership

The performance, success and longevity of an organization depends on its leaders. This is as true for businesses and organizations as it is for the government of a nation. The difference is that the leader of a government can make or break a nation and, in consequence, the lives of all of its citizens. That’s why it’s so critically important for everyone to assess the performance of their leaders in the midst of a pandemic that pits life against death.

After all, at least in the United States and other reliable democracies, We the People elected the president or prime minister. In a sense, evaluating his/her performance is a way to evaluate ourselves and, based on the results, identify where we went wrong and how we can improve when deciding our next ballot.

So how can the average citizen - that’s you and me and your neighbor – assess how our president (or prime minister) is measuring up? In a previous article, I explained how to assess national leadership along four basic dimensions: Is the leader making things happen? Getting the job done? Enabling “work arounds”? Fulfilling the need for direction and guidance?

Here are 8 questions (adapted from the April 5, 2020 edition of The Washington Post’s career advice) that you can use to guide your assessment. Rate your leader on a scale of 1 to 5 for each question (1=Never, 2=Rarely, 3= Sometimes, 4=Almost always, 5=Always).

Making things happen

  1. Is s/he aware of reality?

(Is s/he genuinely open to the voice of experience and objectivity, or is s/he in deep denial and avoids confronting the problem by refusing to hear the truth no matter who says it or how they say it? Is s/he self-aware? Does s/he correctly understand how others perceive them? Does s/he take responsibility for his/her actions and what results from them?)

  1. Is s/he calm under pressure?

(Does s/he break big problems down into smaller chunks? Does s/he manage his/her emotions? Does s/he avoid playing the victim? Does s/he take time to reflect on new information and an evolving situation instead of reacting immediately? Does s/he sidestep drama? Does s/he focus on behavior and events, not on personalities? Does s/he practice gratitude?)

Getting the job done

  1. Is s/he willing to go the extra mile?

(Does s/he go above and beyond what is expected? Has s/he demonstrated they’re willing to put in the effort necessary to get the job done? Does s/he exert special energy to accomplishing positive results? Is s/he doing an excellent job?)

  1. Can s/he visualize the path to a solution, and take that path to conclusion?

(Does s/he understand the problem? Does s/he approach the problem methodically and propose constructive solutions instead of poking hole in those proposed by others? Has s/he been able to identify a critical path? Does s/he understand everyone’s interests? Does s/he evaluate options before proposing an action to be taken?)

Enabling work-arounds

  1. Does s/he listen and reflect on others’ feedback?

(Is s/he attentive when someone is talking, makes good eye contact, doesn’t interrupt, and doesn’t try to prove the other person wrong? Does s/he foster meaningful relationships around him/her? Does s/he seek out feedback, asks questions and listens to understand? Does s/he suspend judgement when trying to understand? When getting feedback, does s/he f? Does s/he say “Thank you”?)

  1. Does s/he reflect on lessons learned?

(Does s/he spend time reflecting on what could have gone better before moving on to the next step or action? Does s/he make an effort to improve and streamline processes? Does s/he organize lessons learned sessions and disseminate what has been learned? Does s/he identify and transfer recommendations forward from one team to another? Does s/he treat conflict as a problem to be solved instead of a fight that is won or lost?)

Fulfilling the need for guidance and direction

  1. Do people go to him/her for answers?

(Do others seek him/her out for assistance, or is s/he the one asking all the questions? Does s/he champion him/herself as the doer or does s/he shift from being the sole doer to championing others as doers? Does s/he remove obstacles so others can get their job done?

  1. Does s/he stand up for what’s right and communicate it in a clear and professional manner?)

(Does s/he behave with integrity, even when the going gets tough? Is s/he making decisions for the purpose of doing what’s right for the greater of common good? Does s/he differentiate between sharing opinions and facts? Does s/he communicate either one respectfully and professionally? Is s/he perceived as well-spoken? Does s/he present him/herself as someone desirable to represent your country?)

Has s/he mastered the role as president or prime minister?

Score of 39-40 points: Yes

Score of 34-38 points: Needs to improve

Score below 34 points: No

It’s your right and duty

The challenges of governing have never been greater than they are today, in the midst of a global health pandemic. All presidents and prime ministers around the world are facing a difficult time leading. But you, as an average citizen, have the right and duty to assess

  • whether the behaviors and actions of your country’s leadership is representing you and the nation.
  • whether s/he, as president or prime minister, is striving to improve and focus on actions which will ensure the nation proceeds in the right path.
  • whether s/he is strong enough to lead the nation forward to the light at the other end of the tunnel.  

If the answer is No, then make sure you behave and act in ways that demonstrate and exemplify the good leadership your leader is failing at. The survival of any organization (including a government) bereft of good leadership depends on everyone else being “with it” and doing the right thing. In the end, it’s not about the virus or the economy, it’s about the leader.

Astrid Ruiz Thierry, Principal, Upboost LLC

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