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Here are the most valuable principles from Malcom Gladwell at Leadercast 2014. What questions do these raise for your organization? How about for your personal leadership?

The Biggest Mistake That Leaders Can Make

Deterrence vs Legitimacy

  • Many leaders lead based on deterrence.
  • Deterrence is based on the idea that if the costs of breaking the law are high enough, people will stop breaking the law.
  • America has one of the most lax penalties for breaking tax law. Yet Americans are more honest on tax day than many countries. This defies the idea of deterrence in leadership.
  • The idea of legitimacy may be more compelling than deterrence.
  • Legitimacy is based on whether or not people believe that the rules are legitimate.

3 Components of Legitimacy

  • 1. Respect: Someone will listen if we have a complaint.
  • 2. Fairness: We believe that leadership is treating everyone equally.
  • 3. Trustworthy: We believe that the rules will be the same tomorrow as today.

Leading with Legitimacy

  • In leadership, it doesn’t matter if you are right. It matters how you exercise your power.
  • You must be respectful, fair, and trustworthy, even if you are dealing with people who are completely irrational.
  • When you see a group of people who aren’t obeying the rules, you have to take a closer look at the leader. Is he/she leading with legitimacy (respect, fairness, and trustworthiness)?
  • Issues arise when leaders do not understand the full obligations of leadership.

Want to see other sessions from Leadercast 2014? You can find notes for all of them here.

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