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Barking Up the Wrong Tree - Notes

Gautam Mukunda speculated in his research there were fundamentally different types of leaders; the first type of filtered leaders had come up through the system. The second group were unfiltered by the organization and came through the window. Leaders who are unfiltered are usually the beneficiary of unusual events. These are circumstances which threw up leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Churchill.

Filter leaders have been vetted by the system tend to make predictable safe decisions. Unfilterd leaders do unexpected things and can make a big difference - it is often negative they don’t play by the rules however a minority of unfiltered leaders are transformative.

According to Mukunda the difference between good and great leaders is that great leaders are fundamentally different, they have unique characteristics, which in a filter system may well be seen as negatives.   Without the context of the Second World War Churchill is unlikely to have ever been Prime Minister.

There is in an old Swedish expression that says most kids are like dandelions. Dandelions are resilient and will thrive pretty much anywhere. Some kids though are more like orchids, they need just the right careful conditions to thrive.

From genetics our understanding of evolution is moving away from theories that label genes as good or bad.   The goodness or badness depends on context. We can even talk about helpful monsters.   To be great is to be different, from Glenn Gould to Michael Phelps outliers are different.

Brad Bird at Pixar created the Incredibles, which grossed over $600 million and won the Oscar for Best animated feature by creating a project team of Black sheep, frustrated artists; the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody listened to. They didn’t just make the film differently they changed the way the studio worked. The same traits that make these people nightmares to deal with are often the same characteristics that make these the people with the capacity to create real change.

Research shows that creative people are more arrogant dishonest and disorganized and get lower grades at school. Not surprising the teachers don’t really like creative children and they can grow up to be a poor fit in a command and control culture like most business.

People are often successful because of the context in which they work. Biases, talents and abilities all happened to align neatly with the things that produced success in that environment.

Identifying your strengths and pick the right place to apply them.

Do nice guys finish last?

Looks at the example of a pirate crew. Pirates were one of most successful criminal organizations, in part because the pirate code established a democratic basis for order and cooperation. Pirates had no problem finding new recruits, where the Royal Navy was frequently obliged to press-gang men into service.

Tit-for-tat. You cooperate with me I cooperate with you. You betrayed me I will exact revenge.   At the height of the Cold War Robert Axelrod researched programmes to investigate what it takes to get people to trust and cooperate, what strategy is most effective?

From his research, which involved running gambling tournaments tit-for-tat as a system was by far the most effective system, beating numerous far more complex algorithms from a wide range of expert contributors. Similar research shows that between givers, takers and reciprocators, givers are ultimately most successful.

Grit and determination.

S. Navy research into the success of Navy Seal candidates showed that positive self-talk was one of their defining characteristics. Pass rates increased when the Navy started teaching positive self-talk and other mental skills by nearly 10%.

Optimism it Is extremely important to performance and assistance in the face of adversity. Optimistic people don’t tend to see bad things as permanent pervasive or personal.

Games and psychology that underpins them can be an important boost to performance. Good games have the following characteristics: they are winnable they have novel challenges or goals and provide feedback.

The Importance of who you know.

Friendship – most of the principles of influence are based around friendship.

The Most successful people are always getting and giving. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from those above you and around you. Always be looking for ways to give things of value to those around.

Your network influences you. Make sure it is a good one

The importance of confidence

Marshall Goldsmith one of the top business thought leaders according to the Economist says that successful people consistently overrated themselves. 80 to 85% rank themselves in the top 20% of their peer group and about 70% rate themselves in the top 10%.

In a positive way self-confident people are delusional.   They have a positive interpretation of the past that leads to increased optimism towards the future and the likelihood of further success.

Confidence is so powerful because it gives us a feeling of control.

‘People who believe they can succeed, see opportunities where others see threats’ Marshall Goldsmith

Confident people are not afraid uncertainty or ambiguity they take more risks and given the opportunity will bet themselves. They have a high internal ‘locus of control.’ In other words they do not see themselves as either the victims or the playthings of fate or luck.

However, overconfidence is usually in the mistake of experts. People who are guilty of overconfidence do much more damage.   Incompetence is frustrating but when people are guilty of this they are usually not in a position to do too much damage. Over confident hubris leads not just to delusional thinking but to real problems.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is that the phenomenon where people with the least experience have the most confidence because they don’t have the experience to see just how challenging something is.   We can observe this frequently with with small children.

Over-confidence also makes it nigh on impossible to learn anything. Self confidence can help us to achieve but can also be a barrier to change.

Humility is critical to learning and self-improvement.

Novices need more positive feedback because it helps them keep motivated with something they are not very good at. As people get more expert negative feedback is more important as mistakes are fewer and more subtle.

We need optimism and confidence to help us to keep going and convince others to follow or join us. Negativity and pessimism help us see problems more clearly and address them.

An alternative to self-confidence is self-compassion according to Prof Kristin Neff of the University of Texas. Unlike self-confidence this does not lead to delusion you view the world and yourself more accurately but don’t judge yourself too harshly if you fail.

The problem with self-esteem is it is contingent or delusional. Your either divorced from reality or constantly trying to prove something. Famed psychologist Albert Ellis once said ‘self esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because its conditional.’

Positive self talk – in a kind way is powerful for building this self-compassion.