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Archive for the ‘Leading People’ Category

Mar
26

Leading – Now and Always

I originally wrote this post at the end of 2009, when I was just starting to work on writing Leading So People Will Follow.  It’s still a good summary and explanation of the concepts in the book – I thought you might find it useful:

I’ve been thinking about leaders lately, and how good leaders are going to become increasingly important as everything in business gets flatter, faster, more disrupted. I’m noticing more than ever before how essential it is for organizations to have strong and flexible leaders in order to succeed.  I watch as those organizations whose leaders are too inflexible, too cautious, too short-sighted or too fear-based continue to founder, while those whose leaders are far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy seem to be finding their way much more quickly and easily.

And it just so happens that we at Proteus have and use a leadership model based on those six qualities, so it’s reinforcing our sense that these truly are the essential characteristics of good and effective leaders. We evolved our model based on “leader stories” from all over the world, going on the premise that folk and fairy tales tend to carry the “DNA” of our cultural expectations about what good leadership looks and feels like. If you’re interested, here is a little more explanation about the six qualities as they show up in these leader stories:

Ce5ddb9ef421e01251d8b7ba8186eca5 In these stories, the young leader-to-be can see beyond his current situation to his ultimate goal (save his father, win the princess, kill the monster), and can express it clearly and in a compelling and inclusive way – especially those whose help he needs – even when others lose sight of it, believe it’s impossible, or ridicule him for trying.  He is Far-sighted.

Moreover, the leader-in-training doesn’t just go through the motions.  He is deeply committed to his quest.  His every action is directed toward achieving it.  Nothing dissuades him, even the inevitable setbacks and disappointments attendant on any quest.  He may not be loud about it, but he is relentless. He is Passionate.

Throughout the story, he is confronted with difficult situations.  He may be afraid and lonely; he may feel like running away, longing for the comfort and safety of home.  He often faces situations that are particularly trying for him personally. But he doesn’t turn aside; he doesn’t (unlike his brothers or others who attempt the same journey) make the safe and easy choices.  He doesn’t wimp out.  He is Courageous.

He’s not a cardboard action hero, though.  His brain is tested, and he must be able to learn from his mistakes.  In many versions of the story, he doesn’t initially follow the advice given him, and his mistakes create complexity and danger.  The next time a similar situation arises, he behaves differently and succeeds at his task.  He doesn’t deny or whine or blame; he improves.  Finally, he uses his powers of discrimination to think through difficult choices and arrive at the best and most moral solution. He is thoughtful, appropriately humble, clear-headed and curious.  He is Wise.

Along the way, the future leader meets people or creatures in need, and he helps them or shares with them even though his own supplies are low; even if helping them takes him out of his way or slows him down.  In some versions of the story, he actually has to seem to sacrifice his life for those he loves or to whom he owes his loyalty (this always turns out OK in the end).  And later on, when he is king, his people are prosperous and happy because he rules with an open hand — the leader is not stingy, miserly or selfish.  He is Generous.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, his word is his bond.  If he tells his dying father that he will find the magic potion to cure him, you know that he will.  If he tells the princess that he will come back to marry her, she can send out the invitations. The hero does not equivocate or exaggerate.  He is Trustworthy.

When leaders demonstrate these attributes consistently, they become a strong, safe point around which teams and organizations can coalesce.  Their people turn to them and say, We’re with you – let’s go. And great things happen.


Jan
10

Six Years and Counting

I started this blog six years ago today (time flies when you’re having fun…)  on the advice of a young publicist who worked for the publisher of my first book, Growing Great Employees, which had just been launched.  I remember clearly being daunted by the suggestion: I knew what a blog was, I had actually read some blogs.  But to create my own?

She recommended that I go to TypePad, where there was a really good, remarkably simple set-up-your-own-blog tutorial. A few hours later: voila!  Blogging!

So here we are, six years later, and social media is not only not daunting to me – it’s fascinating, fun and useful.  My social media platform  has become a big part of my brand – this blog, my Forbes blog, twitter, facebook, the Insider List, our LinkedIn group, Pinterest - and a great way to interact with people who share an interest in our work around leader readiness.  A big change in a fairly short period of time.

But, on the other hand, some things are remarkably consistent over time.  My initial post was about Robert Nardelli, who had just gotten fired from Home Depot. And even that specific situation is no longer current, the point of the article (that leaders ignore the “people part” of business at their peril) is still completely relevant. An excerpt:

At the same time, we’ve relegated the actual nuts-and-bolts people part of leadership – finding great people, bringing them into the organization well, providing them with the skills and knowledge they need in order to support the organization’s success – to a kind of second-class citizenship; it’s there, but it’s not nearly as interesting or sexy. Even though we all nodded wisely when Jim Collins told us, in Good to Great, that the first task of a “Level 5 Leader” is to get the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats (yes, we knew that! we said to each other), we still behave as though people management is a kind of necessary evil; something that middle managers do when they’re not doing their real jobs. Company sloganeering about “people are our most important asset” and “we grow and develop our people” aside, people leadership is just not that cool these days. Executives even say, disparagingly, of other executives, “Well, I guess he or she is a good manager” – implying that the person is a plodder, not innovative, not much of a leader.

I wrote a post a few months ago at Forbes titled “Manage or Lead? Do Both.” – making pretty much the same point.

In other words, 6 years and over 400 posts later, even though social media has evolved dramatically, creating new business opportunities and consumar expectations in its wake; even though the entire media landscape overall is morphing even as we speak; even though national and global economies are transforming; even though a new generation is coming of age…still, the core elements of leading and managing remain the same – they’re based on timeless human needs and aspirations.

In fact, I’ll make a prediction: I believe that six years from now I’ll still be writing about managing and leading well, in a way that inspires and elicits people’s best, that builds strong teams and organizations and creates great results. I’ll be talking about why it’s important, what gets in the way, and how to do it. I’ll be inviting you to share your experiences and insights as well, so we can all keep developing our understanding and putting it into practice.

I’ll see you there…


Dec
17

Next Time You’re Absolutely, Positively 100% Sure About Something…

OK, before I say anything else, please watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

A colleague and friend, Cindy Franklin, sent this to me on Saturday.  I watched it with my husband, and we both completely missed the important element (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here).  In fact, we were so committed to our sense that the whole thing was somehow a trick, that we immediately rewound  the tape to see whether the element was really there. We both thought, Wow – how could we have missed that?

What a great example of – exactly as the title of the video says – “selective attention.”

Often when I talk with executives, I notice that there are big, important pieces of the picture they’re simply not seeing.  This little video helps me understand more clearly that we when we miss critical elements, it’s often because we’re over-focusing on what we’re already looking for…to the exclusion of the things we may not be expecting.

I was just talking to a client the other day who is a senior executive in a large company – almost 50,000 employees.  Her boss is about to retire, and has already named his successor, a very smart man who has risen fairly rapidly through the ranks to his current position.  She likes this guy, and thinks he’ll be a good CEO, but is astonished that, in her words “he’s just starting to recognize that it’s important for him to be a good people leader.”  She’s very focused on leading her own people well, and sees that as an important element of her success.  It seems to me that her boss-to-be has been focusing exclusively on what are to him the players-in-white-passing-the-ball parts of the business; he’s very financially and operationally focused, so it’s essential stuff – it’s just not all the essential stuff.  I think himself-as-leader-of-people has been the invisible gorilla in his movie.

So, here’s a suggestion.  When you’re thinking about an important situation, professional or personal, and you want to make sure you’re focusing on all the important elements, try this. First, unhook your brain from the assumptions and conclusions you’ve already made (i.e., “I’m doing everything I can,” “It’s all their fault,” “I just need this set of facts,” “I don’t need to think about…”). Question those assumptions and concclusions, and assume they might not be accurate. Then step back and ask yourself “What am I not seeing?”

I predict you’ll be surprised at all the metaphorical gorillas that wander by.


Dec
12

Why I Love Talking About Leadership

[NOTE: To all my long-time readers who are used to seeing a post from me at least once a week; we got hacked and had to clean and move the site - it took a while.  My apologies!]

Last week I did an interview about Leading So People Will Follow with Wayne Hurlburt on Blog Talk Radio. Wayne has interviewed me for each of my books, and it’s always a great conversation: he asks thoughtful, insightful questions, and he’s genuinely curious about the answers. Unlike a lot of interviewers, he reads his authors’ books thoroughly and tries to make a personal connection with what he reads…it makes for a great interview.

And I realized, as we were talking - I love talking about leadership.

Here’s why.  If you define leadership, very broadly, as influencing and guiding others toward a positive outcome, then we’re each called upon to lead in various ways throughout our lives.  The opportunity, and the responsibility, to lead well is an intrinsic part of the human condition.  Learning to lead well is critical to success – ours, our followers, our enterprises of all kinds.  It’s really important to help people do it as well as possible.

Those are the rational reasons.  The heart reason, the thing that makes talking about leadership feel like singing, at least to me, is: leadership is a noble endeavor that – done well – calls out the best in us.  It allows us to operate on all cylinders, to inspire and enable people to work together to go beyond their individual limitations and achieve great things.

I love helping people become the best leaders they can be. I get huge satisfaction from supporting people to understand the power of leadership, and their own potential to be leaders, and then offering them the tools they need to undertake that important journey.

So thanks to Wayne, and to all my interviewers, clients, colleagues and readers, who give me the opportunity to sing every day.


Nov
14

Talking About Leadership

I know I’m probably not supposed to say this – it’s kind of like saying you prefer one of your children over another – but just between you and me, Leading So People Will Follow may be my favorite of the books I’ve written so far.  I’m so much enjoying talking about it with people – especially the folks who have been interviewing me recently, around the book’s publication.  People are asking such interesting questions – we’re having such good conversations about the nature of leadership, and how people can get to be better leaders.

Yesterday a friend and client was asking me why I like this topic of leadership so much.  I realized that it’s because the idea of leading, and what it means to lead, is right at the heart of my own personal mission of helping people become what they want to become. So many people want to be leaders – not just to have formal jobs leading others, but to be people who can guide, direct and influence others in a variety of professional and personal settings.

I suspect that you might be one of those people – and so I hope you find these interviews useful and interesting:


Oct
24

What I’m Learning From My New Book

This may seem like an odd title for a post from me (e.g., Wait – what?  Don’t you already know the stuff in your own book?), but I’m talking about all the things I’m learning from the experience of publishing it.

Over the last six years, as I’ve lived through 5 pub dates (hardcover and paperback of my first two books, and the hardcover of the new one), the main thing I learned is that an author has to be the CEO of his or her own books. Nobody else will be.  You are the person with the most to gain or lose, and you need to be the keeper of the flame; to be the primary person responsible for assuring success (of course, that also implies that you have to know what success looks like for you – but that’s a whole other post). I feel as though I’ve gotten better and better at this, though I believe I still have lots to learn.

I had a big new ah-ha with this book, though. I experienced much more than in my previous book-CEO incarnations that – just as for the CEO of any company -  the team around that person is critical to the success of the endeavor.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a truly talented and dedicated team on this book.  Now that the initial push for the book has calmed down, I have the bandwidth to reflect on how supported I’ve felt throughout the process – and how well the team has created a foundation for the continued success of the book.

Celebrating the team’s success – at the launch party

Here’s what I mean. At the beginning of the project, as soon as the deal with Jossey-Bass was finalized, the core team – me, my agent Jim Levine, my editor Susan Williams, publicists Barbara Cave Henricks and Kaila Nickel (traditional media) and Rusty Shelton (social media), my business partner Jeff Mitchell, and my assistant and social media wingman Dan Camins – got together to do a ‘mini-vision and strategy session’ for the book.  From that we created a six-month project calendar that included every key deliverable, who was responsible, and when it was due. (Just to give you a sense of the complexity of the endeavor – there were about 120 items on the project calendar.)

But that was just the core team.  There was a whole separate subteam working on creating and validating the Accepted Leader Assessment, based on the six attributes at the core of Leading So People Will Follow.  That team included Sue Gebelein, a great resource who gave us good counsel and connected us with DSI, our assessment partner (they built and manage the assessment online), and their point person/project manager Carol Brekke, and with Marcia Sysma, our validator. The assessment team also included Cindy Franklin, my lovely Proteus colleague who gave of her time to support the validation effort, and Kishauna DeCarmo in our New York office, who is now the administrative queen of the finished ALA assessment.

And that’s still not all!  My savvy, smart and supportive editor at Jossey-Bass, Susan Williams, has brought along her excellent publishing team, as well – Rob Brandt, Amy Packard, Brian Grimm, Alina Poniewaz-Bolton, Bernadette Walter, Adrian Morgan, Carol Hartland and Sophia Ho: marketing, publicity, sales, art, editorial…all so competent, easy to work with and supportive.

And then there’s my own team:  this time, there was a lot more collaboration internal to Proteus, as well.  Jeff and I stayed connected throughout, to focus on how best to support the book’s launch with products and services.  We worked with our consultants to update our half-day Leading So People Will Follow training module (which has been a part of larger Proteus training programs for a number of years), and to create and begin testing our full 1.5 day Leading leadership development program. We also refined our Leadership Coaching offer, a version of our executive coaching program targeted to very senior leaders and including the Accepted Leader Assessment, and will be making that available through all our executive coaches.

Yet another effort in support of leaders – we started a LinkedIn group, Leading So People Will Follow, to offer a community online for experienced and aspiring leaders to ask questions, offer insights, and share learning – and my team mates on that part of the project are my daughter Rachel Van Carpels, who manages and moderates the site, and Cindy Franklin, who (once again out of the goodness of her heart) offers discussion topics and supports conversations.

And the whole Proteus team came together to create and staff our great book launch and awards ceremony party on October 1st – definitely a community effort!

And finally, there’s my darling husband Patrick.  He is core to the success of this book and any other success I might have, in more ways than I can possibly express. His unequivocal and continual support, joy and love, and his daily efforts on my behalf, make all of this possible.

As you can see, it really has been a team effort.  And, back to the title of the post, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the power of team throughout this process.  And I also like to think that I’ve followed my own advice: I’m doing my very best to be a fully followable CEO — to be far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy.  It’s a lesson well worth learning, and I’m making the effort every day.


Sep
30

Celebrate Great Leaders!

I’ve really loved writing these last twelve posts about the leaders in Leading So People Will Follow.  I’m fond of and have great respect for every one of them, and some of them have become good friends over the years.

Tomorrow night in New York City we’re having a launch party for the book, and we’re also giving each of these leaders a Fully Accepted Leader Award. I’m really looking forward to it, on a variety of levels.  I’m especially excited about the opportunity to publicly thank and acknowledge these folks for making the effort, every day, to be good and worthy leaders.

As the ‘book team’ has been preparing for this party and for the book’s launch, we’ve been talking (as you might imagine) about good leaders, and how profoundly they can affect their followers, their companies, even the world.  Rusty Shelton had a great idea last week, which we evolved in collaboration, and which I want to share with you here.

Let’s declare October 16th Fully Accepted Leader Day. Let’s make it the day, this year

courtesy Andrei Shumskly

and every year, to publicly celebrate and thank the great leaders in our lives; those people who we’ve experienced as consistently  far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous, and trustworthy in guiding and directing us.  It could be a parent, a coach, a teacher, or a manager.  It could be the company CEO, or the executive assistant who organized a disaster relief effort single-handed. It could be someone who stepped up in an emergency, or someone who shows up as a quiet, inspiring leader day in and day out.

On the 16th, I encourage you to thank these people publicly: on your blog or through facebook or Twitter; with a photo essay on Pinterest; by sending an email to the person and cc-ing your larger circle. And of course, the 16th is just an excuse: how great it would be if we took the opportunity any day, all year, to thank those people who have impacted our lives in a positive way.

Too often, we talk as though there are not good leaders – as though all organizations are run by self-aggrandizing fools, everyone in public office is slick and cynical, and any person who’s in a position of power is corrupt.  Let’s let everyone know about the good, worthy, followable leaders who’ve inspired us, helped us grow, and made our lives better.

Viva la Fully Accepted Leaders!


Sep
27

David Seltzer’s Trustworthiness Is A Competitive Advantage

“David Seltzer is another trustworthy leader for whom I have great respect.  David is the managing partner of Management 360, an LA-based artist and literary management company.  In an industry often characterized by questionable dealings, loose lips, and a pronounced lack of ethics, the folks at Management 360 have made integrity one of their key competitive advantages.  David is extraordinarily discreet; I’ve known and worked with him for a number of years, and he has never once revealed to me a single piece of information about any of his celebrity clients.  He doesn’t even drop seemingly harmless pieces of intel about who’s he’s traveling to support or meet with, information that could make him look cool but might possibly compromise his clients’ privacy.

He also has high standards of discretion internally; if one of his colleagues tells him something in confidence – it stays confidential.  I’ve noticed how his colleagues, most of whom have worked with him for many years, rely on his discretion; they share sensitive topics with him without hesitation.  They feel safe to do so.

As with the first two elements of trustworthiness, when leaders keep confidences, it creates an atmosphere of safety and calm; people are more likely to be able to focus on doing the work, as opposed to figuring out how to protect themselves from the leaders’ indiscretion.”

            — From Chapter 8 of Leading So People Will Follow

I really like working with David: I feel completely confident that he will always tell me the truth as he understands it. Over the past few months, I’ve been talking with David and one of his colleagues about some work we may be doing with their partners. It’s a huge relief knowing that if he commits to doing this work, it will happen. And if he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, he’ll tell me why, and it won’t happen.

I suspect that he deals with his clients in the same way (I don’t know for sure, because as I noted above, he never talks about them!)  Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a mega-popular Hollywood artist, and every day most of the people you deal with suck up to you and tell you what they think you want to hear.  Let’s say you’re not the kind of person who wants that; let’s pretend that you actually long for the people around you to be supportive and helpful without being sycophants. That you want people to be reasonably straight with you. How refreshing and reassuring would it be to have someone like David as your manager?  Someone who would be willing to say “I don’t know if that’s a good script for you” or “I’m not sure that would be a great career move.” And if that person, as your manager, said, “This project is just what you need” – even if you disagreed, how great would it be to know that it was exactly what he or she believed, vs. what he or she thought was politically expedient?

As I noted above, I see David’s ethical approach, and that of his partners, as a huge competitive advantage for them.  Especially when your industry doesn’t have a great reputation for trustworthiness (think Hollywood, car sales, insurance, diet and exercise, etc.) if you’re seen as the trustworthy provider, your starting point is miles ahead of the competition.

And trustworthiness has the same impact internally: if you, as the leader, have a reputation for straight dealing, discretion and delivering on your promises, it’s reassuring and comforting to your team in the same way.

Having the opportunity to work with leaders like Pat Langer and David Seltzer has really reinforced for me that trustworthiness isn’t only a moral imperative – it’s a powerful business driver.


Sep
23

Pat Langer’s Trustworthiness Makes Change Easier

“Pat Langer is a calming presence.  Partly it’s because she’s very thoughtful and measured in her responses; partly it’s because she’s such a great listener.  But I’m convinced that it’s primarily because she’s so entirely trustworthy: in dealing with her, you immediately relax – you feel safe.

The first time I ever met Pat, she had just been brought on as the head of HR, Legal and Business Affairs for Lifetime Television.  I knew nothing about her or her background: all I knew was that some woman named Patricia had been hired to oversee these key staff functions.

We spent most of that first fairly brief conversation talking about the work that Proteus had been doing with Lifetime over the preceding 3 or 4 years.  As we said goodbye, and I left her office, I realized two things: I had complete faith that she would respect the confidentiality of anything I had told her, and I was quite sure that she would follow through on her commitment to set up a second meeting.

Over the years, that initial sense of Pat’s trustworthiness has been affirmed again and again.  And it’s not just my sense:  when I mentioned to one of her colleagues that I was planning on using Pat as a “trustworthy exemplar” in this book, this person’s response was, “Good choice – Pat’s picture should be in the dictionary under the definition for the word ‘integrity.’”

             — From Chapter 8 of Leading So People Will Follow

I enjoy seeing and experiencing the effects of Pat’s trustworthiness.  Since January of 2011, Pat has been the EVP of HR for NBCUniversal, and it’s been a wild time. She joined right around the time Comcast became the majority owner of NBCUniversal, and so walked into a situation that involved huge change, massive uncertainty and high anxiety for all involved.

I was sure, though, that those around her would quickly come to see her thoughtfulness, honesty and fairness, and that it would have a profound positive influence on the situation.  I’ve seen that happen: both the HR community at NBCUniversal and the folks in the business units now regard her as a core point of stability and clarity as they continue to define their new world.

Observing and working with Pat in this situation has really reinforced for me the importance of having trustworthy leaders during times of great change.  Change is tough for people, and one of the things that makes it hardest is the heightened level of ambiguity. When a leader is trustworthy people can rely on the fact that he or she will tell them the truth about what’s happening and what will happen – which reduces the degree of ambiguity significantly.  A really trustworthy leader will even tell you when he or she can’t tell you!  I’ve seen Pat do this a number of times over the past couple of years, saying some version of, “I’m not free to talk about this yet because of confidentiality issues (or legal issues, or personnel issues); I’ll speak more about it as soon as I’m able.”

Knowing that you’ll get the straight story when everything is up for grabs is enormously reassuring.  It frees people to keep moving ahead and go through the needed change, vs. getting paralyzed or resistant. Given the level of change in nearly every industry right now, trustworthiness in our leaders seems more important than ever before.


Sep
20

Doug Herzog – How Generosity of Spirit Helps People Grow

“Another generous leader with whom I’ve worked for many years, and for whom I have great affection, is Doug Herzog, the President of Viacom Entertainment Group.  Doug is much more likely to assume positive than negative intent – he believes that people generally want to do good work, and that you should hire smart, capable people and assume that they’ll then be smart and capable.  I’ve noticed over the years that most people really like working for him: they tend to blossom in the sun of his regard.  They feel motivated to fulfill his positive expectations.  Of course, sometimes people don’t fulfill his expectations, and then he can be disappointed, and sometimes even has to let them go – but the vast majority of the time, I’ve seen his hopefulness about people bear fruit.

 For example, at one point many years ago, Doug was having some difficulties with one of his direct reports.  This guy – let’s call him Joe – was running programming for one of the channels Doug manages, and while he was creative and smart, he was uncommunicative and hard to read.  Rather than assuming that Joe had some hidden agenda or was being secretive, Doug assumed that he simply didn’t understand how his lack of communication was affecting those around him.  He offered Joe an executive coach; Joe took advantage of the opportunity and improved his communication and his focus on teaming with others.  Now, almost ten years later, Joe is running the network: he and Doug have a strong and positive working relationship.”

            — From Chapter 7 of Leading So People Will Follow

Doug was the first client with whom I shared the six Accepted Leader attributes, in 1996. I had been working on the model for about a year, and felt as though I had something important – simple, true and useful.  I explained to Doug how I had been observing the differences between ‘appointed’ and ‘accepted’ leaders, and how I had come to believe that we have a kind of radar for good leadership built into us from ancient times as a group survival mechanism.  I laid out the six attributes – and he started applying them instantly, thinking out loud (very accurately) about some of his direct reports and which of the qualities they did and didn’t demonstrate. It was exciting for me; his immediate adoption was my first indicator that I had found something core to our perceptions of leadership.

But it also said something to me about Doug as a leader.  I had already noticed that generous leaders tended to ‘assume positive intent’ – to believe that people want to do good work and be strong team members, and that when those things aren’t happening, it’s more likely to be the result of a misunderstanding or a lack of skill or knowledge, rather than of a malicious or selfish agenda, or a permanent inability on that person’s part.  What I understood that day with Doug was that this generosity of spirit doesn’t make leaders naive or pollyanna-ish.  Doug was quite clear about the leadership deficits of the folks working for him. Assuming positive intent, when well-practiced, is hopeful but realistic: you see people for who they are, and you believe that they can grow and want to grow.

It’s the essence of ‘reasonable aspiration,’ and it provides a great developmental environment for the followers of a generous leader.