In every organization, titles indicate who the leaders are. In many organizations, employees have a different point of view. Having had the advantage of being up close to those with titles, they have their own opinion of whether they are really leaders.

This is generally something they keep to themselves, or within their group. The way it may be seen publicly is with weak performance, avoidance, or lack of enthusiasm.

Leadership expert John Hamm says real leaders who have mastered their craft don’t have weak followers who act in that way.

Reading the above will make some people squirm, because they recognize their own situation. For those people, Hamm says, a big problem is lurking.

They are just masquerading as leaders, because they have not yet earned the right to lead.

When a company is doing well, weak leaders can get by, flying by the seat of their pants. At times like this, there is enough money coming in and sitting in the bank account. High growth hides many sins.

Their fall comes in bad times, when Hamm says “the cloak of prosperity falls away, [and] their mediocrity is ruthlessly exposed.”

Hamm notes that people must earn the right to be called leaders. They may be appointed to a high position, but they earn the right to be recognized as a leader by their actions.

A real leader can get the full, collaborative engagement of the company’s employees. Those employees may be present for forty to fifty hours a week, but the privilege of having their hearts and minds must be earned.

John Hamm, a venture capitalist, board member, high-level consultant, and professor of leadership, studied the practitioners of great leadership, throughout his career.

Hamm is a professor at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, and his new book is a great vehicle to share what he learned, bringing those lessons to life with real-world stories.

The new book, “Unusually Excellent” is a back-to-basics reference book that offers a leadership framework for understanding and a guide for applying the battle-tested fundamentals of leadership.

The book works for both seasoned and aspiring leaders, and is designed to help them at every stage of their career.

Hamm says like human nature, the core laws of leadership have not changed much over time. There are basic principles of leadership, but not everyone knows them. It could be they never learned the fundamentals, or they may not have mastered them early in their career, or they may have forgotten them.

Also, Hamm says, some people “just aren’t cut out to lead.” His book can probably tell them why that is the case.

“Normal” leadership is a complex system of behaviors that can tolerate a lot of little mistakes. Extraordinary leadership cannot.

In “Unusually Excellent,” Hamm explains the difference between leadership and extraordinary leadership. He says “Think about it this way: Anyone can snap a photo that looks okay or cook a meal that satiates hunger. However, when an award-winning photographer takes the picture, or a five-star chef prepares dinner, anyone can tell a master has been at work. The same is true of leadership. The small deficiencies in how the novice leads, as opposed to the unusually excellent professional, create a radical difference in the outcome.”

Everyone makes mistakes, but the depth and breadth of the mistakes we make often tell the true story of what kind of leader we are.

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