Leaders Have No Rules

This week I got the chance to chat with Kevin Kruse, the founder and CEO of LEADx, a company that offers a leadership development platform powered by artificial intelligence. He’s a New York Times bestselling author, host of the LEADx podcast, and he has a new book just out called Great Leaders Have No Rules, that we spent most of our time talking about.

AI-powered leadership advice

But the first thing Kevin did is explain to me what an AI-powered leadership development platform is. Basically, it’s an app for your phone that uses IBM’s Watson supercomputer AI to give you situational leadership advice tailored to your specific leadership style. So, it’s like an executive coach in your pocket. You can hear him explain how it works in our conversation. But if you want to try it out for free, you can do that at Leadx.org.

10 Ideas for Leaders

As for the book, it lays out 10 counter-intuitive ideas leaders should consider. Here they are:

  1. Close your open door policy
  2. Shut off your smartphone
  3. Have no rules
  4. Be likable, not liked
  5. Love everyone (even if you don’t like them)
  6. Crowd you calendar
  7. Play favorites
  8. Reveal everything (including salaries)
  9. Show weakness
  10. Remember that leadership is NOT a choice

We talked about #3 and #4 on the podcast above, and you can listen to that above. If you’re in a hurry, below are the two stories that he discussed, as written in the book. But the conversation is more fun, and you’ll hear Kevin’s conclusions from the stories.

From “Be Likable, Not Liked”

“There’s something important I need to ask you,” billionaire Brad Kelley began. “Do you need to be liked?”

“Well, I want to be liked,” answered his 24-year old employee, Daniel Houghton.

“That’s not what I asked.”

Houghton answered again, “I don’t need to be liked.”

“Good. Needing to be liked is a problem.” And then Kelley made young Houghton the CEO of the iconic guidebook company, Lonely Planet, which Kelley had just acquired at a fire sale price.

In the U.S. version of the television mockumentary, The Office, regional manager Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) gives a very different answer to this question: “Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like a compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.”

For the first twenty years of my career, I was Michael Scott. And this turns out to be my single greatest weakness as a leader.

Most people don’t need a better friend. They need a leader.

No Rules story

“I’m staring at my expense check and it’s short by about four dollars. Must have totaled it up wrong when I submitted my expense report.

I pull up the original form with a month’s worth of mileage, meals, hotel rooms and office supplies. I add up all the rows again and it seems correct.

This was the first time I had ever done my expenses and gotten a check back. I sold my business just a month before, and was now a Vice President and partner in the new company that acquired mine. Maybe I filled out the form wrong or don’t understand how the expense stuff works. I shoot an email off to our CFO letting him know that my check didn’t match my submission; I didn’t care about the $4 but wanted to make sure I hadn’t made an error somewhere.

The email I got back from the CFO—the person who was a fellow partner in the firm, the person who had just cut me a check for over a million dollars to buy my little company—said, “I deducted $4.34 because we don’t allow employees to buy Post-it notes.”

What? He actually reviewed my office supplies receipt and deducted the Post-it notes? And what the heck could be wrong with Post-it notes? I emailed back: Why?

And he answered: Wasteful expense. Cheaper to tear regular paper into little squares.

I can still remember how I felt although this was over 15 years ago. Let’s just say I sure didn’t feel Vice-presidential or like a co-owner of the company. I mean, I didn’t even have the authority to choose office supplies.

I wasn’t the only one surprised by the expense reimbursement rules. Another executive, whose company had also recently been acquired, found his expense check short by five dollars because he had ordered a beer along with his dinner while he was traveling for business. He learned, after the fact that the company policy was not to reimburse for alcohol. You could buy a five dollar milkshake with your dinner but not a five dollar beer.

What I had stumbled into would quickly become known as the “Post-it note debate.” It wasn’t about little self-sticking pieces of paper, of course. And it wasn’t about beer. It was about rules.

When you take away a decision, it becomes your company, not our company.

Source: Great Leaders Have No Rules

You can learn more at norulesleadership.com and Leadx.org.

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

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Comments

  1. kristinpedemonti says

    Resonate with the leadership ideas very much, especially the No Rules… guidelines sure, especial;y guidelines that serve staff to feel valued, human and part of the process.

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