Coaching Article – Avoiding the Leadership Herd Mentality in 2021: The Big Idea

As much as we endured in the year 2020 with a pandemic, lockdowns, a strife-filled presidential election, and economic upheaval, we know that 2021 will bring its own set of challenges. So, let’s get ready by making sure we are well grounded.

Getting “grounded” as a pilot usually meant you were not allowed to fly—usually due to health or safety issues—like failing a check ride. Or perhaps the entire fleet of aircraft were grounded for critical safety inspection.

But most of the time when we talk about being grounded, we’re talking about having a rock-solid foundation for making decisions and managing our lives through the array of information overload, political jockeying, or the constant stream of disinformation. That’s the grounding we need in 2021.

Here are a couple of checkpoints that can help us combat the potential herd mentality of the moment and lead with honor.

The Big Idea – Know Yourself  

Lets’ begin with the basics of leadership. For more than 22 years, the steps that Leading with Honor uses for leadership development always start with know yourself. You see, we can’t manage what we don’t know, so a critical first step is to understand our core identity. There are several pieces to this puzzle, but for today, we want to slim it down to just two – Character and Natural Talents (or DNA behaviors).

As we see in our Leadership Attributes Model ™, they are the foundation and launch pad for all honorable behavior and leadership development. And as we know from experience, courage is essential to wage this battle.

Watch this month’s Leading with Honor Coaching where I explain this big idea in more detail:

(video not playing? Watch it here.)


Tip #1 – Maintain Good Character

Of course, it’s easy to just assume we have good character. But the daily reporting of widespread failings in integrity and ethics makes it clear that the greatest threat to our culture is not COVID-19; it’s the lack of character in our leaders—at every level. It appears more acute now than ever before and to some degree that may be true. It does seem like our institutions and politicians are sliding toward an “ends justifies the means” mentality. But it may be that modern technology enables us to be more aware of what leaders are doing—good and bad—and of course the media sources have their own character issues, so they tend to focus on the negative about the ones they don’t like.

Character issues aren’t a new problem. If we reflect on the history of civilization, leaders have always struggled to stay on course—most of us know the biblical examples of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, David and Bathsheba, and Solomon and his 700 wives.

In western culture, we’re somewhat familiar with the character issues of leaders in Greek, Roman, and Western European civilization. So maybe it’s not just a character crisis in our era. History is replete with human character failures. To be honest, we are all one step away from being a crook. If you doubt that, think back to how close you want your CPA to get to the legal line in filing your tax return. Personally, I go right to that line and claim all the deductions I can.

“To guard our character, we must have an intentional character plan and fight for it every day.” [Tweet This]

Do you have that plan? If not, how do you guard your character? If you don’t have your own code, take a look at The Honor Code.

Tip #2 – Understand Your Natural Talents

The next level up in our Leadership Attributes Model takes us to talents. No one comes naturally talented for every aspect of leadership. We all have certain traits that come naturally and some that seem to be missing; thus, we all have strengths and struggles. And keep in mind that strengths overused also become struggles.

Simply put, our natural talents tend to tilt toward being either more results/task/mission focused or relationship/people/social focused. Our 30 years of research shows that about 40% go one way more than the other—with only 20% having somewhat of a balance, meaning natural talents for both.


Knowing and using our best talents propels us toward success. But a lack of awareness of our missing talents and struggles means we can’t manage our downside, and this is crucial for leaders. Without some effort to manage our struggles, they will be seen by others as weaknesses. Download our Leadership Balance Case Study for further information on this topic.

The Outcomes of Knowing Self

So, when we consider issues of character and the challenge of balancing our focus between mission and people, we see the need for self-awareness and self-management.

“Without leadership self-awareness & self-management, we’re going to either get lost or get in our own way which leads to missteps that sabotage our success and reputation.” [Tweet This]

Moreover, we’re going to impact those around us—the higher our position, the greater the impact we’ll have—positive or negative.

Last year during the pandemic, we heard a lot about “herd immunity.” This year let’s set the example and influence the “herd mentality” in our culture to be more honorable. Through self-awareness and commitment to our strong values and ethics we can set the example and lead the way.

Yes, you and I need to lead the way. So, I want to challenge you to reach out and speak up—use your influence to help others clarify their character and talents and stand up more confidently in 2021. This will be the gift that keeps on giving and helps our culture correct back on course.


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Understanding Natural Talents Has Never Been More Important

Every human is unique — and the best leaders know why this might be an advantage. Learn how embracing different talents and abilities, both our own and those of others, can lead to more effective leadership and success.

Grounded in statistical research and supported by data from millions of clients and more than 45 years of workplace experience, Lee Ellis and Hugh Massie reveal their personal stories and experience on how they’ve successfully helped organizations achieve their goals by applying practical insights on human design.

Purchase Your Copy

Additional discounts available for bulk orders. Also available from your favorite book retailer such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

“…There are few that have made significant strides on making ‘knowing yourself’ operational and real as Lee and Hugh have in this marvelous book. Reading this book is a compelling adventure. If you follow the path, you will change for the better!” Richard Boyatzis, Co-author of the international best seller, Primal Leadership and the new Helping People Change

“This is the book that I have longed for during my decades in managing talent. Having seen the positive impact of DNA Behavior on my teams, this is a must-read for leaders who desire to build strong teams by accelerating natural talents in an authentic and lasting way.” – Belva White, CPA, MBA, Vice President for Finance & Treasury, Emory University




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