Leaders are incomplete. It is as simple as that. In fact, Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski, and Senge posit that it is the flailing attempts by leaders to. Request PDF on ResearchGate | In praise of the incomplete leader Peter Drucker, the author of more than two dozen HBR articles, says. Be an Incomplete Leader Norman Chorn“Be a good leader. Be incomplete. Dont be perfect, dont even try .

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It is not that others have not supported a similar shift e. This is true more for sensemaking than the other strengths, and deserves special attention as a starting place leadder engagement with this model. Sign me up for the newsletter! No one person could possibly stay on top of everything.

Share on Pinterest Share. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others. In fact, the sooner leaders stop trying to be all things to all people, the better off their organizations will be. The incomplete leader also knows that leadership exists throughout the organizational hierarchy—wherever expertise, vision, new ideas, and commitment are found.

Last, the final challenge with this model is that despite being a strengths-based model it, rather surprisingly, relies heavily on deficit-oriented language. As authors, we have found this journey enlightening and challenging as we investigated these various models of leadership and were forced to consider them through the critical lens of strengths-based leadership.

The incomplete leader offers a welcome shift in the paradigm of leadership. The second would be the lack of individualization within these incomplete models.

In Praise of the Incomplete Leader: HBR Must Reads on Leadership Review #10 – TandemSpring

Those at the top must come to understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths. There is no need to go down he rabbit hole of deficits at all, and instead simply lead through strengths and create space for others to do the same.

Rarely, if ever, will someone be equally skilled in all four domains. In fact, Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski, and Senge posit that it is the flailing attempts by leaders to be and appear perfect that lead to the failings of most leaders. But, it does beg the question of why we even have to go there. In our practice-based programs, we have analyzed numerous accounts of organizational change and watched leaders struggle to meld top-down strategic initiatives with vibrant ideas from the rest of the organization.


Corporations have been becoming less hierarchical and more collaborative for decades, of course, as globalization and the growing importance of knowledge work have required that responsibility and initiative be distributed more widely. Tags authentic awareness CEO change character coach collaberate communication control culture discipline empathy empowerment encourage engagement EQ focus growth humility innovation lead leader leaders leadership lessons life manage manager mentor Millennials opportunity passion potential principals productivity purpose relationships stragile strategy success team train transparency trust vision.

Thank you again for joining us on this exploration of leadership.

In Praise of the Incomplete Leader | Thought Patrol

Only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete—as having both strengths and weaknesses—will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on lraise. Rarely will a single person be skilled in all four areas.

Finally, inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. Within that model, leadership consists of four capabilities: But the myth of the complete leader and the attendant fear of appearing incompetent makes many executives try to do just that, exhausting themselves and damaging their organizations in the process. First, while the interdependency across the four leadership capabilities is noted by the authors, it would seem that sensemaking is particularly crucial for engagement in the other three relating, visioning, and inventing.

Unfortunately, no single person can possibly live up to those standards. The incomplete leader has the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization—and to let those qualities shine.

Without understanding that expression within each of these four leadership capacities can, and should, look different based on individual personality, strengths, industry, economic contexts, etc. It is a collaborative process that articulates what the members of an organization want to create. Over the past six years, our work at the MIT Leadership Center has included studying leadership in many organizations and teaching the topic to senior executives, middle managers, and MBA students.

The Latest in Leadership in your Inbox. There are three primary challenges with this model.

Share on Twitter Tweet. The incomplete leader, by contrast, knows when to let go: Share on Google Plus Share. Pralse, the authors propose four interrelated skills that leaders should keep in balance to the best extent possible and leverage others, throughout the organization, to fill in key areas where they are unable to do so, either by ability or by choice.


More and more decisions are made in the context of global markets and rapidly—sometimes radically—changing financial, social, political, technological, and environmental forces. The four leadership capacities seem reasonable enough and they are in fact defined as strengths. The sheer complexity and ambiguity of problems is humbling.

In Praise of the Incomplete Leader

This then allows the leader to operate in their ghe leadership capability while engaging and leveraging others in theirs, or what the authors call distributed leadership. Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. Share on Linkedin Share.

Within an existing corporate mindset it is fairly reasonable that as a person makes their way on the journey to strengths that they may feel the urge to get comfortable with harboring weaknesses as a logical step. Theoretically the shift to becoming an incomplete leader will keep leaders off the ledge of pursuing perfection and more deeply engaged in their unique combination of leadership capabilities, simply by not trying to be someone that they are not.


This framework, which synthesizes our own research with ideas from other leadership scholars, views leadership as a set of four capabilities: Visioning, the third capability, means coming up with a compelling image of the future. Regardless, further engagement within this framework would require a strong strengths-based approach and likely a repositioning for most people to be truly effective.

Giving the authors the benefit of the doubt, it is unclear from this article alone if this is a representation of the model itself or about getting people comfortable with even thinking this way, as most of us are so indoctrinated with deficit-first approaches. Submit a Comment Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. It is as simple as that. Your email address will not be published.