Live from NCOF: Taking the LEAP

Chicago—The word “leadership” has been bandied about so frequently, it’s all but lost its meaning, according to Steve Farber, president of management consultancy Extreme Leadership. But the stellar leader is one who takes a leap—or make that LEAP, as in “cultivating Love, generating Energy, inspiring Audacity, and providing Proof.” Farber discussed the concept during his Monday morning keynote address, “The Radical Leap: Extreme Leadership at Work and Beyond,” at the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment.”

“The extreme leader’s ideal,” Farber said, is to “do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” Before a leader can cultivate love in colleagues and staffers, he or she must love the work. Farber recommended asking oneself, Why do I love this business/customer/colleague, and how do I show it?

Once the leader “feels the love,” it’s that much easier to generate energy among coworkers and customers. Another suggestion from Farber: Ask, What’s exciting about the work that I/we really do?—and answer it out loud, among a group of peers and colleagues.

Moving beyond the warm and fuzzy, Farber stressed the importance of audacity: “A bold and blatant disregard for normal constraints.” He warned, though, against taking risks for the heck of it or disregarding constraints out of a sense of rebellion or anger.

As for the proof portion of the LEAP, Farber noted that before a manager can win the trust and respect of others, he or she has to provide proof of being trustworthy and respectable. That requires “no incongruity between words and actions.”

What Farber calls extreme leadership isn’t for the weak of heart. “The main reason people back away from leadership is that it’s scary,” he said. “When you’re in the moment, you can’t tell if the risk you’re taking is a good thing or a bad thing.”

Nonetheless, Farber advocated “pursuing the OS!M”—the moment when you say to yourself, Oh, shoot (or most likely, a more colorful version of the sentiment). “If you’re not experiencing the thrill and fear,” he said, “then you’re not experiencing extreme leadership.”

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