Don’t Feed the Trolls – Research Reveals Psychopathy

For any person managing a company blog, Facebook Page or other online asset, we all know and think about the trolls.  We advise, and are advised by, others to not feed the trolls.  Now new research out of Canada confirms what we all knew – online trolls have psychopathic tendencies.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Years ago I worked at a company that was pretty innovative in a number of areas.  In fact like many innovative environments, not everyone is pleased with the direction that the innovation is headed.  Some people who feel that they are losing control become embittered and look for ways to cause chaos.  While all this was bubbling under the surface and it was for the most part hidden, it would soon boil to the top when we launched our Facebook page for customer interactions.

Of course we trained and prepared our staff how to handle external discord.  We were prepared for that.  What we were less prepared for however, was that of the trolls who clearly surfaced from within the organization.  As someone who was very proud to work for the organization it was very disheartening and alarming to see very personal and abusive attacks being made against certain people.  I can’t articulate just how bad it was.  Eventually we had to take steps to ban the offender or offenders.  We finally found a solution, but it took awhile.

Over the years since this “experience” I have shared the details with many social media thought-leaders and they were quite perplexed.  They found the circumstances extreme and were actually shocked when I shared some of the actual posts.  It was one of the worst attacks that they had heard about.

Needless to say the posts were vicious and unrelenting.  At the time I couldn’t help but wonder what was driving the person or persons to behave in this manner.  I worried about the mental state of someone who could act in this way.  Research released earlier this month by Canadian researchers Erin Buckels, a University of Manitoba psychology graduate student, and psych professors Paul Trapnell of the University of Winnipeg and Delroy Paulhus of the University of British Columbia, found the trolls were “Machiavellian in their manipulation of others and their disregard for morality.”  Most disturbing however, is the finding that this is not an online phenomenon, but rather something that they like o do every day, whether on line or not.  If you think about this, the ramifications are quite serious.

How to handle trolls depends on the situation.  In my case, we probably should have just ignored them, but it was difficult when it was such a disturbing attack on members of the executive.  It was hard for employees to look at the posts when monitoring.  More recently however, Dominos did an excellent job at addressing a troll.  Here are some of the tweets:

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So, how did Domino’s do?  They did a great job.  They stuck to message and no doubt have a great Playbook that helped guide them through this.  They also kept the responses to a smaller audience.  The trolls made sure that everyone could see their posts by using a “.” at the beginning of their tweets.  When Domino’s responded however, they did not respond the same way. Instead, they just responded to the offender.  As a result, only the people following both the troll and the Domino’s could see the response.  By doing this they aren’t making a big deal of this.  In the end, they shut it down.

Want to learn more about marketing, communications and strategy?  Be sure to visit us at TaylorMade Solutions.

Business Counsellor’s: The Top 10 Tips to Start Your Own Business

Guest Blog Post by Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

As a Business Development Specialist with Enterprise Fredericton, I work with entrepreneurs on a daily basis counselling them and helping them succeed.  Based on years of experience working with these enthusiastic entrepreneurs I have developed my top 10 tips to start your own business.

Courtesy of

1.  Research, research, research!

Put on your detective cap and dig up all you can for market research.  This is one area that people don’t spend enough time on.  Gain superior knowledge on the marketplace that you will be operating in (demographics, logistics, and trends).  You have to determine that there is current and future demand for your product or service, and that there are customers willing to buy/use it.  Spend the time on this before you jump into debt.

2.  Understand Your Funding Requirements

Are you able to finance your new business yourself, or are you going to have to get additional financing?  Most people will require additional investment through banks, or other lending vehicles.  You might have to get creative and stack some funding options.  Prepare a detailed list of your start-up costs.  Then gather information on all potential sources of funding (financial institutions, government programs, etc.).

3.  Build a Business Plan & Financial Projections

I say “build” a business plan because an effective plan is built in sections.  Each section contributes to a solid business proposal.  This plan is your blueprint for success.  Creating a viable business plan and financials will be vital in achieving your funding goals.  Don’t think you can write in one sitting.  Remember, you are asking someone to lend you money for your business idea.  It is in your best interest to put in the appropriate time.  You only get one chance to impress a lender.  Make it count!

4.  Know Your Customers

I owned a retail store for over a dozen years and I was constantly asking customers about my products and quality of service.  Before I opened, I would go visit the competition and watch people shop.  I’d ask the clerks what people were interested in, and what made them come back.  You have to know the pain & pleasure points of your customers.  You want to reduce/eliminate their pains, and reinforce your WOW factor.

5.  Know Your Competitors

The old adage rings true here; “keep your friends close and your enemies even closer”.  You can’t be shy as a business owner.  Call and visit your competitors often.  Get to know them.  Know their strengths and weaknesses.  Know their specials and pricing.   Become an expert on your competition.  This way you can adapt to changes proactively and not get “surprised” by new developments.

6.  Have a Well-defined Value Proposition

A value proposition (VP) is a statement that clearly identifies what benefits a customer will receive by purchasing a particular product or service from a particular vendor.  It’s kind of like your “elevator pitch”.  It should be simple and easy to remember. It should emphasize both the benefits the customer will receive and the price the customer will be charged as compared to the competition.  An important goal of a value proposition is to convince the customer that they will be getting many more benefits than he/she is being asked to pay for.

Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

7.  Build Your TEAM

Although choosing quality employees is a key component to running a successful business they are not the only players to include on your TEAM.  Your team also consists of mentors, advisors, your accountant or bookkeeper, your lawyer, banker, even your insurance agent.  All of these experienced professionals are in your corner to help reduce your risk of failure.  Use these connections to your benefit at every opportunity.

8. Network.  Network.  Network!

Before and after you open your business you should be finding ways to network in the community.  Again, you cannot be shy when you are an entrepreneur.  You have to make your business a success.  You want to get to know other business owners and community members.  You should be active, attending civic functions and relaying your value proposition to potential customers.  Get to know your city council, provincial/state and federal government representatives.  You never know when having them as an acquaintance may be of a benefit to your business.

9. Be Resilient

As a business owner you will face many obstacles.  Keep treading forward.  Be adaptive to potential problems and turn them into positives.  Become a problem solver.  Some days will be difficult, others will be fantastic!

10. Enjoy the ride!

If you are serious about starting a business then look to do something that interests you.  As a business owner, you will be spending many hours on your baby (yes, it will feel like an offspring).  It’s not a 9-5 commitment.  Soak up the experience.  It is a milestone moment in your life.  Enjoy it!

Andrew Campbell is a Business Development Specialist with Enterprise Fredericton.  Andrew provides free, confidential business counselling services to local entrepreneurs and businesses in the Greater Fredericton Region.  Prior to joining Enterprise Fredericton, Andrew owned and operated his retail business. He joined Enterprise Fredericton after selling his business.

Olympic Hockey a Case Study in Second Screen Usage

As I sat watching the Gold Medal Hockey Game for Sochi, my thoughts on Second Screen usage were really front and centre. After all, I had my tablet while watching the game.  Olympic Hockey is a real case study in Second Screen Usage.  Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 12.14.26 PM

Even though the Game started at 4 a.m. Pacific and 8 a.m. my time, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with friends that were pumped up and primed to watch the Game.  There are six time zones that cover Canada.  Some had not been to sleep yet while others had gotten up early.  A significant amount of the near 40 million people in Canada were talking about hockey — live while the game was on.

While research shows that only 42% of consumers try synchronizing their content experience to live TV, I would love to know if anyone was monitoring and researching activity today in Canada.    A number hashtags are trending in Canada even an hour after the game:Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 12.25.11 PM

  • #CANvsSWE
  • #Toews
  • #kunitz; and more!

On both Twitter and Facebook #anythingforhockey is pretty active and full of great moments.

In terms of Second Screen however, I think that a challenge remains for Marketing Practitioners like me.  How do Marketers take advantage of these conversations and provide meaningful content?  How do you interject yourself into conversations and create real engagement without intruding?  And when I talk about engagement I am speaking more about true conversations where relationship building is happening versus just “Likes” and “Shares”.  How do you use your content to build relationships versus just pushing your message?

Speaking for myself only, I don’t want to be inundated with advertising when I am watching TV to be honest.  Yes, I realize what this sounds like considering that I am a Marketing Practitioner.  But, I think that I am not unlike the rest of consumers.  Of course we are used to ads when watching, but there are two important components to this.  First and foremost, clever ads get our attention and we do tend to like those.  On the other hand, networks like Netflix are changing the way that we look at advertising, or no advertising.

I believe that the best bet for Marketers is to focus on Second Screen through Community and Community Engagement.  I am talking about real engagement here.  Depending on whom you speak to, engagement is defined differently.  For me engagement is not a goal, but a result.  (and I borrow this from people like Jason Falls).  Engagement is definitely not about how many likes you can get or how many shares.  Not at all!  It is about building a community of people who actually talk to each other, share information with each other and get to know each other.  Talk about relationship marketing!  This is it at its best.  Companies like Radian6 were excellent at it.  In some ways they were some of the best at it.

I am hoping that with the importance of Second Screen companies will realize the value in this approach and either get back to basics with Community Engagement and/or implement it the way it was intended.  I believe that companies that do, will see great value for their respective brands.

This is my take on Second Screen.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Agree or disagree, tell me what you think.

6 Tips to Market to the Start-up Entrepreneur (& the #1 Way)

I don’t care where you are located, start-ups and the people who do start-ups – the entrepreneurs – are all the rage.  Everyone wants to be a part of the next great start-up.  And, why not?  It can be pretty damned cool working for or with a start-up.  But start-up entrepreneurs can be hard to reach.  How do marketers reach them?  Here are 6 tips to market to the start-up entrepreneur.Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 4.20.04 PM

Like all marketers I had assumptions and beliefs about what works and what doesn’t.  So, I wanted to test my theory.  I asked 20 start-up entrepreneurs to take a short survey.  I wanted to know where do they look for information, who influences them and what influences them.

6. What type of advertising do you notice

This is an interesting question in and of itself.  I didn’t ask what influences them, but rather what do they notice.

Interestingly enough in this group it was ads on buses.  In fact, 71% noticed these ads.  Online pop-up ads were second getting the attention of 43% of my sample group.  Tied for last place were ads in local newspapers and/or in newsletters.  In fact, only 14% noticed these ads.

5. Do Ads Influence Entrepreneurs?

Now, this is the question that is really important to all marketers! Are my ads influencing you?  Will I woo you to my brand versus my competitor with my clever and witty ads?  Sadly the answer is a resounding no from my sample.  Nearly 72% indicated that ads do not influence them.

4. How about trust?  Do Entrepreneurs trust our ads?

Again, I was pretty certain about what I would get for answers to this question.  In the words of Erik Qualman, only 14% of consumers trust tv ads.  My survey was more focused and 58% acknowledged that they don’t trust advertisements in general.

3. How do you feel about promotional materials (hats, t-shirts, pens, etc.)

I have my own personal feeling about promotional items and it is quite strong. For me, unless it is something amazing, I likely don’t take it.  If I have to take it and I am travelling I leave it for housekeeping.  As a marketer, I always hope that people are not like me in this regard, but they are.  In fact, 57% felt that promotional items were a waste of money.  And, most importantly marketers, not one person indicated that promotional items had any influence on them when it came to wanting to work with one brand versus another.

2. So, where do Entrepreneurs go looking for information?

Well, according to my survey nearly 72% visit blogs.  Surprisingly for me though, is that 57% also go to government sources.  Perhaps this should not be too surprising as many start-ups are seeking funding grants and programs for such things as payroll, and yup, you guessed it: marketing funds!

 1. So, what is the best way to reach Start-up Entrepreneurs and better yet, influence them?

Are you ready for it?  As a marketer if you are surprised by this, we really, really need to chat.  The #1 thing that influences the start-up entrepreneur are referrals by peers.  In this instance, entrepreneurs are not that different from the rest of us.  Check out this great survey result from  Their results indicate that 84% of respondents trust peer results.  My survey netted 100% results.

Second to referrals were…and a drum roll and again if you are surprised, we need to talk……blogs.  Nearly 72% said that they are influenced by blogs from peers and/or experts.

Social media discussion groups were third at 43%.

So, if you want to reach and influence start-up entrepreneurs, dump the traditional marketing approach of push, push, push the message and adopt a solid content marketing strategy.  Be sure to make Influencer Relations a part of that overall strategy!

Good Leaders Don’t Preach, They Act

Over the years I have worked with some brilliant people.  I have also worked with some less than brilliant people.  Thankfully there were learning opportunities from both.  In fact, I have learned what to do and what not to do.  Perhaps the biggest lesson however, is that good leaders don’t preach, they act.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Here are the top 5 lessons I have learned from great leaders:

1.  They Listen

Really great leaders are able to listen to other people.  They actually hear what is being said.  They also listen to people regardless of where they might be in the hierarchy.

As one leader put it, “I see things from a certain vantage point.  My executive team sees it pretty much from my vantage point, but the manager on the floor or the employee on the front lines sees it from a much different way.  I can’t always seek their input in making decisions, but there are times when I need to hear about their issues to make an informed decision.”

2. They Praise in Public and Coach in Private

We have all been in situations when a manager or other senior leader in the organization has made a point to publicly acknowledge the contributions of a team member.  During those moments we really admire that individual who can take the time to recognize others.  And secretly, we want to be on the receiving end of the recognition.  Be honest with yourself…you know that you do.

We have also been either witness to, or worse yet, the subject of what could be a public flogging or at the very least a very embarrassing moment when the boss decides that he is going to put you in your place in front of your peers, his peers or customers.

In the former situation, individuals are showing leadership and acknowledging that it takes a team to succeed. It build trust. It builds team.  It build respect.  And, on top of it all, it creates an environment where people will follow that leader to the end of the earth.

In the latter situation, it is quite different.  This type of action is not about leadership.  It is about someone who has to exert  a sense of power or control over another.  Often times this is done to counteract the insecurity of the so-called leader.  In fact, I have witnessed this in cases where an individual is very good at what he or she does and is being recognized for success.  The leader has become threatened by the success of his or her underling and takes action to “show who is boss.”  The end result is not admiration or respect for the leader. In fact it is quite the opposite.

3. Know Leadership is More than Dolling Out Books

Don’t get me wrong.  I love reading.  I collect books and never want to dispose of books.  They become a part of my being.  When someone recommends a book to me I take that seriously.  Of course I want to explore what this person experienced in reading said book. This is particularly true of people I really admire and respect.

It has been my experience that really great leaders keep up to date with most, if not all, of the greatest books, but they are very judicious in terms of which books they recommend to others.  The reverse is also true for not so great leaders.  I can recall working with one individual who had a new book recommendation for his staff on nearly a weekly basis.  Not only did he order the book for us, which was nice, but he then told us how quickly he read it and would bring it out in meetings.  Of course, the book of choice changed nearly weekly.  Unfortunately so did his focus.  It didn’t take long for the books to collect on the shelves of those that reported to him.  There were some good ones in there, but unfortunately the build-up of dust was a telltale sign that his subordinates no longer took him seriously.

4.  Appreciate and Celebrate Differing Points of Views

When I look at the great leaders that I have had the pleasure of serving with, they are pretty comfortable in their own skin.  They are confident in their expertise and recognize that they need to build a team that is second to none.  Because they are confidant, they not only appreciate, but they seek out and celebrate differing points of views.  They know that hearing different ideas, they will make decisions with all scenarios in mind.

I worked with one CEO that would listen carefully to members of his executive team, his or her ideas, concerns and proposed solutions. He often already knew the course of action that he wanted to take, but through hearing out his team he did 3 things:

  • he tested this theory to ensure that he had all the information;
  • practiced how he might present/defend to the board and other stakeholders; and
  • brought his team along with him through discussion.

In the end his team understood the issue thoroughly and because they had the opportunity to share their thoughts, they felt tied to the decision.

I think it is important to note that this same CEO did not rule by consensus.  Don’t get me wrong.  He had no issue making his own decisions and he often did make decisions without a group discussion. When he did however, his team respected him and more importantly “trusted” that it was the right thing to do.

5.  They Care

This might seem obvious, but I don’t believe it to be the case.  Working with people who care does make a difference.  For those that think it is a weakness to care, I would suggest that you might be a leader in name, but you won’t have the minds, hearts and dedication of those that work beside you and for you.  When a person genuinely cares for another person it is obvious.  When a person is only focused on his or her own interests, that is also transparent.

Want to learn more about leadership, marketing and developing your business?  Visit us at TaylorMade Solutions

3 Clues that Your Social Media Consultant is Clueless

Whether you are biting the bullet and just starting to use social media in your operations or, you have been using social media for awhile, you would be wise to find the right consultant. But the question is, how do you know when your consultant is feeding you the wrong information?  Well, there are signs and here are 3 clues that your social media consultant is clueless:Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 6.01.14 PM

1. Recommending that You Be Present & Active in ALL Social Media

If your consultant advises you that you need to be present and active in every social media channel known to mankind, you should not only raise an eyebrow, you should raise a lot of questions.

I recently started working with a client who was having significant challenges with her marketing initiatives.  In fact, she was not getting any results what so ever.  She had previously engaged a consultant that advised her to be active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and four others.  She was further advised that she needed to be posting at least 10 times a day every day.  As a small business she had to manage all of this activity herself.  She was following the recommendations of the consultant to the letter.  The problem was that she was consumed with social media. She didn’t have much time to actually run her business and to boot, she was getting zero results.

Essentially all of this advice was wrong for her.  After auditing her program, I recommended significant changes.  She is now active in two channels. I also provided her with a plan on how often to post and during what times of the day.  In just three weeks she has seen a substantial increase in qualified leads and enquiries.

2.  No Listening and Engagement Program

When your consultant speaks to your about your needs and objectives, one of the first things that needs to be considered and discussed by your consultant should be about setting up your listening and engagement program.  If your consultant fails to recommend, or at the very least discuss it with you, this should be an alarm bell.  This is always the first step in leveraging social media. Failing to discuss this with you demonstrates that your consultant is not grasping the fact that social media is about a relationship and two-way dialogue.

Another client I was working with did not have a listening and engagement program.  He didn’t understand why he wasn’t getting any conversations going.  He wasn’t listening to his clients and he certainly wasn’t engaging with them where they were conversing.  He was advised by his consultant that all he had to do was issue push communications. In other words, he was told that just putting out your message was the way to go.

I worked with him to get a listening and engaging tool and developed a Playbook for how to engage with his customers and prospects.  In just one week he is seeing conversations develop.

3.  You Should Only Focus on Social Media – It is all You need.

Social media is still a relatively new concept for many.  Even practitioners continue to develop and hone their skills.  Despite this however, really qualified practitioners will never advise you to look at your social media efforts in isolation.  Instead, they will look at your overall marketing and operational plans and objectives.  They will work with you to develop strategies and tactics that will help you meet those objectives.  They will also help you determine the necessary metrics and align them to your Key Performance Indicators.

Working with another larger organization I have helped them identify all key components of their overall marketing strategy and how they all work together.  Each piece supports the other and there is a consistent message.  The result, customers and prospects see a solid and consistent approach.  They are seeing a story unfold versus disparate and confusing information.

Social media doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be done with the right approach.  These 3 tips should help you ask the right questions when working with consultants.  And most importantly don’t be afraid to pause and reflect on what is being offered.  This is an important component of your brand, identity and bottom line, getting a second opinion might not also be a bad idea.

Want to learn more?  Check out Best Practices – Social Media Listening and Engaging”.  This free resource will help you start your own program.

How You Tell Your Customers (on a daily basis) That Your Brand Sucks

First off, a brand is not a logo.  A brand is about the emotional reaction that your product and/or service causes.  For example, how do you feel when you think:  Apple, Range Rover or Canada Goose? What you thought and felt is the brand – good or bad!  More importantly, ask yourself how do you want people to react to your brand?  What do they think when they hear your name?  So, repeat after me:  a brand is not a logo.   And people who continue to think that a brand is a logo are likely the same people that don’t understand why they are having customer retention issues.  These same people are telling their customers and prospects that their own brand sucks in these three ways:

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

Image: TaylorMade Solutions

1.  Unknown Company Values

If you haven’t really thought about what your company values are, your employees will be left to make them up. Needless to say, consistency might be an issue at best.  Worst case scenario?  Your customers won’t like what they see and bail.

It is not enough to say that you strive for excellence for example, you need to ensure your entire team knows and understands what this means.  What excellence looks like and what it does not.  In December I wrote of an experience with Keurig Canada that demonstrated that they weren’t operating on that premise of  excellence.  Thankfully they were listening on social and called me to rectify the situation.  You can read about that experience here.

2.  Not Responding to Customers

This is no doubt the best way to tell your customers or prospects that they don’t matter.  First and foremost you have to be present in the channels where your customers and prospects are.  So, that means telephone, email and in some cases social media. (I differ from most marketers with respect to social.  I believe you have to be realistic about your business and who your customers are and make an informed decision, but this deserves its own separate blog post.)

Here is the critical piece, however:  be sure that you properly staff these channels and respond.  Seems logical right?  Unfortunately not.  Would you sit next to a ringing phone and not answer it?  Probably not. At least I hope not.  So, why then do some brands ask people to email them and then never respond?  The same goes for social media?  You are sending the wrong message.

Not responding to customers happens all the time.  Not responding to prospects happens all of the time.  These results in lost business.

Here are two recent examples:

  • Robert Burns Day got me thinking about Haggis.  So, I wanted to buy some.  I googled and found Stahly Quality Foods. Great!  However, not so great!  When I tried to order a notice came up for North Americans.  Not to worry, I could reach out to a regional distributor via email.  I sent that email more than two weeks ago and have not received an acknowledgement or answer.  So, I put a message on Stahly Quality Foods Facebook page…and you guessed it…nothing.  In fact the last time they actually posted on their Facebook page was October 2013.  So, exactly why do they have a Facebook page?  Why do they list their distributors with their contact information?  Frankly I have formed an opinion of this brand.  It is not a good one.  I now can’t imagine buying food from them.Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.04.12 AM
  • I was helping a student with his cover letter and resume for a specific job.  The company doing the hiring requests that applicants send their information via email or snail mail.  They are a large company with a full HR department.  They had approximately four jobs listed on their website at the time this student applied.  The issue that he faced is that he could not get anyone to respond to his request to confirm receipt of the email.  He even tried a delivery receipt, but received a notification that their system was set up so that a delivery acknowledgement was not possible.

Many HR departments that do this often claim that because of volume of applications and only successful candidates will be notified of an interview.  I say “B.S” to that.  First and foremost you can have an automatic response that acknowledges receipt of the email.  Secondly, you can set rules to sort applications by job number.  So, saying that you get too many email is really and truly B.S.

What you are doing is setting the tone for candidates.  Some may decide that this is not the type of organization that they want to work for.  This could certainly be the case in markets where there are more jobs than candidates.  Or, you can be setting the tone for how, if successful, they should act towards their colleagues, prospects and customers.  After all, mediocrity begets mediocrity (tweet this).

3.  Lacking of Training and Management

We all need training.  Sometimes it is training rooted in the technology we need for the job, some times it is in safety, working hours, etc.  What many brands forget to train their employees in, is customer interaction.

Have you ever gone into a store and saw a number of employees clustered together laughing and carrying on?  There are many things that could be going in here.  The first thought might be, wow, this is a great place to work. These people are happy.  This is great.  However, as you are in the store longer you see that these same employees continue to stay together and are completely oblivious to the customers around them.  They don’t see the customers who need help.  They deliberately avoid eye contact.  This is often systematic of a lack of training and management.  It can be a very easy fix.  Train your employees on the importance of the customer. Ensure that your managers are always focused on the customer and lead by example.  There is nothing wrong with a team huddle and good camaraderie.  Actually it is great.  It only becomes an issue when your comrades don’t focus on the customer and the customer walks out.

The Fix

These are three ways that you and your employees tell your customers, on a daily basis, that your brand sucks.  Thankfully there are easy fixes:

  • communicate your values to all employees
  • consistently enforce your brand values and acknowledge your employees when they live the brand values
  • make brand training a regular operational practice
  • ensure that your customers are prospects are at the forefront of your communications and expectations
  • communicate your expectations
  • test your employees – secret shoppers help identify issues for improvement
  • remember to focus on issues and not individuals – praise publicly and coach privately

What would you add to the list? Want more information or help? Feel free to connect with us.

2 Reasons Why You Will Never Be A Leader

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  Between the volunteer work that I do and some pretty cool and specialized work with my clients, the conversations have really caused me to pause and think about what makes a leader, and in particular, a good leader.  Is a leader born?  Or, can someone develop leadership qualities over time?  I would say, based on my experience, yes and yes.  But, are there characteristics that would indicate that you will not be a good leader?  Yes there are.  There are 2 pretty good reasons why you will never be a “true” leader and they are pretty straight forward.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Before getting into the two reasons, it is important to note that good leaders have certain things in common.  Good leaders are:

  1. very self-aware;
  2. genuinely concerned about others and like people;
  3. good listeners;
  4. great at connecting with people, as well as helping people connect with others;
  5. trusted; and finally
  6. because of the first five, they know how to inspire others

So, what are the two reasons why some people will NEVER be real leaders?  Two simple reasons:

1.  Ego

All leaders have egos.  But how big are those egos? Some are pretty big.  Even effective leaders can have very big egos.  The difference however, goes back to the list above.  If every conversation is about you and how intelligent you are, how great you are, how you saved the day, etc. etc., your ego is too big.  If you have a title, people “might” humour you and listen.  But, they won’t follow you when the chips are down.  They will look for ways to avoid you and look real leaders.

Real leaders have a bigger purpose.  It isn’t all about them.  They inspire others.  They raise others up and empower them.

Real leaders don’t need to have a title.  For example, they don’t need to be President and CEO. They don’t need to be Chairman.  They can lead and bring people along with them because of knowing who they are and inspiring others through trust and purpose.

2.  Lack of Authenticity

People are smart.  Most of us see through people who only want to advance themselves.  People who are authentic have consistency that shines through.  People who lack authenticity however cannot create trust or truly inspire others to follow.  Inauthentic leaders only have consensus and followers when things are good.  During times of trouble or change, inauthentic leaders can only win through ruling with fear.  In the end, people will turn on inauthentic leaders in a split second.

I remember one “leader” whom I worked with who only spoke about himself and his greatness. I often wondered if he was trying to convince me of his greatness or, himself.  He certainly didn’t convince me.  He was as transparent as water. He regularly spoke about his concern for others and the well-being of those he surrounded himself with.  Despite these words however, his actions spoke volumes.  In the roughly five years I worked with/for him he didn’t know my husband’s name or what he did.  On the other hand, I knew his wife’s name as well as each of his children’s names.  During an illness that manifested itself in very obvious physical changes to my appearance, not once did he ever ask how I was making out or if the cause was even found.  Our conversations always centered on him and what great things he had done or was doing.

Regardless of what meeting he was a part of, he always brought the conversation around to him.  People humoured him because of his title, but when he wasn’t in the room, people were not very kind to him.  People only tolerated him.  People found ways to work around him.  People even found ways to avoid him.  In fact, on one occasion, a meeting was called in one of the company locations where he would update the more than 800 employees there.  Less than 30 showed up to that meeting.  People saw through him.  They weren’t interested in listening to his rhetoric.

People are smart.  Most of us see through people who only want to advance themselves.  People who are authentic have consistency that shines through.  People who lack authenticity however cannot create trust or truly inspire others to follow.  Inauthentic leaders only have consensus and followers when things are good.  During times of trouble or change, inauthentic leaders can only win through ruling with fear.  In the end, people will turn on inauthentic leaders in a split second.

Real leaders have the ability to make great change.  We need great leaders. That being said, what do you think about leadership and these two reasons why some will never be real leaders?  Do you agree or disagree?