A Lesson from Piers Morgan About Leadership: It’s Not All About You
CNN announced this week the termination of the “Piers Morgan” talk show that had replaced the legendary predecessor, “Larry King Live” a couple years ago. Most were not surprised, as the show’s ratings are less than stellar and the format has transformed dramatically. It has become less of an informational interview with interesting people and more about Piers’ views on a given topic and his debate with the guests about them.
The show is no longer about the uniqueness of the individuals appearing and learning about them and their stories. It is more about the host and his attempts to prove how smart, well-read, articulate, and controversial he can be. The guests are mere springboards for the host’s platforms.
The show is not about the guests.
It is about the ego of the host, which leaves no space for the guests.
This draws a striking parallel to the behavior of some of the leaders I have worked with over the years. Most are high-achievers and competitive, and have gone through their lives being the best and succeeding. All desirable attributes.
When one takes on a significant leadership role, however, the ability to genuinely connect with, inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in others and not just yourself is paramount. The performance of your organization is dependent more on this ability than it is on your individual ability to achieve.
In a nutshell—it’s not about you.
You must genuinely be interested in other people and move your own ego out of the way to make that space for others.
Here are three questions to ask yourself:
Do you approach people with genuine curiosity without a hidden motive?
Larry King’s success was due to his ability to draw out the guest’s thoughts, views, and personalities and give us a glimpse of the inner workings of these public figures we read about. He approached them with respect and mere curiosity, without a hidden agenda to prove how good he was at interviewing or how smart he was. He drew out the person, without a pre-conceived idea of what the outcome should be.
Do you need to be the smartest person in the room?
You can look at things from a scarcity mentality or from an abundance mentality. Scarcity mentality means there is one pie and you either get all of it or someone else gets it. You constantly compete to prove you are most worthy of the pie.
Abundance mentality assumes that there is more than enough pie for everyone, and that there are also different flavors of pie out there. There is room for different people to offer different and equally valuable contributions. There is no contest going on for the “prize” of “one-upmanship”.
In Piers’ case, he set it up so that the success of the show rested on him and how well he performed. He was so focused on his personal performance that he didn’t leave room for the guests to perform or trust that they could be interesting and newsworthy on their own.
Do you really listen, or listen to debate?
Good listening requires the ability to suspend judgment and put away our own biases, pre-conceived notions, and viewpoints. As a former high school debater, I was trained to listen for the holes in an argument and then pounce on those holes and fill them in. The problem with this approach is that you are not really listening to the person and their deeper intent and hidden meaning in the messages. You are listening to find fault, control, and to be right. And believe me, when you listen that way, you will always find fault.
Larry listened to the guests, and the show’s content just emerged with the curious questions he asked. He guided and facilitated the direction but didn’t control or debate. He brought out the guests with his questions, and didn’t need to debate them if he disagreed. Piers on the other hand, had more air -time than his guests, asserting his own views and debating every comment. He wasn’t leaving room for the guests to create the show.
So what about you? Are you leaving room for your organization and the people in it to step up and lead? Or is it all resting on your shoulders?
Is it all about you?