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22 February, 2018

An interview with Dr. Dana Sinclair

This quote is from John Maxwell - - the author of best-selling leadership books like “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, “5 Levels of Leadership’ and many more. Over my career, I have leaned on leadership authors like Maxwell, Bennis, Davis, Tichy to learn leadership theory and best practices that I could put into practice as a business and community leader.

During my career, I came across good and not so good leaders that I either enjoyed working with or in some cases frustrated the hell out of me. I also met professionals who gave me deeper insights into the difficult world of being a great leader. One of those professionals is Dr. Dana Sinclair who heads up Human Performance International (HPI) with her partner Jim Sleeth. HPI is a consulting firm that specializes in HR Management and performance enhancement. They believe that the understanding of human behaviour is the key to identifying and developing successful leaders.

I first met Dana when Bryan Colangelo brought her in to be the sports psychologist for the Raptors. When Burkie took over the Maple Leafs he decided to use her services as well. Sinclair was really the first true sports psychologist that MLSE ever used. Today HPI consults for many pro teams (Calgary Flames, Portland Trail Blazers, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Lions, Andretti AutoSport etc), Olympians and business leaders.

Dana actually tested me for my Leadership ability when I was writing “21 Leadership Lessons” - - apparently I tested pretty well. Today she doesn’t work for the Leafs or the Raptors, but we stay in close contact as I really value her thinking. So much so I thought I would share an interview I had with her on Leadership.

Richard

Great leaders - - nature or nurture?

Dana

I feel it is a 50/50 venture, from both a research and anecdotal perspective. Each can affect the other, but usually only a certain amount. If your natural behavioural style is not even close to that of a strong leader then you will only be able to make some gains. You can certainly improve but you won’t be able to change your style consistently.

Richard

What leadership traits do you see most often in great leaders?

Dana

The best are assertive, they take action consistently under pressure, they have discipline; and they connect with people quickly and credibly so they build rapport.

Richard

What leadership traits do you see most often in bad leaders?

Dana

The biggest problem I see across organizations is a lack of communication. Managers who do not talk to, share with, or inform their people end up with tense, anxious, defensive staffs who can be distracted from the main focus and goals of the organization. Other problematic traits are passivity and the lack of timely decision making (i.e. risk avoidance), as well as being too detail oriented so they are resistant to delegating tasks (i.e. they tend to feel that they would do a better job so it is hard for them to hand off a task to someone else).

Richard

What three things can a young leader do to become a better leader?

Dana

Understand your natural performance style, learn what situations and/or people distract and derail your performance, and learn how to control the resulting emotions under pressure. It is too stressful not to be who you are in a job so make sure you have some natural fit to the role you take.

Richard

Anything else you would like to add?

Dana

The drive for perfection and being the best seems to dominate leadership development and organizational goals today. I feel that this is an unrealistic and potentially damaging approach. Striving for perfection is a script for failure but striving for excellence works. We all want to be great, we all want to do be better. People don’t need to try to fit into some ideal leader profile, but they do need to focus on one or two characteristics that derail them, and preplan a more effective approach for the next time. After all, incremental improvements can make a big difference to performance.

Thanks Dana.

In conclusion one thing I have learned is that not all people can develop into great leaders. But I also know is that if you invest in your leadership journey and become a student of leadership you can definitely become a much better leader.

Much better civic leadership for a better Toronto

Richard

Passionate city builder

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