Real Leaders

Michelangelo Leadership — Freeing the Leader Inside

religion stone sculpture of buddha closeup

A skeptic is someone reluctant to believe. A cynic is someone who refuses to believe.

A skeptic is someone who once believed and was disappointed. A cynic is someone who once believed and was deceived.

Inside all skeptics and even most cynics is a deep ache to believe again, but to do it without the fear of being disappointed or deceived again.

Inside the majority of people in the world, beneath their skepticism and cynicism regarding current leaders, is an ache to have leaders they can once again look up to, whom they can both believe and believe in.

Michelangelo said he “saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set it free.”

If you are a leader wanting, as Michelangelo did, to free the feeling in your people that they can believe and believe in you, it is only a matter of carving away everything that gets in the way of their feeling that they can: 

  1. Trust you 
  2. Be confident in you 
  3. Feel safe with you 
  4. Respect you 
  5. Admire you 
  6. Like you
  7. Be inspired by you

If you disagree with the above, imagine what your people would feel if, instead of being able to trust you, they distrust you; instead of having confidence in you, they doubt you; instead of feeling safe with you and in your company, they feel unsafe; instead of respecting you, they feel embarrassed by you; instead of admiring you, they feel ashamed of you; instead of liking you, they cringe when you act up; and instead of feeling inspired by you, they are left feeling pessimistic about the future.

If the above has won you over, you might be asking, “Okay, sold. But can you offer tips on how I should ‘show up’ that will result in people feeling that way towards me?”

Read on for some tips to allow people to believe and believe in you.

To trust you: You engender and build this by doing what you say you’ll do, by being honest when you don’t know something, and by being committed to finding the answer by a stated date.

To be confident in you: You create this based on what you have already done in a wide range of relevant experiences, beyond your particular area of expertise, with a track record of making a positive difference and making good judgment calls, especially in critical situations.

To feel safe: People will feel safe with you when you take all necessary steps to create a psychologically safe environment and when you take charge of situations when necessary, but when you aren’t controlling and dictatorial at those times when consensus is called for.

To respect you: You gain this by having clearly stated values that serve your people and all your stakeholders that you stand for and stand up for, and you will stand up against anyone who transgresses them.

To admire you: You cause others to feel this by having achieved what you have through merit, education, dedication, perseverance, tenacity, and developing the necessary skills for your job rather than through intimidation, politics, and manipulation.

To like you: People like you when you take your job seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously so that they feel you are approachable and are not arrogant and condescending.

To be inspired by you: When you achieve the above, your people feel hopeful about their future.

Our executive coaching at Michelangelo Mindset only works with leaders who want to grow into the above-described leader. In addition to these lofty aspirational goals, we have provided more granular, observable behaviors that intentionally demonstrate themselves in significant interactions and presentations. After which, leaders grade themselves on a scale of 1 (= poor) to 10 (= excellent) and have selected stakeholders offer feedback on how they can become even better in the future.

  1. Be unflappable under pressure.
  2. Be present as opposed to robotic.
  3. Take charge without being controlling when faced with a crisis.
  4. Be knowledgeable as opposed to shooting from the hip.
  5. Be wise in knowing what is important and worth fighting for and what isn’t.
  6. Be open to hearing people out when they have an alternate or opposing point of view and considering what they say.
  7. Be declarative first and then explanatory about the current situation, your position on it, what you will do and what you need from others, and why.
  8. Have a spontaneous sense of humor that doesn’t offend anyone and demonstrates humility.
  9. Be gracious in victory and defeat.
  10. Be humble, giving credit to others rather than taking it for yourself.

We believe that just as some skeptics and cynics have a deep abiding desire to believe again, that there is inside you a deep wish, potential, and commitment to become the best version of yourself and to then lead from there. 

Just carve until you set it free.

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