Learning LEADERSHIP skills: Not as hard as you might think?

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Mona Pereth
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14 Sep 2019, 4:52 pm

Here, in a separate thread:

Mona Pereth wrote:
We also need more of us to recognize that good leadership skills may actually be easier for many autistic people to learn than some of the more everyday social arts that many of us struggle with.

This may seem paradoxical, but here's an example of why: Many of us have difficulty figuring out when it's our turn to talk in a group conversation. But, if you're in charge of a group, or if you otherwise happen to be the center of attention, then you can be the one who decides when it's your (or anyone else's) turn to talk. Problem solved.

Well, almost solved, not completely. You still have to figure out how/when to exercise your power in a way that doesn't annoy people. But, for me, at least, that's less difficult than the problem of figuring out when to talk in a situation where I am not in charge, or, worse yet, a situation where I'm a newcomer/outsider.

When you're in charge of a group, you can also structure it in a way that takes into account other members' problems that are similar to your own, e.g. structure it in a way that makes it easier for everyone else (including and especially newcomers) to know when it's their turn to talk too.

Here in this forum, it is often suggested that we join groups on Meetup.com. I would like to suggest that at least some of us consider starting a Meetup group, if there are no groups focused on topics or activities of interest to us in our local area, or if the already-existing groups don't fit into our schedule, or if we just don't like the already-existing groups for whatever reason and think we can do a better job, or at least a job better suited to our own needs.

In the future I'll post more about specific leadership skills and suggest ways to acquire them. For now I just want to call attention to the idea of autistic people acquiring leadership skills despite social challenges in other areas.

It's apparently rare for anyone even to think about the possibility of autistic people developing leadership skills, and I think that's very unfortunate. But it's not completely unheard of. Here are some relevant pages I found on the web just now:

- Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Part 1: How to Begin: 6 Practices to Build Leadership Skills
- Balancing the World; thoughts on leadership and autism
- Could people on the autism spectrum become good leaders?
- ‘Take me to your leader’ – Autism and leadership by Yenn Purkis

I wouldn't want to give anyone the idea that being a good leader is super-easy. It's a challenge, but, for some of us at least, a much more manageable challenge than many of the "social skills" many of us struggle with in an effort to blend in with NTs.


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Fireblossom
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15 Sep 2019, 4:29 am

Just going with personal experience here, but I think that the biggest obstacle for an autistic person to become a good leader is how to convince others that the autistic person can do it. I mean, we usually don't have that natural charisma that leaders often do, not to mention we can stutter a lot... also, we tend to have problems with very simple, basic tasks (mostly the social ones) and when NTs see this, it'll be hard to believe that a person who can't do something the NTs learned to do at age 5 could be a good leader who gets things done.



Justin101
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15 Sep 2019, 5:12 am

Aspies CAN make great leaders thanks to:-

Impartiality
Focus
Attention to detail
Redirecting interpersonal crap to the work at hand

However, in most society's and networks leadership arises from charisma, dominance, manipulation and subtle yet influential people skills. Aspies therefore will rarely find themselves in leadership positions.

I challenge you to identity firmly diagnosed people who are in stable leadership positions.



Mona Pereth
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15 Sep 2019, 10:55 am

Fireblossom wrote:
Just going with personal experience here, but I think that the biggest obstacle for an autistic person to become a good leader is how to convince others that the autistic person can do it. I mean, we usually don't have that natural charisma that leaders often do, not to mention we can stutter a lot...

It's not necessary to have charisma to be a leader of a small group. Charisma becomes more necessary in larger groups.

Even in small groups, the leader needs to be respected, of course, but this can be attained just by being, for example, a subject matter expert, and by being reasonably competent at such leadership skills as making sure everyone has a chance to speak.


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15 Sep 2019, 1:32 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
Fireblossom wrote:
Just going with personal experience here, but I think that the biggest obstacle for an autistic person to become a good leader is how to convince others that the autistic person can do it. I mean, we usually don't have that natural charisma that leaders often do, not to mention we can stutter a lot...

It's not necessary to have charisma to be a leader of a small group. Charisma becomes more necessary in larger groups.

Even in small groups, the leader needs to be respected, of course, but this can be attained just by being, for example, a subject matter expert, and by being reasonably competent at such leadership skills as making sure everyone has a chance to speak.


Of course. All I'm saying is that when it comes to something like being a leader, one's skills won't mean a thing if they don't get the chance to prove that they have them in the first place.



Fnord
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15 Sep 2019, 3:34 pm

One quality a leader needs is confidence, or at least the ability to fake it. Same for sincerity — if you can fake sincerity, you can convince people to do just about anything. Lack of expertise in any specific field can be mitigated by being able to make decisions and stick with them — come up with several possible solutions that will work and just pick one. Any one will do, as long as you just pick one, because no matter which one you pick, somebody gets all of the fame, somebody else gets all the blame, and nothing stays the same.

That covers most of what any leader needs: Confidence, Sincerity, and Decisiveness. Just don’t look back and worry about what you “should” have done differently.



Mona Pereth
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15 Sep 2019, 8:08 pm

Fnord wrote:
One quality a leader needs is confidence, or at least the ability to fake it. Same for sincerity — if you can fake sincerity, you can convince people to do just about anything.

Fakery may work for a while, but eventually you may get caught, especially if what you are leading is a small group where you can be observed at close range by other people, some of whom are at least as knowledgeable as you are claiming to be.

It's better to have confidence based on genuine knowledge and genuine sincerity.

Fnord wrote:
Lack of expertise in any specific field can be mitigated by being able to make decisions and stick with them — come up with several possible solutions that will work and just pick one. Any one will do, as long as you just pick one, because no matter which one you pick, somebody gets all of the fame, somebody else gets all the blame, and nothing stays the same.

That covers most of what any leader needs: Confidence, Sincerity, and Decisiveness. Just don’t look back and worry about what you “should” have done differently.

"Decisiveness" may or may not be necessary depending on what kind of group you are leading. In some kinds of groups and it some kinds of situations, flexibility may be more important than decisiveness.

Anyhow, there are various skills that are more essential than any of the above, such as the ability to run a productive meeting and the ability to help newcomers feel welcome.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 15 Sep 2019, 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mona Pereth
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15 Sep 2019, 8:34 pm

Justin101 wrote:
Aspies CAN make great leaders thanks to:-

Impartiality
Focus
Attention to detail
Redirecting interpersonal crap to the work at hand

However, in most society's and networks leadership arises from charisma, dominance, manipulation and subtle yet influential people skills. Aspies therefore will rarely find themselves in leadership positions.

I challenge you to identity firmly diagnosed people who are in stable leadership positions.

Probably not very many. But I think more of us should try it.

Note: What I'm trying to advocate here is not that we all try to get into leadership on a grand scale, e.g. high-profile politicians, Fortune 500 corporate executives, or televangelists. What I mean to advocate here is that more of us consider founding and leading small Meetup groups devoted to our special interests.

As more of us do this, more of us will thereby, also, gain the leadership experience necessary to lead the various kinds of peer-led groups that the autistic community needs.

In the meantime, founding and leading a small Meetup group devoted to a special interest can be a great way to make friends. It can also be a great opportunity to practice various social skills in a situation that is not stacked against you.


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Fnord
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16 Sep 2019, 8:21 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
Fnord wrote:
One quality a leader needs is confidence, or at least the ability to fake it. Same for sincerity — if you can fake sincerity, you can convince people to do just about anything.
Fakery may work for a while, but eventually you may get caught, especially if what you are leading is a small group where you can be observed at close range by other people, some of whom are at least as knowledgeable as you are claiming to be. It's better to have confidence based on genuine knowledge and genuine sincerity.
There is some merit to the concept of "Fake It Until You Make It". Eventually, even Mr. Trump might get it right.
Mona Pereth wrote:
Fnord wrote:
Lack of expertise in any specific field can be mitigated by being able to make decisions and stick with them — come up with several possible solutions that will work and just pick one. Any one will do, as long as you just pick one, because no matter which one you pick, somebody gets all of the fame, somebody else gets all the blame, and nothing stays the same.  That covers most of what any leader needs: Confidence, Sincerity, and Decisiveness. Just don’t look back and worry about what you “should” have done differently.
"Decisiveness" may or may not be necessary depending on what kind of group you are leading. In some kinds of groups and it some kinds of situations, flexibility may be more important than decisiveness.
In every group I've been in that lacked decisiveness, nothing was accomplished, except to "kick the can down the road" for the next group to handle.
Mona Pereth wrote:
Anyhow, there are various skills that are more essential than any of the above, such as the ability to run a productive meeting and the ability to help newcomers feel welcome.
The former is decisiveness, while the latter is sincerity. Once the leader decides on what course the meeting will take, he or she can steer the conversations back to the intended topic. Also, if someone feels the need to derail the meeting to his or her favorite topic, the leader can quietly persuade the person into believing that his or her views will be heard at a later date, and then get the meeting back on track.

Really, there is a lot less to leadership than most people seems to believe -- someone agrees to lead, and everyone else agrees to follow. Simple.



Mona Pereth
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16 Sep 2019, 5:52 pm

Fnord wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
Fakery may work for a while, but eventually you may get caught, especially if what you are leading is a small group where you can be observed at close range by other people, some of whom are at least as knowledgeable as you are claiming to be. It's better to have confidence based on genuine knowledge and genuine sincerity.
There is some merit to the concept of "Fake It Until You Make It".

Depends on how much faking you have to do, and also on how good you are at recognizing and learning from the consequences of any ill-informed actions.

Fnord wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
"Decisiveness" may or may not be necessary depending on what kind of group you are leading. In some kinds of groups and it some kinds of situations, flexibility may be more important than decisiveness.
In every group I've been in that lacked decisiveness, nothing was accomplished, except to "kick the can down the road" for the next group to handle.

In the vast majority of cases I would agree with you on this. But there are exceptions.

For example, in a group that exists purely for recreational purposes, if the majority of people in the group are clearly not enjoying the current activity, it might be a good idea to switch to a different activity after first taking a quick vote. Of course, even this requires some decisiveness, but not decisiveness in the sense of insisting on sticking to the original agenda.

Another example: In a support group, is it better to keep the discussion close to a previously-decided topic, or is it best to just let the discussion meander where it will, bringing it back to a pre-announced theme only when there is a lull? Some people would prefer the former type of group, while others would prefer the latter.

Fnord wrote:
Mona Pereth wrote:
Anyhow, there are various skills that are more essential than any of the above, such as the ability to run a productive meeting and the ability to help newcomers feel welcome.
The former is decisiveness, while the latter is sincerity.

More than just sincerity is required in order to help newcomers feel welcome.

Another thing that's required (and it's amazing how many groups neglect this) is to pay some actual attention to the newcomers, in the first place -- enough attention so the newcomers feel included, but not so much attention as to make them feel put on the spot. That's a fine balance.

Fnord wrote:
Once the leader decides on what course the meeting will take, he or she can steer the conversations back to the intended topic. Also, if someone feels the need to derail the meeting to his or her favorite topic, the leader can quietly persuade the person into believing that his or her views will be heard at a later date, and then get the meeting back on track.

In an ongoing small group at least, one must then be prepared to actually follow up on the promise to hear the person's views at a later date, either by scheduling a meeting on that topic or by referring the person to another, more appropriate group. Otherwise there may be trouble ahead.

Fnord wrote:
Really, there is a lot less to leadership than most people seems to believe -- someone agrees to lead, and everyone else agrees to follow. Simple.

There's more to it than that, at least if you want to do a good job. There are lots of badly organized groups with bad leaders.

You and I agree that more people are probably capable of leadership than think they are.

But there's a bunch of specific skills that need to be learned -- not just a few general traits. And the general traits, such as confidence and decisiveness, will be much easier once the specific skills are learned.


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17 Sep 2019, 8:12 am

Making leadership more complicated and mysterious than it actually is serves only to keep leaders in positions of power and followers doing all of the work. The best systems I've seen so far are those where the leaders lead for a pre-defined period of time, then they revert back to ordinary citizenship while another person takes over. The Presbyterian church is a good example of this: An elder is elected to serve on the ruling council for three years, and then goes back to being an ordinary congregant. All the elder does is hear reports from other elders, give his or her own report, and then votes on various motions and proposals -- a Representative Democracy. People rarely seek out the position, but are nominated and elected to it.

Those who see leadership as more of a duty than a privilege seem to be more effective than those who go on a narcissistic power-trip.



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17 Sep 2019, 12:13 pm

Fnord wrote:
Making leadership more complicated and mysterious than it actually is

My aim here is certainly not to make leadership "mysterious" but to call attention to specific skills that need to be learned, and to encourage people to learn them and consider taking a leadership role, perhaps a founding role, in whatever kind of group they choose. Again, here are the pages I called attention to in my first post:

- Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Part 1: How to Begin: 6 Practices to Build Leadership Skills
- Balancing the World; thoughts on leadership and autism
- Could people on the autism spectrum become good leaders?
- ‘Take me to your leader’ – Autism and leadership by Yenn Purkis.

Elsewhere in this thread I've also called attention to a few other specific skills.

Fnord wrote:
serves only to keep leaders in positions of power and followers doing all of the work.

In every group that I've ever been involved in, in any capacity, the leaders have been the ones who did all, or nearly all, of all the work. What kind of organization have you been involved in where that was not the case?

Fnord wrote:
The best systems I've seen so far are those where the leaders lead for a pre-defined period of time, then they revert back to ordinary citizenship while another person takes over.

I agree that rotating leadership is desirable where possible and where enough people are willing.

Fnord wrote:
The Presbyterian church is a good example of this: An elder is elected to serve on the ruling council for three years, and then goes back to being an ordinary congregant. All the elder does is hear reports from other elders, give his or her own report, and then votes on various motions and proposals -- a Representative Democracy. People rarely seek out the position, but are nominated and elected to it.

Actually, in a church, the main leader is the pastor, although, in the more democratic denominations like Presbyterians, the pastor is hired, and can be fired, by the elders.

In the church I grew up in, the pastor was also the church janitor, and also marriage counselor (back in the days before marriage counseling become something done primarily by psychotherapists), and general jack-of-all-trades. In other words, he did pretty near all the work, of which there was plenty. (In smaller groups there is usually much less work.)

Fnord wrote:
Those who see leadership as more of a duty than a privilege seem to be more effective than those who go on a narcissistic power-trip.

Of course. With that I certainly agree.


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17 Sep 2019, 12:36 pm

Mona Pereth wrote:
Fnord wrote:
serves only to keep leaders in positions of power and followers doing all of the work.
In every group that I've ever been involved in, in any capacity, the leaders have been the ones who did all, or nearly all, of all the work. What kind of organization have you been involved in where that was not the case?
Organizations wherein I held leadership positions. People either did the work they were assigned, or they were dismissed -- whether from a committee or a place of employment.

Yeah ... I can be as much of a hard-nosed bastard in real life as I may seem to be on line.



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17 Sep 2019, 12:49 pm

Here is a selected text from one of my science-fiction books ("Agent of the Imperium", by Marc W. Miller):

The Rules: Agent Standing Orders (Executive Summary)

Rule 1) You speak with the voice of the Emperor. Show no fear. Brook no resistance. There is no appeal.

Rule 2) Millions of lives depend on your actions; you may need to spend some of them in the process. Give no warning. Act decisively. Mercy is a quick and painless death.

Rule 3) You act through your team; build it (quickly) by whatever means available. There is a time for direct orders and a time for polite requests; know the difference.

Rule 4) Your team is your greatest asset: use them; depend on them. They work for you, not you for them.

Rule 5) You hold the ability to punish and reward; do both. Punish severely. Reward generously.

Rule 6) Right action requires Intelligence. Gather data.


It's a little Machiavellian, but it seems to be based on sound business and military leadership principles.

Adapting it for real-world business yields...

The Rules: CEO Standing Orders (Executive Summary)

Rule 1) You speak with the voice of the Board of Directors. Show no fear. Brook no resistance. There is no appeal.

Rule 2) Millions of jobs depend on your actions; you may need to spend some of them in the process. Give no warning. Act decisively. Mercy is a quick and painless dismissal.

Rule 3) You act through your executive team; build it (quickly) by whatever means available. There is a time for direct orders and a time for polite requests; know the difference.

Rule 4) Your executive team is your greatest asset: use them; depend on them. They work for you, not you for them.

Rule 5) You hold the ability to punish and reward; do both. Punish severely. Reward generously.

Rule 6) Right action requires Intelligence. Gather data.

Rule 7) Determine several choices that you know will work. Then pick one. It does not matter which one, just pick one and implement it.



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17 Sep 2019, 2:23 pm

There are different kinds of leadership. The natural ones and the more common artifical ones. The natural ones are basing on trust. For the natural ones you have to care the basic rules for being recognized, trusted and accepted as leader. Aspies who are fearless and care the unwritten rules can be great leaders. There are huge differences once it comes to women and men of course.


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Mona Pereth
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17 Sep 2019, 2:39 pm

Fnord wrote:
It's a little Machiavellian, but it seems to be based on sound business and military leadership principles.

And indeed is suitable mainly in business (especially large corporations) and the military.

Not quite so suitable in support groups, networking groups, educational groups, or recreational/hobby groups, especially when the groups are small. My intended focus in this thread is on leadership primarily in groups in these latter categories.


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Last edited by Mona Pereth on 17 Sep 2019, 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.