The DNA of Leadership
Leverage Your Instincts to Communicate, Differentiate, Innovate

By Judith E. Glaser

Summary by Leslie Johnston, Business Book Summary

Author Judith Glaser uses the metaphor of DNA to explain and describe variations in leadership styles and organizations, how leadership is transmitted, and how organizations evolve. Leaders can shape their organization's "genetic code" for success by adopting seven vital leadership practices to create a culture that enables people to work together—leaders, managers, and employees—toward a shared vision and purpose.

These practices either motivate, or de-motivate employees, depending upon a leader's DNA. Leaders can change how environments feel to employees. As people are engaged through conversation and actions, their potential is expanded, which, in turn, becomes a catalyst for individual and organizational growth and success. It is leaders' ability to communicate and build to communities that determines their long-term success.

The leadership genes are bonded together in pairs like cellular DNA. The seven pair bonds of characteristics determine the culture of the organization and how it responds to change: the C gene, does the leader include or exclude; the H gene, does the leader appreciate or blame; the A gene, does the leader encourage employees to strive or does the leader engender fear; the N gene, does the leader share or withhold; the G gene, does the leader stimulate wonder or insist upon adherence to what is already known; the E gene, does the leader develop or dictate; and the S gene, does the leader celebrate or conform.

One half—the progressive half—of these pairs leads to growth, capitalizing on change, while the other results in stagnation, or resistance to change. When leaders activate the progressive half of the pair bonds and understand the concepts associated with new leadership DNA, they transform their leadership from power over to power with and shift from I-centric to WE-centric language and conversations. As language and conversations shift, the environment changes—for the better. 

A chain-reaction or domino effect through the organization results in employees who take in pride in, and ownership of, not only their own individual work responsibilities, but their company's success as well. When leaders are aware of these genes, they can develop their organizations in the face of challenges as the progressive genes are "grafted" onto meetings, conversations, new product development, and strategic business transformations such as mergers and acquisitions.

The DNA of Leadership is not about skills, training, or experience. It is, rather, about discovering how to create environments that enable growth and expression of each individual's DNA, and therefore addresses the most important responsibility of leadership: creating environments that allow leadership to emerge. Leadership genes are expressed through conversations and practices. This translates into how leaders treat individuals, foster teamwork, inspire others, bring out creativity, and how they maintain morale. While some companies struggle and try to hold on in the face of challenges and dramatic changes, others take leaps forward. Both types of companies can have talented leaders and sufficient resources at their disposal; the difference, however, is in the environments they create, environments that trigger the best in everyone. 

The ability of an organization to reach the next level of greatness is determined by atmosphere, and atmosphere is determined by relationships; relationships are determined by conversations and behaviors. Leaders have in their grasp the ability to create and shape an environment that inspires greatness at every level. Spreading greatness throughout an organization is, therefore, not only possible, but necessary if companies want to succeed. It is not about money or power, even mind power. It is about heart, soul, and spirit power, which are released by creating healthy environments, and healthy environments are determined by the type of leadership genes expressed.

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