People have been asking me, “What does the No-Øs mean? Can you share a story about it?” It’s been a fun couple years of putting together my book The No-Øs of Leadership, which was the
culmination of an idea I had back in 2014. The first No-Ø is Ego, the second is Libido, and the third is Dinero. Over the course of my career, I have studied people and looked at organizations trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t work. Obviously, the things that didn’t work went on my “Do not do” list. The No-Øs of Leadership came out of this idea of studying and being a student of leadership for my whole life.

The first No-Ø is Ego, which actually manifests when a leader puts themselves, their vision and their mission before those they are leading. So, they’re number one to themselves. And when a person leads from Ego, it just doesn’t work.

The second No-Ø is Libido, which has to do with our energy and our passion. Leaders that have too much passion for something, or maybe another person, tend to get themselves into trouble. Maintaining your sense of self-regulation is very important to be a good leader. And whether it’s passion for an idea that you just won’t let go of or it’s passion for somebody else (potentially a relationship that’s inappropriate, especially in the workplace, which is extremely problematic).

And then there’s the No-Ø of Dinero. Focusing on money as a primary motivator can be a problem. I am not trying to dissuade anybody from thinking that profits are not important because if you don’t have profits your company won’t exist. But if a leader is so focused on financial outcomes, whether it is their bonus system or other ways to put money first, they forget about their employees, their stakeholders, shareholders or their members. And, they think mostly about enriching themselves.

My model and my call is to be a Leader Worth Following who has the ability to avoid the pitfalls of the No-Øs of Ego, Libido and Dinero. And, the antidote for those No-Øs is Empathy and Self-Awareness. Being self-aware means understanding your wake and understanding your impact on others. The other piece is empathy and Brené Brown gives a great explanation of what empathy is compared to sympathy. “Sympathy is when you feel sorry for somebody, which is not as powerful as empathy. Empathy is when you join people in their suffering and join people in their hardship.” Empathy as a leader puts you in a position where you understand what your team is going through. You feel their pain and realize that just rolling out of bed and putting their feet on the ground might be a heroic act. We must give space for people to have really difficult days and just show up for work.

This vision of being a Leader Worth Following is a noble one; and yet it is a journey, not a destination. I invite you to think about The No-Øs of Leadership, the antidote of self-awareness and empathy, and the calling to be a Leader Worth Following.