Ask the OD Doctors: Leadership Gaps in 2017

ASK THE OD DOCTORS: Leadership Gaps In 2017

Reflections and Thoughts by Dr. Lily Cheng

Founder and Chief OD Catalyst


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With the economy not doing very strong globally, it has presented another challenge for leaders around the world. How do we achieve our 2017 targets or how do we remain sustainable in our business directions and purpose? It’s imperative you balance between being inspirational and being practical as a leader in order to lead well in 2017.

The seminal question asked by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones in their book, is: Why Should Anyone Be Led by YOU?  This leads me to the next important question: What are the critical leadership gaps I must close to lead well in 2017?


The unconscious gap 

This refers to the gap between what you think you know and what you don’t know.  Many times I hear leaders telling me, “What else is there to know? I have been there, done that.”  Sad to say, this leader clearly feels that he/she has known it all. They act as though they’ve been everywhere and have experienced everything. If there’s a problem, they have the solution; if there’s a question, they have the answer. 

Strong opinionated leaders deliver their answers in an obnoxious manner and you probably have never, or ever heard them utter the words, “I don’t know.”  These leaders tend to dominate conversations, dismiss inputs from others and make decisions with a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude.

As leaders, we need to transit regularly from unconscious to conscious learning modes so that we are able to listen and know what we don’t know, to become agile learners who lead well.


the influence gap

With the rise of a multigenerational workforce, leaders are called to balance the need to command and demand versus the need to inspire and enlist.

It sounds cliché, doesn’t it?  Yet if we understand the importance of influence as an enabler to effective leadership, we’ll take time to close this gap. 

Influence is often misconstrued as being manipulative. Manipulation is about exerting devious influence, especially for one’s own advantage.  Influence is the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.  The difference between the two lies in the intent - is your intent a positive or a negative one?

If you want to close your influence gap, you will need to understand:

  • What the different influencing styles are
  • Identify gaps in your influencing style
  • The range of influencing styles
  • Increasing your adaptability, capability and confidence of using different influencing styles, through deliberate practice


the sense of reality gap

When I was working in a government statutory board, I was told that they used the Current Estimated Potential (CEP) model.  This led to me appreciate the HAIR framework used to assess one’s potential as a civil servant:

Helicopter quality Power of Analysis Imagination Sense of Reality

What impressed me about this framework was how important it is for a leader to be practical.  A person with good helicopter vision is supposed to be capable of comprehending the big picture, but if the leader remains in their ivory tower, they will not see the finer details on the ground.  Hence, it's important that a leader has a strong sense of reality to address ground issues and provide support to people on the ground.

Here's a quick exercise for you to assess your Leadership Gap. Rate yourself as a leader on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing the worst in leadership and 10 being the best in leadership. This is a risk-free evaluation, as no one else but you will will see your score. Do this now and write the number down.

Next, ask others to rate you on this scale. Encourage them to be authentic in their assessment of you. After you receive their rating, calculate the difference between your score and how others rate you. This difference is your leadership gap.

Your self-rating - Rating from others = Leadership Gap


Whether the leadership gap is a result of perception or reality, doesn’t really matter.  What’s more important is that you don’t allow your hubris to overshadow your humility. 

The very essence of leadership is about people. It’s about leading well in 2017, about improving the status quo, inspiring positive change and making the workplace a great place to work.


I hope that I’ve inspired you in some way to look at your own leadership journey this year. I’m looking forward to hear your stories as well, and would be glad if you could write back to me at or


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