The Myths Of Great Leaders Part 1 With Amy Leschke-Kahle of ADP

What does it mean to be a great leader? In the thought-provoking podcast episode hosted by William Tincup, listeners are taken on a journey of leadership exploration with Amy Leschke-Kahle, Vice President of Talent Insights and Innovation for ADP. Amy shares her wealth of knowledge and experience, debunking common myths surrounding leadership and providing invaluable insights into what it takes to thrive as a leader.

Amy and William delve into the question of whether leaders are born or made, challenging traditional notions and offering a fresh perspective. They emphasize the contextual nature of leadership, stressing the importance of finding one’s own unique leadership model. Great leaders come in all different shapes and sizes. Don’t try to fit a mold!True greatness lies in being authentic and leveraging one’s own strengths.

If you’re ready to challenge your understanding of leadership and discover how to unleash your full potential as a leader, then this podcast episode is a must-listen.

Listening Time: 24 minutes

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Amy Leschke-Kahle
Vice President Talent Insights and Innovation ADP

As Vice President of Talent Insights and Innovation at ADP, I partner with organizations to transform how organizations shift their people practices to work in this new reality. That means pushing back on common practices and designing approaches that work for real organizations and real employees. And, since no two organizations are exactly alike, no two solutions are exactly alike.


The Myths Of Great Leaders Part 1 With Amy Leschke-Kahle of ADP

William Tincup: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today we have Amy on from ADP and our topic is the myths of great leaders. I, we’ve had this on the schedule for a couple of weeks and I cannot wait to get into this. As you know, Amy’s a recurring guest because we love her and, uh, and it’s always a fun talk.

So why don’t we just, just jump right into it. Amy, would you do us a [00:01:00] favor and introduce yourself?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Yeah. Hi, everybody. Amy Leschke Karl. I’m the Vice President of Talent Insights and Innovation for ADP.

William Tincup: Now, your title has changed a little bit because I noticed that. And so you’re, you’re, you’re working more with ADP proper?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Well, I always have, and I think we’re, the new title just kind of represents that a little bit better and represents the breadth of work that, um, my team and I have been doing over the last couple of years.

William Tincup: Perfect. Perfect. All right. So we’re going to do some myth busting, which I love, but what are the myths?

Let’s start with kind of some of the, some of the basic stuff for the audience. What are some of the common myths of great leaders?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Oh my gosh, there’s so many of them. And I, I had to list alphabetical, make list . Yeah. I had to make a list because there’s so many of them. And I blame myself as a talent practitioner a little bit because of some of the things that I’ve always thought and always said and always tried to make happen.

But I think as so many of us who are in this world of helping [00:02:00] leaders be better leaders and helping people do more better work, we, we’ve done all of those things and yet. It doesn’t feel like the, the leader expertise and the leadershipiness of people has really shifted all that much. I don’t know about what your thoughts are around that, William.

You have exposure to probably more people than I

William Tincup: do. Well, you know, I think one of the things that, that I think this kind of coming out of World War II and coming out of the military industrial complex, I think people thought of leaders historically of, as, as all knowing. Because of that model, you know, the, the, the military model is you don’t really question a leader.

You know, a leader says, we’re going to take that hill, okay, like that’s the, that’s the job. And I think that that model might have worked for a while, although there’s probably a discussion there to be had. But I think that, you know, leaders don’t know everything. And so I think that the leaders that I see now that are [00:03:00] more vulnerable is, I like that.

I don’t know if that’s perfect in every situation, but I like it when a leader says, yeah, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, that’s why I need you to help me with these answers to grapple with these things. But I do think that there for a time, people just didn’t question authority. They didn’t question their leaders.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: I think you brought up a really good point in that. How we think about leaders and how we think about leading is contextual, and it’s personal. So there isn’t a one size fits all, and maybe that’s the first myth, is that there’s some magic beautiful model that every great leader fits into. And of course, there isn’t.

If you think about the two best leaders that you’ve ever had exposure to, and if you’re lucky, this is a rare thing, but if you’re lucky, maybe you even got to work for one of them. They’re very different. Great leaders show up very [00:04:00] differently. They act very differently. They have their own different, you know, in our world, we would say unique strengths.

Those, those leaders are unique. And the best leaders figure out how to create their own unique model. They don’t try to fit themselves into one that, that isn’t them.

William Tincup: I love that because it reminds me of, I worked for Sam Walton for a number of years, and he was the antithesis of, of being a leader in the sense of, he, first time I met him, I said, Mr.

Walton, and he stopped me, right, full stop. He’s like, my name’s Sam. And I’m like, I was like 16, I might have been 50, 16 years old. And, uh, and, and of course I’m thinking to myself, this guy’s a billionaire and he wants me to call him by his first name. Like that’s set, that starts this conversation. And every time I got to see him and work with him, uh, he was down to earth.

Like we used to call it country savvy, but it’s, it’s just, he was down to earth at any point. At [00:05:00] any point when you would talk to him, he’d be like, how’s your family? How’s your mom? You know, I know that you have a dog. How’s your dog? You know, like rarely would it be about business. Now occasionally it would, he, uh, he caught me one time in a Odessa where I’d redone the entire furniture model, uh, and module.

And uh, and so he, he saw it and he loved it. But then he asked, and you know, it was a little bit less about my dog and my mom and all that other stuff. He was like, now, why did you do this? I said, yeah, Sam, no one’s going to buy a lamp in a box. You got to light them up. You got to put them up on the wall.

You got to let people see the, the, the light bulb and just kind of put their hands underneath it and all that. See, and he loved it. Like, he loved that I questioned authority, so there was, he gave me some space, and, uh, and he didn’t, you know, he didn’t fault me for it, and, uh, and again, there was a business, there’s a businessman inside of, or there was a businessman inside of Sam Walton, he just didn’t show it to people

Amy Leschke-Kahle: [00:06:00] all the time.

Well, it’s, that’s a really good example of someone who, if, let’s just say, you tried to emulate him and be exactly like him, it most likely wouldn’t work the same for you as it did for him, and yet, that’s what we teach. I mean, you, you as well and I, both of us know and have seen all the circle models, all the pie charts, all the circles mushed together about this is what great leaders do.

And an interesting exercise for people to try is to say, okay, give me three descriptors of a great leader. So it’s usually like collaboration and partnership or, you know, whatever, communication. And you can take that thing, let’s just say it’s communication. And say, I want two leaders who are great at communication and tell me two really good leaders who aren’t.

Right. Right. And once you kind of pose it in that way and push into a little bit those [00:07:00] common descriptors, those things that we think everybody needs to be, there’s always examples of folks who fit that thing and folks who don’t.

William Tincup: But they can still be a great leader even if they don’t do that particular trait well.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Absolutely. And you don’t want, I mean, one might argue communication, whatever that means, but people are going to do that in different ways. Or collaborative. Like think about it this, and you think about we, um, and we talk about as well, because we know the power of being a great coach, but not every leader needs to be a great coach.

Weirdly, some leaders are much better advisors than they are coaches. Right.

William Tincup: Right. And that’s okay. It’s interesting. Business schools are the worst at this. And of course, I can say this because I have an MBA and I took two years out of my life and earned an MBA, but they teach exactly what you’re talking about.

They teach there is basically one model of leadership and, and people don’t see [00:08:00] themselves in it, but they try to then force themselves, you know, they try to emulate that behavior, which is worse in my opinion, because it’s disingenuous. Like, that’s not who they are and they’re not dealing with their strengths.

They’re dealing with a model of, and again, a historical model that might’ve worked for some people. And I’ll just kind of put a couple of qualifiers on there. Might have worked, uh, for some people, but, but, uh, again, business schools are horrible at this. Uh, I also think that if we get into the sports world, I think that, that, that.

A lot of coaches get fired because they, they, they’re themselves, they do them and they’re good at doing them and their model doesn’t work. And the, the, the team doesn’t let them, they don’t give them enough latitude to lead for enough time to then say, your model works. Um, and it’s like, you’re not [00:09:00] coaching the same way that this other person coaches.

It’s like, yeah, because I’m not that person.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Exactly. And we try to force fit someone into that model. And then even think about when we kind of rate people or do 360s against those models that they don’t fit in. And we do things like, you know, send people to lots of training to be more collaborative. And by the way, it’s not that we shouldn’t be more collaborative.

All of us probably should maybe be a little bit more collaborative, but only to a certain extent. There’s a difference between proficiency. Like, we need to be proficient at the skills we need to do our job. Right. And being extraordinary at something, and extraordinary, your extraordinariness is unique to you, just like mine is unique to me.

Right. We can both achieve proficiency at something, and that looks very, very much the same for us in the context if we’re doing the same thing. So take the word.

William Tincup: Sorry, Amy. Yeah. Go ahead. No, go ahead. So take the word collaborative and something [00:10:00] that’s coming into my mind is, is, is, is it just that it’s subjective and that people have different definitions or is it that or possibly and or is it that the expectations of collaboration have changed?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: It’s definitely an and.

William Tincup: Okay, okay,

Amy Leschke-Kahle: okay. Yeah, it’s definitely an and. And I think again that taking collaboration is one of those things that everybody says we need more of. It is also again incredibly situational. So you may have someone who is I’m going to make this up, a design engineer. They’re designing, I may know someone who fits this bill by the way, designing instrumentation in the water and wastewater industry.

To a large degree, a lot of that person’s time is spent independently, doing independent work. And it’s not that they don’t need to be collaborative at a proficient level, of course they do, they lean into their colleagues and they may ask for help, or can you please approve this, or [00:11:00] make sure I design this correctly, absolutely.

But in that kind of context, maybe they don’t need to be the uber collaborative person.

William Tincup: Right, right. They need to be. I was thinking as you were talking about it, I was thinking about a fighter jet pilot, you know, in the midst of, or on the edge of combat. You know, they don’t, they don’t necessarily need to be super collaborative.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Well, and even, and you brought up another great point, is that what does collaboration mean today in today’s world of work? And what does that look like? And what are the, the modalities and the practices we have to be more collaborative? It’s not necessarily face to face anymore. Um, and it might be collaborative in a way that, um, I’m going to almost call it delayed collaboration.

Right? So we think about collaboration as being super real time, but it might be, I lean into a group of people for feedback on a paper that I’ve written, [00:12:00] and it may take a couple weeks. So I think One of the, the challenges, and we’ve gone, of course, down a rabbit hole here, but sometimes the, the, in our effort to over define something, or an effort to define something, we almost like over define it.

It’s like going from a, you know, a pass fail to a 9 point rating scale. Like, it doesn’t, it just buys you complexity and confusion. It doesn’t buy you clarity. So,

William Tincup: all right, so we don’t go further down this rabbit hole, because let’s, let’s hammer a couple other myths real quick.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things, we talked just a little bit about this, but we talked about context and you were talking about leading, you were talking about, you know, after World War II, there’s a difference between supervising, managing, and leading.

So you think about, we supervise people doing a process. Right? Someone is building a tractor and you’re [00:13:00] supervising them assembling that tractor to ensure quality and to make sure they’re as productive as they need to be. You think about managing. I don’t like to think about managing people. I don’t like that term, like managing people.

Again, it feels very inhuman to me. We manage work and manage projects. I don’t think we manage people. I mean, who wants to be, I don’t want to be managed. Oh no way. I think we lead people. And the hard part around when you think about the supervisor, manager, the leader, is that those often take place in the same person, in the same day with the same people that you happen to be supervising, managing, and leading.

It’s not, I’m a supervisor or a manager or leader. I’m not talking about job titles. Right. But for all three. And when do you do which one of those things? And hopefully you spend most of your time in the leading bucket. And not very much time, and maybe no [00:14:00] time, depending on the kind of work, in the supervising bucket, and a little bit of time in the managing bucket to make sure that people are still directionally going in the right way, qualities where it needs to be, etc.

But we want to spend most of our time in the leading bucket, and in the leading bucket where we are doing it in a way that makes the most sense for us and our team.

William Tincup: Well, it’s nice in those three personas, even being the same person, if they can shift out of that persona and communicate with people, it’s like, okay, you know what?

Let me put on my leadership hat. Let me put on my manager hat and look at the process, look at the tech and look at how we’re, how we’re doing things. Or let me put on my supervisor hat. Like if people were to talk like that. And, and be received like that, then I think people would be able to see the three different personas come together.

Uh, I, I fear whether or not people are open enough or even if they know themselves well enough. So if they’ve, if they’ve, you know, [00:15:00] done some type of analysis with themselves and they, they understand that I’m actually three different people and I’d have three different personas and I need to actually do a better job of communicating.

Those personas to the people I work with.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Yeah, and I don’t think most people certainly approach the job of leading others in that way with that thought process. Part of that is because we’ve not created a very grown up environment in which people work. Right. That’s, we’ve created an environment in which we’ve set the expectations that first and foremost, your job as a person on an org chart who has people below you is really to supervise.

Right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s the environment that we’ve created, as opposed to create an environment in which, hey, you’ve got these people below you, um, your job is to provide support guidance and direction to them. It’s not just supervise them. Right. Not to do their work, although sometimes they may need help and sure, but your [00:16:00] job is to provide support guidance and direction to them.

In other words. That’s right. Lead, help be a leader to them, and even the word leader gets a little fuzzy, right? Because it sounds very woo woo, right? It sounds like, you know what it sounds like. It just sounds kind of soft and fluffy. And not again that we need to over define that word, but I like to describe it again simply as providing support guidance and direction to someone else.


William Tincup: what do you, what do you think about the leaders, especially from an employee’s perspective? Is it, is it, uh, nature versus nurture? Is it something that leaders are born with and that have an innate and natural ability to lead? Or is it, uh, that they’re taught like by being around other great leaders?

Like how do, where, where do great leaders come from?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: I think that is a fabulous question. In fact, that’s one of the myths. With enough training, someone can be a [00:17:00] fabulous, great manager, like you, anybody can be an extraordinary leader. And this is probably controversial, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Yeah, me neither. I mean, we know, we’ve all experienced, right, when you experience. You know, leading and working for someone or whether it be in a project team or whether they, you report to them on an org chart, if that were the case, all of the investments that we’ve made as organizations, we would have figured that out by now.

Right. And we haven’t. And so not every leader, not every person is, is set up, if you will, to be a great leader. And some of that might, there may be cases of training. There’s not one root cause, by the way. So it might be somebody hasn’t received adequate training. It might be they haven’t received adequate coaching.

Maybe they want to be a great leader, but they themselves have not had a support mechanism. For example, with a great coach to help them figure out where their own unique leader model is. That’s a really common phenomena, by the way, because we try to [00:18:00] smoosh people into this model. We don’t give them the space to be their own unique best leader, and we don’t give them the resources to do that.

The other thing that happens probably most frequently is that we promote people into positions, leader positions, manager positions, supervisor positions, because they’re really good at their job. And what happens is we totally undermine the thing that we’re trying to do, right? We’re trying to, how do we help people be more productive?

How do we help them do higher quality work? How do we help them do more differentiating work? So we take this person who’s really good at their job. We promote them into a manager job. We take away the work that they love. And then we create this really complicated, messy, difficult set of things that we want them to do.

And a lot of it’s administrative. We call that a manager. You’re managing that, your position. And we wonder [00:19:00] then why most of those folks are not successful or happy. So we’ve removed the thing that makes them happy at work and added a whole bunch of stuff that they don’t really want to do.

William Tincup: I’ve seen this happen the most.

It happens everywhere in New York, but I’ve seen this happen the most in sales. Where, uh, a gal is killing it in sales killing quota. She’s wonderful. She’s just a, a pleasure to be around. And more importantly, she’s killing quota and she’s a great salesperson. And then all of a sudden they promote, uh, her to a sales manager or sales leader, and, um, and they don’t give her the tools and resources in which to be a great or an effective leader of salespeople.

And, and, and he or she fails. Because it’s not as fun, it’s not what they signed up to do, and, and they’re not good at it, uh, because not, not because they wouldn’t be good at it, but because they weren’t trained [00:20:00] at it. And, uh, but I’ve seen that happen a lot in sales. I’m sure, I know it happens everywhere.

I’ve just seen it a lot in sales.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: It happens everywhere. So let’s talk a little bit about what some possible, I don’t even want to call it a solution, but some things that organizations can do to help. Maybe let’s call it neutralize that particular situation because it’s, we’re not going to get rid of that.

There are not enough people who are passionate about being people leaders. To fill all of the open people leader slots that we have. It’s a, we know this is a very, very difficult job. And because work isn’t grown up, we end up dealing with a lot of drama, etc, etc. It’s not always a great thing to be in that position as a leader.

So, there’s a couple things that organizations can do, and I highly recommend that they do, to support How do we help people at least be proficient? And so really kind of step one is [00:21:00] let’s expect everybody to be proficient at their job of leading and managing a team. If we put them in that position, we need them to be proficient.

Well, what does proficiency look like? Proficiency looks like this. Paying really, really frequent attention to those team members about near term future work. Like, what’s happening? We’ve talked about this, right? That practice of checking in with their people really frequently, super light touch. And it sounds like, what are your priorities this week?

Do you need anything from me? And I want to make sure you’re doing okay. Those three questions really frequently. If every manager leader did that every week with all of their direct reports, If they took five minutes to do that, that’s what proficiency looks like. So if organizations clearly define the critical few things that leaders need to do to be proficient inside of their organizations, that would be the number one on my list.

Do that. And you now at least have an organization full of proficient leaders. [00:22:00] And we know from the data that when organizations, when leaders Have their, um, check in with their people every single week, they’re two to three to four times more likely to be all in at work. That one simple practice. So, the second piece of that puzzle is to simplify.

So, organizations, HR, high level leaders in organizations, what can you do to simplify the work of managers? What can you do to take processes that are over engineered and over complicated, tasks, anything that you can do to simplify their world is going to pay back in droves for you because we’ve made that job not so great.

It’s a lot of stuff that has to happen, and we know the one thing that we absolutely need them to do is to pay more attention to their people, so let’s create space for them to do that. I love

William Tincup: that. You know, it’s, it’s coming up on the hour, and I don’t [00:23:00] think we got to like two of your myths, maybe three, so we’re going to have to, we’re going to have to do a part two of this so that we can get to the end.

I would love to do a part two. Let’s do a part two. So, Amy, thank you so much for carving out time for us in the audience.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Well, thanks so much for having me. As usual, William. It’s been a great, great couple minutes here talking with you about hot topics in the world of work.

William Tincup: A hundred percent. And we’re going to do a part two.

That way we can cross these off the list and then deal with the other parts on your list. So save your list so that we can actually do the other parts.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: I look forward to it. Can’t wait.

William Tincup: Absolutely. And thanks for the audience listening. Appreciate you. Until next time.


The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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