The Myths Of Great Leaders Part 2 With Amy Leschke-Kahle of ADP

Is leadership a mythical concept that only a few possess? In this episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, host William Tincup invites guest Amy Leschke-Kahle, Vice President of Talent Insights and Innovation at ADP, to shed light on the mythos surrounding great leaders and how to navigate the expectations placed upon them.

Amy is an expert in helping organizations rethink work and approach leadership differently. She shares her insights on the current expectations of leaders and whether they are realistic or not in these challenging times. Organizations have overloaded leaders with administrative tasks and coaching responsibilities, often overlooking their core competencies. Amy emphasizes the need for organizations to recognize the diverse strengths and passions of individuals, rather than forcing everyone to fit into a conventional leadership mold.

While addressing the topic of extraordinary leaders, Amy dispels the notion that there is a one-size-fits-all formula for greatness. Instead, she highlights the importance of embracing each leader’s unique strengths and investing in their areas of affinity, creating a more authentic and impactful leadership style. From the power of frequent attention to team members to understanding the nuances of poor performance, their conversation is a wealth of knowledge for anyone interested in cultivating successful leaders.

Join us as we explore the myths of great leaders and uncover a fresh perspective on leadership development.

Listening Time: 22 minutes

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Amy Leschke-Kahle
VP of Talent Insights 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 2 With Amy Leschke-Kahle of ADP

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup, and you’re listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast. Today, we have Amy from ADP on, and this is a part two. So the myths of great leaders, comma, two. We did this podcast, uh, I think it was last week or the week before, and we didn’t get through the list. So we basically said, well, we got to do a part two.

That rarely happens. Uh, and, and in my podcast, uh, [00:01:00] so I’m really glad to kind of get to part two. So Amy, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and what you’re doing for ADP?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Absolutely. Hi everybody. I am Amy Leschke Karl. I’m the vice president of talent insights and innovation, and I help organizations think about work differently and do work differently, which is why we’re having a part two today and particularly around the very important topic of leaders.

William Tincup: So let’s start off with, uh, the expectations of leaders, like what, what, where are we at kind of at this particular moment in time, uh, as we look for leaders to do X, Y, and Z, is it Realistic, is it optimistic, pessimistic, what, what are, what, what’s, when you look at expectations and leaders, what do you see with your, your clients and, and yourself and across the

Amy Leschke-Kahle: market?

Well, one of the things I see certainly with clients, but also all of us who lead people, whether we show [00:02:00] up on an org chart or not, by the way, is that organizations have over Over expected of leaders. We’ve overwhelmed leaders, especially the everyday leader. Those of us who are not necessarily super passionate about leading teams of people.

We love to do our work. And oh, by the way, now we have to do this thing called leading people. We’ve put so many expectations, both administrative expectations as well as coaching expectations that. Most of us as leaders, we want to do work, but now we’ve got all this leady stuff to do as well. And a lot of that is not super helpful, again, for those of us who are, I’m going to say, everyday leaders.

William Tincup: So, where, if I could point blame, uh, assign blame, where, where, where, where did this go sideways?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Well, I think it’s all well, very well intended. So no one, like we don’t, um, well, for [00:03:00] the most part, well intended. I think sometimes HR doesn’t want to do things. And so we point out leaders and say, Oh, you go do that thing.

But I think for the most part, it’s well intended. And we have this. I’m going to say unrealistic expectation that everybody can be an extraordinary leader. Like, you know, if we give everybody enough training, if we give Amy enough training, she can be an extraordinary leader. And I don’t think that’s the case.

And I think that is an unrealistic expectation. So we’ve overwhelmed leaders with stuff to do with tasks, with approaches, with models, with frameworks that for most of us. We simply don’t have enough, I’m going to say affinity for the work of leading people. It’s not by the way that we say we hate leading people and we all know how important it is, but it’s just not a natural affinity enough for us to go, I’m going to over invest in being a really good leader.[00:04:00]


William Tincup: are we thinking about extraordinary in the sense of, uh, say the 1 percent like, like that or, or is it We shouldn’t, we should shoot for extraordinary with some, but not with all. Like we should then have people that are just capable leaders, like competent leaders. Maybe you don’t have to be, maybe you’re never going to be extraordinary.

But you know, it seems like there’s a utility, or could be a utility if someone is just competent in leading.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Absolutely. And we can gain so much in organizations by having our leaders be at least proficient. I like to use the term proficient, and it’s incredibly doable. Like getting all of your leaders to proficient is an absolutely realistic expectation.

And we know from the data and the research that there’s a really simple practice. That all proficient leaders do. You and I, I think I’m sure have talked about this before, and that [00:05:00] proficient practice is paying really frequent attention to your team members. That just get everyone being a high attention leader.

That means once a week, it doesn’t have to be a big, long, complicated thing. It’s asking three simple questions. What is the most important thing you need to work on this week? Do you need anything from me? And I just want to check in and see if you’re doing okay. Those three questions once a week we see in the data from real people doing real work in the real world is a game changer when it comes to helping your team members be all in.

So if you instill and embed that practice, in your organization as an expectation, that gets everybody to proficiency. The other thing that that does is it gives you the space and the time and I might even say budget to over invest in those people who are passionate about leading others because we need them, we want some of them, you’re never going to have all of [00:06:00] them.

So it’s just like if you were an engineer. I’m an engineer. And if you’re an engineer, let’s say you’re a mechanical engineer and you really love designing in CAD, but you also, there’s also this quality thing over there, but you don’t really care so much about being a quality engineer, but you love to design.

You can invest a whole bunch of time and effort and money and emotional energy into helping someone be a better quality engineer, but that’s not where their passion is. Right. Why would we do that? want to help them be a really good designer.

William Tincup: It’s like we’re forcing, we’re forcing them to be something that they’re not or don’t want to be or have no interest into.

How do you, first of all, I think ADP follows this, this proficiency model, or excuse me, the, the high attention because I think I was talking to another executive and we went into kind of his world. He’s like, Hey, miss, I have a team of six people. I talked to every single one of them every week. And so he explained exactly what you were talking about.

I don’t know if he used the questions the way you did. I’m like, [00:07:00] dude, that just sounds awesome. I mean, that just, it reminds me of what Jack Welch used to do at GE with the span of control and just basically one person should really only interact with a limited number of people. Like you can, you can talk to a lot of other folks, but managing, it should be more limited than that.

But I, I like that model and I like those questions a lot. Do you, do you, with your customers, do you see them asking, like, how do we know we’ve reached? Proficiency. Well, the

Amy Leschke-Kahle: beautiful thing about, yeah, the beautiful thing about technology is we can actually measure it and we can see that. So we ask, for example, in our world at ADP and with our clients, every week we ask, each of us answer a question that said, did your team leader connect with you about your priorities this week?

William Tincup: So we know. Oh, that’s awesome. It’s probably terrifying to implement for a company that’s never done that. I could see where people would be like, Oh no, [00:08:00] that’s, that’s horrible. But once it’s done and it’s ritualized, then I think people get addicted to it. It’s like, okay. Yeah. Yeah.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: And it’s actually, yeah.

And it’s not terrifying though, William, because the question feels so innocuous. It’s like, yes or no. It’s a yes or no question. It’s like, oh, yes or no. Like, did they pay attention to you or not? Yes or no. Yeah. But it gives us this data point. To be able to connect some dots at a person level from a researching perspective, we don’t like share all the data with everybody, but from a research perspective, applied research perspective, we can connect a couple pieces of data like how engaged is that person?

How often did their team leader connect with them? What did their priorities look like? Did they like working on their priorities that week or did they not like working on their priorities this week? So we can collect this data in a five minute process. And it’s amazing.

William Tincup: Is that linked either now or in the future to promotions and comp and succession [00:09:00] planning and things like

Amy Leschke-Kahle: that?

I would not link those two things together. Okay. Okay.

William Tincup: Why I went down that road is bad managers. And that’s the only reason I got either my mind went over into that little dark corner. It was like, okay, what do we do with bad leaders? We got the data now. And we even might even see someone that’s, you know, doing a great job communicating and then their, their subordinate doing a fantastic job.

It’s like, okay, we, we can connect these dots. That’s that’s how I got there was bad managers. So that, that’s why, that’s the only reason I brought it up.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Yeah. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s another probably topic for a podcast about poor performers. What exactly is a poor performer? How do we know? And the thing that we typically, as practitioners and talent practitioners, don’t do a great job at delving into is why.

Right. Like, why does this person get a 2 on their, uh, performance, [00:10:00] however you, we can, we’ve talked about this before, but why do they get a 2 on their performance rating? And we’ll just keep it really generic. Why? Is it because perhaps they have something going on outside of work? Is it perhaps they’ve got bad chemistry with the boss?

I mean, my God, we’re humans, right? Sometimes things we don’t gel very well, and you’ve got a really good, very competent, um, well intended person. Employee, but they’re in a situation and work where there’s some, uh, friction, I’m going to call it friction with someone maybe on their team or their team leader, and we’re not giving them the opportunity to do their best work.

So I think that’s why I get a little like a squeamy when you talk about that. I think we. Make some assumptions around why things happen, and we don’t really know, and we don’t get curious enough to go dig in and find out what’s really happening.

William Tincup: So what’s beyond, if the goal is every leader proficient, and here’s how we can get there, and we have the data to support those things.[00:11:00]

What’s, do you have a, do you have another level past proficient? Extraordinary. Okay, so we go from proficient to

Amy Leschke-Kahle: extraordinary. Absolutely, and the way that happens, again, is, I’m just going to say kind of affinity, natural affinity, I don’t know what else to call it, and you know those people, I mean, maybe you’re one of them, I am not, by the way, I am not that person who has a natural affinity for leading others, it’s just not in me, it’s not something that I’ve been doing, like, I’ve been spending most of my career in the world of leader development, and interestingly, I’m not super passionate about being a leader myself, I’m really interested about what does great leader and extraordinary leader y stuff look like and how do we help people get there and what I have learned is that not everybody’s going to get there.

So from a practitioner perspective, one thing I always guide folks that I work with to think about is be really smart and almost like surgical about where [00:12:00] you invest and who you invest in because you could over invest in Amy then My, you know, to try to get me to be an extraordinary leader, but you’re never gonna get payback on that because it’s just not who I am.

I am a incredibly proficient leader. Right, right, right. We can, it’s okay to stop there, like the expectation, right, right. That every leader in our organization is gonna be extraordinary or that every. Um, you know, bank teller is going to be extraordinary, or every podcast host is going to be extraordinary.

That is completely unrealistic, and we don’t all need to be extraordinary. That’s, that, that’s the thing. When we are extraordinary in our, in those places where we do have, um, emotional affinity, where we do get really excited about, over invest in that place. It doesn’t mean we don’t do other things proficiently, but helping people steer.

Towards those places that we get, like [00:13:00] you can tell, I’m getting super excited about the topic. It’s like, we need to be smarter at investing and I don’t mean just money, I mean time and effort and emotional energy to help people have extraordinary and give extraordinary contribution to the organizations that they work for.

William Tincup: So I’ve struggled with this for years in terms of putting all A players on a team. So, A, again, a proficient and maybe even an extraordinary leader, and everyone on the team is a high performer. It’s a talent. I’m not sure that works. And I mean, you’re, you’re a leader in this field, so you should probably have a more, a better response to that.

But I’ve always struggled with, and I say always, over the last 20 years, I’ve struggled with this. It’s like, you need to be and see players on the team. They don’t, you don’t, you don’t need to have all A. In fact, from a sports perspective, there’s not a lot of sports teams where [00:14:00] all the, all of the team were all, you know, A talent.

You have to have, it actually worked because you didn’t have everyone as a talent. Like in basketball, there’s only one basketball, you know, like everyone’s, everyone’s got a role. Uh, not everyone, not everyone has to be Michael Jordan. So first of all, tear that apart.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: I don’t mind. Um, I’m going to tear that apart

William Tincup: as you

Amy Leschke-Kahle: should.

Why do we not have the approach that all of our teams should be full of A players? And to your point, what you just said. The thing that I would tear apart about that is that, let’s just say, um, I’m not a basketball person, so I may get these words wrong, but let’s say you’ve got five people on the court, that person who’s the star in making all the baskets and the three pointers and all those kind of things, that’s great.

They’re a highly visible A player, but that person who’s supporting them and ensuring that they get the ball to be able to score that, they are a, [00:15:00] a, a player in a supporting role. In what they do. So I think the expectation and even the labeling of we have A players and B players or you may even think about the nine box, right?

It’s like some of those people that are sitting in the middle. I don’t think so. I mean, yeah, you’re going to have them for different reasons. But we ought to have an expectation. And I think a lot of organizations actually have this. They just don’t want to talk about it in this way because we don’t think about human performance as, um, we think about variation and sometimes variation is not necessarily in the contribution we make, but variation is in the, you have a skill and a talent and a strengths and, and I have a different one than you do.

Why, why would we have organizations, and I think a lot of organizations actually have this, where everybody is up in that top right hand

William Tincup: corner? I can, I can see that now. I can, I can see the, the way that you’ve reframed it. We don’t need [00:16:00] everybody to shoot. We need them to be good, extraordinary, uh, or proficient at what they’re, at what they do.

So that, that, that actually tracks for me. That makes sense. Two, two questions. Traits of the, of extraordinary leaders. What have you seen? Is there anything in the data that you can look at it and say, okay, these gals and these guys, they have this, or these, these five things or whatever it is, is there anything in the data that says, you know, from the difference between proficient and extraordinary is these

Amy Leschke-Kahle: things?

It’s actually exactly the opposite. There is no commonality. The most extraordinary leaders find their own unique extraordinary leader model approach, and they do that. Trying to force fit yourself into someone else’s imaginary model makes us Not better leaders. It makes us more frustrated and probably not as [00:17:00] good of leaders as we could be.

William Tincup: Well, it also could show up as false positives. So they, they, they scored well on this. So anyway, if we think that that’s the thing that makes it an extraordinary leader, uh, that we could spend time, money and energy and all that other stuff, trying to make them an extraordinary leader, and they’re, they’re never going to get there.

And then that creates, like we’re talking about from the org’s perspective, but it creates. A whole lot of frustration for the, for the, for the, for the, for the leader itself, because they, they can’t, they, for whatever reason, they can’t or don’t want to reach that level or that place. And that can create a whole kind of watershed of problems with morale and retention and all kinds

Amy Leschke-Kahle: of stuff.

It’s incredibly limiting to opportunity in the organization, letting people show up as their own unique best self, not their own unique best self, like. You know, in their entire life, but their own unique best work [00:18:00] self, but helping people to figure out what that looks like and how to bring that to the table and whether this is true, whether they’re a people leader or not, is, is freeing not only for the organization, but for the employees.

Again, think about what, what the unique differentiator of, of every organization is in today’s world. It’s used to be technology, not quite as much anymore. It’s still somewhat differentiating. It used to be process optimization, not anymore. It’s the people who are doing the thing, whatever that is. That’s right.

And we’re

William Tincup: all unique. Which it should have always been. But we’ll side quest side issue for a later paired point. But you’re right.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: It’s the people. And we’re all different and unique. And if we can help that uniqueness, that unique, um, Super secret sauce, I don’t know, whatever it is. We all know what that is, whatever you want to call it.

We just need to, if we can pull on that a little bit more and let that open up and be present a little bit more [00:19:00] in a reasonable way for leaders, especially people leaders, that’s a game changer. It’s free.

William Tincup: You and I grew up with the phrase, uh, cream rises to the top. Is it applicable to proficient leadership or extraordinary leadership?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: Um, gosh, is it, I, yes, in a way that, again, if organizations create enough space for people to be able to show up and figure out what that is for themselves and not force fit people into a single model, so yes, but the cream looks different every single time.

William Tincup: Right. Right. And for every organization and for every leader, et cetera.

So I was going to ask you, and I still should ask you about, uh, assessments for proficiency. Is there a way to [00:20:00] assess whether or not someone has the capacity to be proficient? Boy, you know what?

Amy Leschke-Kahle: I don’t know. That’s a good question. You know what, William? Damn you. Sorry about that. I don’t know, and I don’t know that I want to know.

Like, I’m not sure that that’s even a thing that I’m Um, kind of interested in, there are things that we can do to help employees make better decisions about whether a people leadership role is the right role for them, but having an assessment to answer that for us, and particularly relying on that assessment exclusively.

I don’t think is the right direction to go. I mean, there’s probably assessments out there and they’re great and they’re fine and they’re, they’re maybe, maybe are a helpful component of a larger question. Giving people exposure to what is it, what is it like to be a people leader if you haven’t been a people leader?

We don’t know, right? We say, oh, we’ve, we’ve over [00:21:00] glamorized this thing of leading people and it’s really hard and it’s really draining a lot of the time, especially when you were talking about large spans or especially if you’re new and in certain circumstances and high pressure work environments, like healthcare, for an example, we, we, if you’ve not done that work before and all of a sudden you step into that role and it is Um, that kind of an environment, and you haven’t had much support.

Wow. No, no wonder people fail in that role. And so again, I think it kind of comes to investment. Like we don’t always invest in the right places in the right way at the right time.

William Tincup: Jobs might walks off stage. Amy, thank you again and thank you for doing part one, but also thank you for doing part two of this.

I think it’s a. I mean, again, we probably do a part three, four, five, and six and may write a book about it, but thank you so much for coming on the show today and helping [00:22:00] us, uh, understand great leadership.

Amy Leschke-Kahle: It’s always such a pleasure to speak with you, William. Thanks so much for having me. Absolutely.

William Tincup: And thanks for the audience for listening 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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