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Speed Review: Behind the Executive Door

Speed Review: Behind the Executive Door

Speed Review: Behind the Executive Door

Unexpected Lessons for Managing Your Boss and Career

by Karol M. Wasylyshyn

Behind the Executive Door is a revealing look at the behavior of top business leaders?and how the next level of aspiring managers can learn to navigate the political and personal landscape. Based on over 25 years of psychotherapy and consulting experiences, as well as extensive empirical research, Karol Wasylyshyn has identified a dynamic continuum of executive behaviors that are manifested in three specific types of business leaders – Remarkable, Perilous, and Toxic.


A Guide to Manage the Manager

After 30 years of coaching CEOs and other executives, psychologist Karol Wasylyshyn wondered whether the behaviors of business leaders represented any particular leadership types. The question is somewhat dangerous since the search for archetypes can lead to generalities that work on paper but have less value in the real world. Wasylyshyn avoids this trap, however. The three types of leaders she identifies in her book Behind the Executive Door — Remarkable, Perilous, and Toxic — effectively identify the range of patterns of leadership behavior that any experienced businessperson will recognize.

The goal of Behind the Executive Door is not just to present a psychological framework, however. The book is divided into two parts: "Understanding the Behavior of Business Leaders," in which Wasylyshyn describes the attributes and characteristics of the three types of leaders; and "Applying the Understanding of Business Leader Behavior," in which she describes how to work most effectively with the different types of leaders.

Understanding the Behavior of Business Leaders

Behind the Executive Door is based on analyses of the data from 300 executive coaching cases that the author accumulated in her 30 years of experience. Specifically, the analysis of each case, reflecting the author's coaching methodology, looked at: 1) life history, based on the psychologist Erik Erickson’s stages of life; 2) results of psychological assessment tests; 3) leadership competency, including emotional intelligence, based on 360 feedback interviews; and 4) the author’s coaching notes.

One way Wasylyshyn differentiates between the three types of leaders is through the assessment of four leadership competencies — the ability to achieve strategic objectives, drive results, manage people, and be seen as credible and ethical — coupled with the assessment of the four dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-observation, self-management, attunement to others and building meaningful relationships.

The Remarkable business leader is strong in every one of these domains. The Perilous business leader, who has the talent and potential of the Remarkable business leader but squanders the opportunity to be great, falters on the leadership competencies of managing people and executive credibility, and the emotional intelligence capabilities for self-observation, self-management and building relationships. The Perilous leader is weakest on the ability to attune to others. Toxic leaders, who are not only the least talented and effective leaders, but also the ones whose skewed self-image prevent them from making any change to their behaviors, may have some talent for strategy and driving results, but fail on all other measures of leadership competency and emotional intelligence.

Applying the Understanding of Business Leader Behavior

After describing the three types of leaders in detail, Wasylyshyn offers readers an assessment to help them identify the type to which their boss belongs. She then dedicates a chapter each to the most effective way for direct reports to "manage" each of the three types.

For the Remarkable leader, for example, reciprocity is key. Remarkable leaders and their direct reports must form and maintain a reciprocal relationship, Wasylyshyn writes. Remarkable leaders are strong on the leadership competencies, but value direct reports who can, for example, "stretch the boss's thinking" on strategy, or assist the boss in avoiding hiring mistakes.

A Perilous leader presents different challenges. The core flaw of a Perilous boss is what Wasylyshyn calls "unrequited" work — that is, unhappiness with one’s career or status. Direct reports must work at reducing this sense of unrequited work in their bosses.

Finally, managing a Toxic boss is really more about "surviving" than anything else, Wasylyshyn writes. One lesson is not to personalize the aggressive behavior of the boss.

Throughout the book, Wasylyshyn focuses on reality, not theory. She puts in caveats and continuums when necessary, recognizing that real life is not black and white. She includes valuable exercises and tools to help direct reports working with leaders. The result is a practical and unique addition to the leadership canon.

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