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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • July 24, 2021
  • minute read

The 3 Ways High-Performance Leaders Differ From High-Achieving Leaders 

Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:

We saw in our last post that there are important differences between 'achieving' and 'performing', and that crucially, so-called overachievers often under-perform.

Why is that? In my observation, I've seen three main reasons why performance-based leaders deliver better results than achievement-based leaders:

1. Benign Neglect

Sometimes the best solution to a problem comes only after letting the problem ripen on the vine awhile.

Performance-based leaders can (and do) do this regularly, but for the overachiever the idea of putting something on the back burner and letting it stew for a while is akin to Chinese water torture.

I’ve mangled enough metaphors here for you to get the idea.

2. Collateral Damage

Achievement-based leaders (aka 'overachievers') look for the winning (i.e. ‘best’ or ‘right’) solution. Performance-based leaders look for the optimal solution.

The difference between the two is usually one of collateral damage: the winning solution will often (metaphorically) involve taking some prisoners, or hurting others in the process, sometimes not so metaphorically.

The optimal solution accepts there is a playoff between result, and the effect on people, and seeks to balance the two.

"Achievement-based leaders (overachievers) look for the winning (i.e. ‘best’ or ‘right’) solution. Performance-based leaders look for the optimal solution." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

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Does this mean that performance-based leaders are wusses? Nope. It means they’re normal, adult humans with a set of governing principles that includes the impact their actions have on others.

3. Self Doubt

Counter-intuitive and weird, but true: Achievement-based leaders suffer from self-doubt much more than performance-based leaders. I’m not 100 percent sure why this is, but in my observation and experience it has proven itself to be true over and over again.

I think it’s partially linked to the second point above – that achievement-based leaders know at some level that they’re often prizing achievement above other people’s needs or expectations.I think it’s also because they’re typically highly self-competitive, and so are frequently second-guessing themselves.

In the next post I'll share the ways in which I have seen achievement-based leaders successfully transform themselves into performance-based leaders - but in the meantime...

What about you - do you recognize any of the three patterns above in your 'overachiever' leaders?

Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. You mention "Achievement-based leaders suffer from self-doubt much more than performance-based leaders." I think one of the drivers for this is that Achievers and especially Over Achievers can have one of their drivers be fear of failure. As someone who is an achiever and tries to be a healthy performer, I can relate to 'self doubt" that likes to creep in.

  2. Interesting read. I think I would sum it up by saying achievement based leaders are operating out of the need for external approval (hence, the overachiever and self doubt). Performance based leaders are more secure and confident in self. They know what they are good at and not so good at and are okay with it all.

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