Leadership Quiz Answers
Question 1: How important is it for a leader to be someone of flawless character?
Correct answer: Very important
In general, leaders should strive to be someone of flawless character, especially in this day and age. In essence, leadership can be boiled down to an individual influencing a group of people to achieve a common goal. This is best done by inspiring people, rather than bullying them into submission. Obviously there are (and have been) several famous leaders whom are exceptions to the rule; leaders whom are famous, or rather notorious for their outbursts of anger, tantrum throwing and/or other forms of belligerent behavior. Leaders who have taken Machiavelli's lessons to heart and have led their company and people through fear.
Their patron saint is the late Steve Jobs (Apple/Pixar), as his outburst are legendary. It's been said that he regularly berated his employees with utterances like: "You guys don't know what you're doing. I'm going to get someone else to do the ads because this is f-ed up." Obviously, Steve is far from alone. Some other notable mentions:
"Why are you wasting my life?" - Jeff Bezos
"This is the stupidest piece of code ever written." - Bill Gates
"If Craigy and Bear were standing next to each other and I had one bullet, trust me, it wouldn't be for the dog." - Larry Ellison
"If you don't get that done sooner, I will punch you in the face." - Mark Zuckerberg
Some of the most successful leaders are for their cutthroat and immoral behavior. Take Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos. His fits of anger were so common, that Amazon employees came up with a name for outbursts: nutters. Amazon employees aren't the only ones to have found themselves on the receiving end of their boss' volcanic eruptions regularly enough to have coined a term for it. Although Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates seems to have adopted a more zen-like persona these days, when he was younger Bill used to be known as 'very difficult to work for.' According to the book Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire, Gates would regularly send out blunt, critical and sarcastic comments to employees regarding the insufficient quality of their work, which the employees started to call 'flame mail.'
Both, however, pale in comparison to Oracle's co-founder Larry Ellison. Back in 2005 Ellison took over the company PeopleSoft in a hostile acquisition which lasted for a grueling two years. Ellison remarked that if he'd have one bullet and had to choose between shooting PeopleSoft's CEO or the CEO's dog, he'd shoot the CEO. Then again, they are just words. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg allegedly walked around wielding an actual samurai sword. According to Noah Kagan, Facebook employee #30 and author of the book How I Lost 170 Million Dollars: My Time as #30 at Facebook, Zuckerberg regularly taunted under-performers and threatened to chop them with his huge sword.
This begs the question: If these extremely successful leaders can display such behavior, why shouldn't I? The big difference between these examples and 'regular' leadership is that these leaders have an autocratic (also known as authoritarian) leadership style. They make choices based on their own beliefs and intuitions, rather than inputs from other people. Every decision is made by them. Perhaps only Mark Zuckerberg might be an exception, as he has shown multiple types of leadership styles.
For more insight into the leadership styles of the above mentioned leaders, please check out the following books:
Question 2: After making a mistake, would you…
Correct answer: Admit to making a mistake
Having the humility to admit your mistakes instills trust. When your people know you're honest regardless of the circumstances and possible negative effects, your trustworthiness will increase. They will trust you to do the right thing.
A great example of owning your mistake comes from a book written by former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, called Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Jocko described a situation in which his subordinates had made some grave mistakes, which had resulted in the death of a friendly Iraqi soldier as well as several people wounded:
"The entire group sat there in silence, including the CO, the CMC, and the investigating officer. No doubt they were wondering whom I would hold responsible. Finally, I took a deep breath and said, “There is only one person to blame for this: me. I am the commander. I am responsible for the entire operation. As the senior man, I am responsible for every action that takes place on the battlefield. There is no one to blame but me. And I will tell you this right now: I will make sure that nothing like this ever happens to us again.” It was a heavy burden to bear. But it was absolutely true. I was the leader. I was in charge and I was responsible. Thus, I had to take ownership of everything that went wrong. Despite the tremendous blow to my reputation and to my ego, it was the right thing to do—the only thing to do.”
Jocko goes on explaining that looking back at that situation, taking full ownership of mistakes made his superiors trust him more. His subordinate his increased their respect for him. They knew that the mistakes were caused by a multitude of factors, with Jocko owning them all regardless.
Question 3: A leader is never done learning
Correct answer: True
Leaders are never done learning. Knowledge is one of the most essential tools a leader can posses. For example, John C. Maxwell (quoting the scolars Warren Bennis and Bert Nanus) writes the following about leadership and learning in his book 'The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership':
“Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress.”
Learning and leadership are inextricably linked. To be a successful leader you will have to keep learning, irregardless of your leadership style. In a speech written for John F. Kennedy, which was to be given on November 22 1963 at the Trade Mart in Dallas, we were to be reminded about the link between leadership and learning. Sadly, Kennedy was assassinated before he reached the destination.
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." - John F. Kennedy
Question 4: A true leader is never afraid
Correct answer: False
Aside from sociopaths, everyone feels fear. Fear is generally a normal and healthy response to something potentially threatening. What is important is how you deal with that fear. If the fear paralyzes you or forces you to make uninformed decisions, you might not be ready to be a leader. If, however, you are able to channel your fear and put it to use, fear might push you to be a better leader.
The late Major Dick Winters, a decorated WWII veteran and one of the main characters in Stephen Ambrose’s bestselling book ‘Band of Brothers,’ as well as in the similarly titled HBO miniseries, had the following to say about fear and leadership:
"Nor am I ashamed to admit that fear was a principal factor that contributed to my success as a leader. I was always afraid of letting my men down and I was always afraid of dying. It was a combination of these fears that drove me to learn everything I could about my profession so I could bring as many of my men home from war as possible.”
Question 5: Being a leader and being a manager are the same things
Correct answer: False
There exists a great overlap when it comes to leadership and management. Both are geared towards reaching goals in the most effective ways possible. There are, however, not the same. They are distinct constructs. According to the aforementioned Bennis and Nanu, managing has to do with accomplishing activities and mastering routines, while leading has to do with influencing people and creating visions for change.
John Kotter, professor emeritus of Leadership at Harvard Business School and widely regarded as the foremost speaker on leadership and change, writes about management and leadership having a different focus. E.g. when it comes to achieving goals, managers do so through hiring the right people and training them, while leaders do so through aligning people through integration, teamwork and commitment.
Question 6: Which personality trait is most strongly associated with leadership?
Correct answer: Extraversion
There is convincing scientific evidence (Judge et al., 2002*) which shows a relationship between certain personality traits and leadership. The strongest association was shown to be between extraversion and leadership, followed by conscientiousness, openness, low neuroticism and agreeableness.
Don't worry. It doesn't mean that you can't be a great leader if you're not extraverted. There are and have been many famous introverted leaders. People who have shaped the course of history. Don't believe us? How about Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates? They are introverts. Or how about the world's most well known investor: Warren Buffet. Not to mention legendary figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. , Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. All of them are rumored to have been introverts.
Interested in becoming a leader while being introverted? Check out Jennifer Kahnweiler's book on introverted leadership.
*Judge, T. A., Bono, J. E., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 765–780.
Question 7: Let’s say you’re the CEO of a medium sized company. What kind of skills will you need?
According to Peter Northouse, professor emeritus of communication at Western Michigan University, technical skills are much needed in lower and middle management, but less essential for the CEO of the company. The technical stuff is mostly handled by specialists. Human skills, on the other hand, are very important to the CEO as well as every other management level, as leading involves influencing other people to work towards a shared goal. Conceptual skills are also essential to being CEO, as you will need to be able to create strategies and shape policy issues. Conceptual skills, which have to do with ideas (e.g. strategic thinking) are also very much essential for upper management people, but are less so for lower management.
Question 8: Is being in shape (physically) important when it comes to leadership?
Correct answer: Yes
Is being in shape a prerequisite for being a good leader? No. There are many great, yet out of shape leaders around. (Look at the average NFL coach!) Would these leaders perform better if they were in tip top shape? In all likelihood, yes! Why? Because they would be less prone to physical exhaustion. Physical exhaustion contributes to mental exhaustion, which could lead to poor decision making. Even something as simple as sleep deprivation generally has a negative effect on your decision making capabilities.
The aforementioned WWII-hero Dick Winters wrote the following about being shape and leadership in his amazing book 'Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters':
"Some leaders are born with special aptitudes or talents, but any success I might have had was the product of good upbringing, intense study and preparation, and physical conditioning that set me apart from many of my peers."
Question 9: How important is it for a leader to have to have discipline?
Correct answer: Very important
Discipline is not just a ‘nice to have’ part of leadership, it’s an essential part of leadership. Having discipline will not only get stuff done and thereby maximize your output, it will inspire your team to develop discipline themselves. The resulting gains will, in turn, add to your credibility as a leader.
We’re talking about discipline in a variety of ways. For instance, having the discipline to put the work rather than procrastinating. When leading a team, you’re responsible for the people in it and for their results. If you don’t put in the necessary work to lead them in the right direction by carefully planning and executing, your whole team will suffer.
For instance, one of the reasons Elon Musk is able to do so much is because he is a very disciplined person. Although Elon Musk is an outlier, his disciplined work ethic is one of the few replicable tools in his arsenal. His (pre Neuralink and The Boring Company) schedule looked a bit like this:
(Note: we do not advice you to implement a similar schedule).
SpaceX or kids time
Travel or at home in Bel Air
- 6 Hours of sleep a day (wake up time: 07:00 am; bed time: 01:00 am)
- Works 85-100 hours a week (divided over Tesla, SpaceX, OpenAI)
- Roughly 80% of the time at work is spent on engineering and design.
- Batching of 5 minutes at a time.
- Multitasks as much as possible.
- Avoid emails as much as possible.
- Skip most phone calls.
- Breakfast is usually skipped, lunch is usually done during meetings.
- Goes to the gym once or twice a week.
- Makes time for reading.
Question 10: Would it be better to delegate certain responsibilities or to control as much as possible?
Correct answer: Delegate responsibilities
Let us preface this by saying that whether or not delegating responsibilities is a good idea is dependent on your leadership style. If you employ an autocratic or authoritarian leadership style like the above mentioned gentlemen (question 1), then you might want to control as much as possible. If you aren't a 'rule with an iron fist' kind of person, then you'd best delegate responsibilities. The aforementioned Jocko Willink calls this ´Decentralized Command,' wich is one of his 'Laws of Combat' in his book Leadership, Strategy and Tactics. Willink, a 20 years US Navy veteran and former commander of SEAL Team 3’s task unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit in the Iraq War, writes the following:
"Only when a leader is in charge of nothing, when he or she has delegated all actions to his or her subordinate leaders, can the leader truly lead. It is impossible to lead a team forward in a strategic direction when you are busy trying to direct and manage less significant tasks that could be handled by subordinates, so it is imperative that a leader utilize Decentralized Command and let his or her subordinate leaders lead."
In his previous book, Willink writes that empowering your subordinates and have them make decisions on key tasks will greatly enhance your success rate. Being a control-freak and trying to micromanage everything and everyone, on the other hand, will dissolve into chaos.
Does that mean you should delegate responsibilities willy-nilly? Obviously not. As Willink stresses in his books, responsibilities should be delegated to people you trust and have trained properly. An important part of that is to not just inform people about the what, but also about the why. Your people should know why they are doing what they are doing, so that they will be able to take ownership of it, make adjustments where needed and even raise concerns if needed.
The leaders at Amazon had to learn this the hard way. In the earlier years of Amazon, a brand new multilingual call center had been opened in The Hague, The Netherlands. Although Decentralized Command had been implemented, people hadn't been properly trained, which resulted in the closure of the call center mere months after it had been opened and the subsequent laying off of around 250 employees.
"It never should have been opened in the first place, but “people at various levels were making decentralized decisions to move quickly and the process wasn’t strong,” Piacentini says. The center had been open only a few months when Piacentini arrived to shut it down. With a few colleagues from Seattle, he collected the two hundred and fifty or so employees in the large marble lobby and made a brief speech in English telling everyone the bad news. Employees started howling and shouting, according to one Amazon employee who was there. One woman began sobbing and rolling on the floor."
Question 11: Narcissist cannot be great leaders
Correct answer: False
This might come as a surprise to some, as it is not a PC answer, but narcissists can be great leaders. As you have read, there are and have been some outrageously successful leaders who are anything but humble. With the emergence of celebrity tech leaders like Gates, Jobs and Bezos, this might seem as a trend confined to recent times, but it has always been like this. Throughout history, some of the most impactful business leaders have had a narcissistic personality, for instance:
- Henry Ford, who revolutionized mass-production methods like the world's first moving assembly line for cars.
- John. D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company and widely considered the wealthiest American of all time and the richest person in modern history.
- Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest Americans in history, known for leading the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century.
Having a leader with a narcissistic personality at the wheel isn't necessarily a bad thing. In his book Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails, psychoanalyst, anthropologist and globally recognized export on leadership Michael Maccoby states that in some cases narcissists can actually be good for companies. When a company is in need for vision and a new direction, a narcissistic leader might be exactly what it needs, especially during times of rapid social and economic change. It is a bit of a double-edged sword, however, as they might also run the company into the ground.
So, let us leave you with the following question: what kind of leader do you want to be?