Edward Koch, the often brash and eclectic former Mayor of the City of New York was famous for asking residents (voters) “How’m I doin’?”  From construction workers and ordinary people of the street, to well-heeled financial supporters on the upper East Side, you could almost bet the farm that Koch would blurt out his famous question at the start or finish of a conversation.

hand catching a soap bubbleHe was not by any standard an insecure politician seeking feel-good support.  No, the honorable Mr. Koch, who died last year and who served as mayor for three terms beginning in 1977, was determined not to be an out-of-touch leader trapped in the bubble, that state where an important public servant or corporate executive is isolated by rings of erstwhile aides determined to be helpful by protecting the boss and, to be honest, restrict access to the source of power.

Koch would have none of that and, as a result, I believe, he will go down as one New York’s great iconic mayors.

Being isolated — by choice or by structure — is not a very good place for a leader to be.

Here is a test to measure yourself against the Koch standard:

  • Start each day by looking into the mirror and ask yourself, “How’m I doin’?”
  • Then think carefully — are you doing all the right things to inspire the trust and respect of your employees that is so necessary for sustainable success?
  • Are you the type of leader who inspires employees to be the best they can be, or, are you more comfortable using a metric system that, at the end of the day, is more about command and control?

If leaders are squeamish perhaps they should ask themselves if regularly seeking feedback from employees and physicians is a sign of insecurity?  Are you worried they will view you as a weak leader desperately seeking praise?

The truth is, if you take legitimate feedback and act on it, it will make a very favorable impression on your team, especially when you follow up with them.

This is not rocket science stuff.  More importantly, it really works.

Too bad many executives are so uncomfortable that they find themselves inside the bubble, the first step to ineffectiveness in a transformational business climate.