The Leadership Gap 

By: Lolly Daskal



Lolly Daskal has seen it all in her years as an executive coach. She has spent countless hours in boardrooms, executive suites and corporate jets. She has also helped leaders navigate both success and failure.

Through her work, Lolly has identified the one thing separating the best from the rest, which is that great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are. According to Lolly, many leaders get stuck because they rely on what has worked for them in the past - even when it is no longer working. By contrast, great leaders are open to learning and growing to better serve the people they lead.

In her book, The Leadership Gap, Lolly introduces us to a system of seven archetypes that will help you view yourself objectively so you can identify the gaps you face as you work towards greatness.

You will see parts of yourself in each of these archetypes because we typically shift between them depending on the situation we're facing. You will also recognise yourself in what Lolly describes as leadership gaps. These gaps sometimes lead us to the “shadow side” of our leadership archetypes, ultimately holding us back from becoming successful.

Once you are able to see yourself objectively, you can start to create a path forward.

That is exactly what we’ll explore here as we introduce you to each of the seven archetypes as outlined in The Leadership Gap. 

The Rebel

The Rebel is somebody who sees something that isn’t right in the world, and then does everything in their power to correct it. In a business context, you’ll notice The Rebel overcoming huge roadblocks to save a project, or in extreme cases, a company.

When we think of rebels, we typically think of people like Rosa Parks or Elon Musk for example. Rebels always seem to ask themselves, “how can I push the envelope?” in every situation.

The Rebel’s strength is self-confidence, backed up by competence. As Lolly points out, confidence alone is not sufficient. You need both in order to become great as a Rebel leader.

The Rebel’s leadership gap is self-doubt - in most cases, the irrational kind. Almost every high achiever faces some degree of self-doubt. After all, they are trying to do what other people would not, or could not, do.

When self-doubt creeps in, it leads to the leadership gap archetype called The Imposter. It’s the never-ending sense that somehow you will be “found out.” It’s the need for perfection, when you know that perfection is impossible. It’s comparing yourself to others, when you know that there’s always somebody better, faster and stronger.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this gap and find your inner Rebel when you need it most. 

Here are a few things to help Rebel's get over their need for perfection:

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  2. Remind yourself there is no such thing as perfection or being perfect.
  3. Make a list of your accomplishments to remind yourself that you are indeed capable of great things.
  4. Create an inner circle for support.
  5. Assess your skills and work on strengthening the skills that cause you to doubt yourself.
  6. Constantly remind yourself of the cause you are working towards. Self-doubt has a habit of disappearing in the face of a worthy cause.

The Explorer

The Explorer is somebody who knows when to rely on their analytical mind, but also when to rely on their intuition. In particular, they use their intuition to test the boundaries of what is known, and how things are currently done.

When we think of explorers, people such as Jeff Bezos, Sarah Blakely and Neil deGrasse Tyson may immediately come to mind. Explorers always seem to ask, “what can I discover?”

The Explorer’s strength is intuition. Intuition is knowledge based on experience, stored deeply in your brain, and available quickly on demand. Most people commonly refer to this as listening to their gut, but as Lolly explains, it’s actually a little more complicated than that.

The Explorer’s leadership gap is manipulation. When people trust your intuition as a leader to guide them, it’s a slippery slope to use it to get whatever you want. Sometimes this leads to using intuition to manipulate others to gain their control.

When this happens, we end up with a leadership gap archetype called The Exploiter. The Exploiter will set themselves up as the expert in a situation even when they are not. They will withhold information from others, and they will often make threats to get what they want.

When you find yourself slipping from the Explorer to the Exploiter, there are a few things you can remind yourself of to get you back on track:

  1. Look for opportunities to praise instead of prey. Don’t take advantage of other people’s weaknesses.
  2. Don’t make others give up something in order to serve your own self-interest.
  3. Mean what you say and say what you mean. The Exploiter will often say things other people want to hear, but aren’t quite true.
  4. Leverage your qualities as an Explorer - the power of self-assurance, the ability of persuasion, the capacity for decisiveness, and the quintessence of preparedness.

The Truth Teller

The Truth Teller is somebody who believes they owes it to the people in their life to be honest, open and sincere at all times. The Truth Teller will tell the truth when it serves others, even if they run the risk of offending people.

Some examples of Truth Tellers would be people like Ronald Reagan, Indra Nooyi and Winston Churchill to name a few. Truth Tellers always seem to be asking themselves, “where should I speak up?”

The Truth Teller’s strength is candour, which is the quality of being open and honest in expression. To be frank, it is arguably one of the hardest qualities to have, and one of the hardest to be or do.

In a research study done by the University of Massachusetts, it was discovered that 60 percent of adults can’t complete a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. Truth Tellers would fall into the 40 percent of people who can speak the truth in all areas of their life. They are a rarity to say the least. 

The Truth Teller’s leadership gap is suspicion. Truth tellers can easily succumb to the suspicion that those around them aren’t telling the truth. As a result this suspicion gives way to easily justifying not telling the complete truth too.

Ultimately, suspicion paves the way towards the leadership gap archetype known as The Deceiver. Deceivers are remarkably charming (it’s easier to be charming when you’re not restricted to the truth), they are emotionally manipulative, and wonderful at distraction. They are also notorious blamers and never take responsibility or remain accountable to their actions.

If you find yourself identifying as a Deceiver, here are some ways to get yourself back on track:

  1. Learn to be flexible. Deceivers tend to see the world in black and white.
  2. Communicate everything. The path to the Deceiver often starts with withholding information, not outright lies.
  3. Look for solutions, not blame. When you create a culture where solutions are rewarded and mistakes aren’t punished, the truth can be told by everybody - including you.
  4. Model your own high standards. Don’t tolerate liars and cheats.

The Hero

The Hero is somebody who takes action while others sit on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to step up. They act in spite of overwhelming odds and opposition. They are willing to put their careers (and sometimes lives) on the line for a shot at greatness.

When we think of heroes, we might think of people such as Justice Anthony Kennedy, Malala Yousafzai or J.K. Rowling to name a few. The Hero always seems to ask themselves, “where is courage needed?”

The Hero’s strength is courage.

Science doesn’t yet understand why people take on heroic tasks, but we do know that it’s an activity that has distinct characteristics. It is performed in service of others in need, voluntarily, with the recognition of the risks, and without expectation of external gain.

The Hero’s leadership gap is not surprisingly fear. The Hero in one situation can be paralysed by fear in another. As philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “fear defeats more people than anything in the world.”

Fear can lead to the leadership gap archetype of The Bystander. Why? Simply put - because it is easier to watch things unfold rather than take action. What you don’t realise is that when you are a Bystander to an injustice, you make it easier to rationalise being a Bystander as well. It’s contagious, and it’s destructive.

If you find yourself tempted to be a Bystander in a situation that calls for action, you can close the gap by doing the following:

  1. Create a bias for decisive action. As psychologist, Susan Jeffers once said, "Feel the fear and do it anyways."
  2. Stand tall, literally. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities have discovered that practicing the “power pose” for a few minutes increases testosterone and lowers cortisol, making it more likely that you’ll take action.
  3. Remind yourself that you are in control. You ultimately get to decide whether or not you take action. 

The Inventor

The Inventor is a visionary, constantly inventing new products or improving existing ones. The Inventor typically refuses to settle for anything but excellence. Inventors are experimenters, knowing that small bets pay off in big wins. They are also willing to fail in order to pursue those wins.

When we think of who the Inventor might be, Walt Disney, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Blake Mycoskie are a few people who may immediately come to mind. They seem to be always asking the question, “how can we make this better?”

The Inventor’s strength is integrity.

As Lolly says in the book, " order to have integrity you need to know who you are, you need to know what you stand for, and you have to know what your code of conduct is." When an Inventor has integrity, there is no stopping them.

The Inventor’s leadership gap is Corruption. Every single day you will face opportunities that could impact your integrity. The seven deadly sins are an example of this: Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.

Once your integrity starts to slip, you are on your way to becoming the leadership gap archetype, The Destroyer. Instead of making the world better with their ideas, product and companies, Destroyers serve their own purposes, ultimately making everything worse.

Here’s what to do to close the gap if you find yourself tempted to let your integrity slip:

  1. Look for the good, not the bad. The Destroyer tends to focus on the negative in any situation, which makes it harder to stick to your code of conduct.
  2. Set high personal standards, and avoid the temptation to cut corners, even when others aren’t looking.
  3. Get to know yourself. Integrity is created and maintained through constant self-examination.
  4. Honour your commitments.
  5. Take responsibility when you fall short on your commitments.

The Navigator

Navigators know where to go, and they know how to bring people with them. They have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. Even more importantly, they know how to navigate themselves.

When we think of famous Navigators, people like Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Nassim Nicholas Taleb come to mind. The Navigator is always asking, “How can we get to where we need to go?”

The Navigator’s strength is trust.

Navigators trust in their own ability to lead and they also know how to build trust in those around them. Trust allows people to open up without the fear of being hurt, and to take the appropriate risks without the fear of reprimand.

The Navigator’s leadership gap is Arrogance. When you have a high level of trust in your ability to navigate an organisation towards success, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. “I’ll just tell people what to do and they’ll do it,” is something you might find an arrogant person saying.

This path ends up at the leadership archetype known as The Fixer. As Lolly says, the Fixer is a navigator that nobody trusts. The Fixer feels the need to help save people from themselves instead of leading them. They micromanage.

Here is what to do to close the gap if you find yourself slipping into role of The Fixer:

  1. Learn to fix the fixer and start by fixing yourself.
  2. Be mindful of boundaries. Do not let yourself get swallowed up in other people’s challenges. Give others the opportunity to fend for themselves.
  3. Pay attention to communication, commitment, competence and character.
  4. Demonstrate trust by honouring, admiring, and appreciating those around you.

The Knight

The Knight is a loyal protector and defender with unwavering beliefs. The Knight will stand beside you and serve you before they serve themselves.

Mother Teresa, Herb Kelleher and Jill Abramson are examples of The Knight. Knights always seem to be asking themselves, “How can I serve you?”

The Knight’s strength is loyalty.

Loyalty expert James Kane tells us there are three specific things that determine whether or not we feel a sense of loyalty to another person, brand or organisation:

  • (1) a sense of trust;
  • (2) a sense of belonging; and
  • (3) a sense of purpose.  

The Knight taps into all three of these things. 

The Knight’s leadership gap is Self-Serving. As human beings, we have a bias to serve ourselves first. One of the manifestations of that is to rationalise that what’s good for you is also good for others.

Often, this thinking leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Mercenary. The Mercenary lacks dedication to the cause, displays inadequate loyalty and commonly possesses a shortage of competence.

If you are heading towards becoming The Mercenary, here are a few ways to get you back on track towards being The Knight:

  1. Realise that thinking about serving others first is what ultimately leads to the highest levels of success.
  2. Pay attention to how people respond to you.
  3. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  4. Get to know the people around you because it is much easier to serve people you connect with.
  5. Be honest with yourself. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you don’t model it yourself.


Being a leader is tough work and you will almost always find yourself in times of darkness. However, as Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

In these times of darkness, arm yourself with the tools presented in The Leadership Gap. By doing so, you can choose light over darkness and the leadership archetype that different situations demand.

The Rebel, Explorer, Truth Teller, Hero, Inventor, Navigator and Knight are inside all of you.

The choice is yours, so make it a good one.