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Tomorrow’s leaders : the Daft Punk Model or The Triumph of Humility
Having published various posts about leadership, I am often questioned
about the main qualities that tomorrow's managers absolutely must have.
There is one that strikes me as fundamental and yet it is not often mentioned:
In my latest book "Leaders of the Third Kind", published by Editions
Eyrolles, I take up this very point. With the publisher's permission, here
are the extracts that deal with this subject.
From "Leaders of the Third Kind"
I remember one evening in December 2012, when I was teaching a course on
leadership in a Specialized Master program at HEC Paris. The group couldn't
stop asking questions. Some kept on coming back again and again: "What
qualities should leaders have?"; "How does one become a leader?"; "Is
leadership innate?"; "What is the difference between a manager and a
leader?". Others were more specific, less common. One in particular comes
back to my mind: "How do you explain the fact that so many leaders let
themselves be led into actions that are immoral or inappropriate, or even
sometimes bordering on illegal?"
We all know the main reason now. It is known as narcissism. As we saw in
the second part of this book, leaders are essentially narcissists. Dominating
narcissists. Narcissists may be "productive" — for the better — or
"destructive" — for the worse. In general, narcissists have all the qualities
required for leading and inspiring others. But at a certain point, success goes
to their head. As they are incapable of controlling their drives, their ego, their
navel-gazing — their excessive love for themselves — they believe that what
applies to others cannot be applied to them. They feel they have every right in
view of their personal contribution. Sooner or later, they fall, especially when
they are in the spotlight. The three main reasons for their deviance: an
excessive love of power, the lure of gain, and an unrestrained sexual appetite.
Most cases it is only a matter of time, at least for most of them, as there are
some — aware of the risks incurred — who manage to control themselves.
“I had just turned on my car radio when " Get Lucky" by
Daft Punk sounded out [...] everything became perfectly
clear, the "Daft Punk"style had to be adapted to
In my reply, I used some real-life examples and all that I had learned since the
famous "Oxford revelation". But after the class, as I was driving home that
evening, I had a "light-bulb moment". An image can sometimes express more
than a detailed discussion. I had just turned on my car radio when "Get Lucky"
by Daft Punk sounded out. The title song — the symbol of an entire
generation — lit up my mind and provided me with a new reading. Suddenly,
everything became perfectly clear. The "Daft Punk" style had to be
adapted to business! Everyone is familiar with the French group that tops the
charts with each new album.
In today's world where image is all, where everyone elbows others out of their
way to be seen and recognized, where excessive media coverage overrides
everything else, it is quite remarkable to see two artists — now world-famous
— concerned with protecting themselves and retaining their independence, as
if they wanted to keep their dreams intact.
Illustrated by Clod
The idea of applying what we could call the "Daft Punk" model to the business
world made me smile at first. I had a mental picture of all these executives
and managers in helmets and jumpsuits wandering around the corridors of
their head offices in search of the ideal leadership. And what if humility was
ultimately more effective than coaching or the "King's jester" technique to get
narcissists under control? What if it succeeds in avoiding the excesses
mentioned earlier? The solution would therefore be within all of us. Could we
control our internal drives by developing a form of humility? Humility as a
rampart against stupidity, excess, and actions that are not in the general
interest. Would it be possible to combine narcissism and humility in the same
individual? As I approached Paris, I was thinking that this was quite simply
impossible. And yet, I had to admit that this would be the best possible
combination. A way of keeping the positive aspects of narcissism without the
“The solution would therefore be within all of us. Could we
control our internal drives by developing a form of
The Strength of Humility
From the Latin "humilitas", derived from "humus" meaning "earth, soil",
humility is a character trait that is rarely associated with leadership. At least
spontaneously. It is easy to understand why. A person who shows humility is
seen for what he is, realistically. And this is of course the complete opposite of
the narcissists who dominate the world today and who generally consider
themselves to be superior to others in every way. They have an image of
themselves that rarely conforms to reality. They have a touch of
pretentiousness, self-importance or arrogance. Some speak of a heightened
taste for everything that approaches the grandiose. The problem is that
beyond a certain level, this can be considered a kind of pathology.
We must keep in mind that humility is not an innate quality in human beings, it
is acquired over time. With experience, we gain maturity, and we learn more
about ourselves and others. We build up a more solid character — on an
emotional and intellectual level as well as spiritually — while at the same time
becoming aware of our role and our place in regard to others, in the universe,
in the company that employs us, in our private life, with our friends, in our
family, in our relationship. Although remaining aware of our own value, we
learn to consider others and to truly take interest in them. To show humility is
to accept differences, our own limits and our imperfections. But it is also to
recognize one's qualities and points of differences. Modesty — which is often
confused with humility — is only a representation. A person who shows
humility is therefore essentially very clear-sighted about himself. He is also
perceptive about others. His strength is multiplied by ten.
When a narcissist encounters humility
Announced like this, it seems unlikely. Although apparently contradictory,
combining these traits may possibly be one of the simplest solutions to the
current leadership vacuum. To overcome their limits, maybe narcissists would
simply have to develop a little more humility. A humbler behavior is really the
indispensable condition for the achievement of great projects. At least today.
Because times change, our references evolve, and although there is a
common base, certain qualities valued in the past are no longer exactly
suitable today. Napoleon Bonaparte — a pure narcissist — probably had very
little humility. That didn't stop him from making his mark on history. But it was
a different era. He was an emperor feared by all the surrounding nations. He
was respected in his time by those around him. Today he would be
considered a tyrant, a dictator, in the same way as those who have been
fought against for the last two decades. Our view and our values are no
longer the same.
Pure productive narcissists may achieve great things, but rarely reach the
final stage of leadership. The next question is to learn how to acquire this
additional humility. If, for most people, it is gained over time — which in no
way predicts the end result — for narcissists, it's a little more complicated in
the sense that they are not seeking it. In fact, they have no interest in this
character trait. Humility is generally perceived by them as a weakness! So
they have to be taught. If they could understand its essence and finally
convert to its virtues, they could become more accomplished leaders, those
that our modern society is wishing for today.
 Daft Punk is a French band, composed by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de
Homem-Christo, both originally from Paris. Specializing in electronic music, they launched a
style that is described as "French touch". Their success is world-wide and their albums are all
the rage. In early 2014, they won five Grammy Awards for the album "Random Access
Memories" on Columbia Records. But the most interesting thing is that they never show their
faces. On stage, they appear in futuristic costumes, wearing helmets. This has become
their trademark. They have created their own myth. But how should this desire for anonymity
 Their inspiration apparently comes from the Brian de Palma film, "Phantom of the
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