LEADING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS
Did you take on a leadership position for the right reasons?
There are many reasons you might put yourself in the position of being a leader. Still, it’s vital that those reasons, whatever they are, be deeply considered because if you’re not leading for the right reasons, you may not be willing to be what you need to do.
And that may come at the risk of catastrophic results.
What Leaders Won’t Do
In my career, I’ve always been amazed at what leaders will do for their organizations. So many will spend countless late nights working, endure long and gruelling travel schedules, even sacrifice their financial resources, all to increase the likelihood, even slightly, that their enterprises will succeed. Sadly, these efforts often come at the expense of their health, their families and their sanity.
But the one thing that amazes me more than what leaders will do for their enterprises is what they so often WON’T do: And that is to endure emotional discomfort at work.
Though this may sound innocuous, there is nothing trivial about it.
This determination to avoid emotional discomfort is the single most costly and surprising Leadership trait I’ve witnessed in business during my career.
Let me offer an analogy – Imagine that someone spilled a coffee in the lobby of your building. No one would call the CEO down to clean it up. But when a political or interpersonal mess occurs in an organization, there is no one better to clean it up quickly and efficiently, and eliminate the possibility of collateral damage, than the CEO.
Unlike the janitor whose job it is to clean up spills, many leaders complain about doing this part of their job. In all too many cases, they stand back, hope and wait for the problem to go away. Or for someone else to deal with it. After all, isn’t that what HR is for?
Why does this happen?
In part, it is due to the natural fear of conflict and accountability. But I think some of it is related to a subtle, perhaps subconscious, sense of entitlement among leaders.
Consider the most unfortunate example I’ve ever seen.
I recently partnered with a company of 1,500 employees and a market evaluation of $1B that was struggling with rapid growth as they grew from a high-impact team into the enterprise. As the company developed, the ties that made them high-performing became stretched to the point where its goals and objectives were being frustrated. Employees lost trust and confidence in leadership, and they became disconnected from the mission and objectives.
Critically, they faced these issues while undergoing an expansion that would grow its size by 30-50%. While the company’s leadership was 90% certain that the expansion project would be on time, on budget and successful, employees were 75% sure this would fail.
When I reported back to the client what I saw, the CEO angrily asked: “Why is this a problem? I Am The CEO. If I want it fixed, I’ll say so!”
The client’s employees identified low leadership competencies, low culture of leadership, and gaps in managers’ and supervisors’ leadership skills. Yet the CEO wanted it fixed by fiat, chose not to accept responsibility, and actively blamed confused managers for the problem.
This is indicative of the behaviours I’ve seen among many reasonable men and women, most of whom work close to the top of those organizations and who naturally want to avoid uncomfortable situations and conversations.
That’s where entitlement comes into play.
I sense that, in addition to merely not enjoying conflict, senior executives feel that they’ve earned the right to avoid the unpleasant parts of their work. They’ve paid their dues on their way up and are happy to delegate or abdicate the roles of their jobs that they don’t enjoy and that especially includes having difficult, messy and emotional conversations with those they work with as well as themselves.
The healthiest and most effective organizations are the ones where leaders seek out discomfort at work. They find opportunities to enter the danger whenever they can, realizing that they’ll accomplish three productive things by doing so.
First, they’ll set an example for others to do the same. Second, they’ll improve their level of “comfort with discomfort. And most importantly, they’ll reduce the impact of their organizations’ problems.
Someday, perhaps most leaders will realize that embracing discomfort is a profoundly human task and is the key indicator of organizational health and success.
They’ll be too embarrassed even to consider letting a messy situation fester, knowing that it would be a matter of negligence to do so.
Until then, those organizations comprised of leaders who embrace discomfort will have the advantage.
What follows is based on my work with Leaders from the Corporate, Nonprofit and Public sectors and it’s theories and models are applicable for anyone interested in Teamwork, Building Better Leaders, Leading Healthier Organizations and Achieving Remarkable Results.
Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope it helps your team overcome whatever messy organizational issues that may exist, so that your team can achieve more that any one individual member could ever imagine doing alone.
That, after all, is the real power of a Healthy Organization.
Remember, leadership is a choice, not a position so enjoy the read and the journey.