The Bane of Leadership By KIM Magazine
We all get called to lead in one way or another. But when we take up this mantle and are willing play the part of leadership, sometimes we are not really prepared on what it takes to be an good leader. I have heard many people declare that it is not their cup of tea. Those are the lucky ones who are aware that the pressure that comes with leading people is something they are not, at the moment, ready for. This is not so much a calling as it is a choice that one has to make when the call comes. What kind of person, not leader, do I want to be remembered as when I leave this place or position? What is it in for me? One cannot separate who you are from the type of leader you are.
Leadership is a calling to serve. It is usually confusing because such positions might give us some benefits that are not meant in any way to make us think that we are important, but they unintentionally end up doing so. The meaning we read from how we are treated by others or held in high regard will differ from person to person. Why do we see so many people hold on to positions? Because leadership in itself is sacrifice, our societies will put in mechanisms meant to make it easier for us to lead. Which can be taken to mean ‘ there are others more equal’.
What does great leadership constitute? It means vision and purpose of action. In action, it is creating meaning to the work or situation of leadership. To the people who are beholden to you. It means creating an environment that allows the achievement of the set objectives and achieving results primarily through people.
There in is the biggest bane of Leadership. That it is not about you, it is about how you call on others, support others, teach others, inspire others, hold them accountable and ensure that align in the set objectives. It is a relationship of one to many in most situations. A focal point.
Google ‘Leadership’ and you will get all manner of quotes. One of my favorites being “….I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” By Benjamin Disraeli
What kind of Leader do you think you could be?
Looking at the various theories offered from expansive thought leaders, I fall onto one that speaks of Leadership from a Trust Perspective. When we think of trust, we may often use words like reliable, dependable. When asked what trust is, a larger percentage of people will tend to use words/adjectives that speak to predictability. Like the way we know that if the traffic Lights turn green, and I start to drive, I trust that the other cards will have stopped at their Red lights. Anyone violating this, is not to be trusted. But humans are not always predictable. Patrick Lencioni speaks of a different kind of trust in his books, especially the Five Behaviours of a Dysfunctional Team. Trust should be based on Vulnerability. Where poise is reduced. Where we are not afraid to share because we might be wrong. And we can speak up about issues at the meeting and not after the meeting, at another private gathering. Behind closed spaces.
When a Leader can be a guardian of such trust, then there is high accountability. There is exploration of new ideas. When leaders also engage in pushing for higher ideals and make people uncomfortable, in this kind of space, they experience ownership of process and of the Objectives. But if we push for results, maintain high pressure, keep calling on team work without actively safeguarding Trust, we do accomplish objectives. But at a higher emotional and physical cost that when Leaders safeguard trust. This is explained well by Marie Claire Ross, A leadership catalyst on Trust.
Doing further research, this word Trust keeps coming up in the latest new concept of Psychological Safety. This is what Google, as Google does, discovered in their relentless internal quest to find out what made great teams at work. It didn’t matter so much the type of personalities working together. What mattered most was that people felt that they could be vulnerable with their teammates. Team Members could take social or interpersonal risks with their comrades. And in as much as it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they create these kinds of bonds with each others, Leadership has a big role to play in taking advantage of the collective Intellect of everyone.
Trust Killers can be as simple as the facial expressions that we wear everyday. That precede our message perhaps telling what we really meant to say. Our Body Language, if we are not aware can work against creating trust. The choice of words that we use to communicate certain messages will either build or destroy trust.. This can shut down most from ever sharing ideas.
Trust killers can also be the lack of calling out the quietest person in room to always share, until he/she is comfortable enough to speak. It can be our own reactions to our defensiveness when we don’t feel safe enough to admit our own mistakes because of some notion in our heads that it will make us lesser than we already are.
Trust calls for courageous conversations as well in setting the tone as a leader. It may be an uphill at first. And in most instances you might have to cross the line to a very uncomfortable place before you realize where the sweet spot is. And this might really be what might hinder us from taking this Journey, venturing into these unknown waters.
Choose trust. Don’t fall into comfort zone.
Vicky Karuga is the Managing Director of Profiles International EA, A leading firm in the provision of psychometric assessments and Emotional Intelligence assessments and Training programmes in the East African Region.