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Thursday, September 17, 2020

C-Suite Agenda

How leaders’ careless words and actions lead to trouble

There is something special about starting a new job. Most new employees enthusiastically arrive at work on day one believing, or at least hoping, that this new gig will provide them opportunities to reach their full potential. They eagerly arrive looking to be appreciated, respected and even inspired by their leaders. However, all too often their positivity bubble is quickly burst by the poorly considered actions or words of their new leaders.  To be fair, these leaders may be too caught up in their own issues to realise the trouble or negative impact they have on their team’s motivation and the overall performance of the business.

In my role as a business transformation consultant I have worked with CEOs, senior executives and front-line leaders to develop conscious leadership skills. Conscious leadership helps leaders to understand and own their issues. To sort it out to become better leaders and then helps them continue to be inspirational leaders into the future.

The truth is that everyone has their own stuff to deal with – our most inspirational CEO, our favorite movie star or sporting hero all have issues impacting their lives and like the rest of us, leaders inevitably bring these into the workplace.

It is important to realise that we aren’t born with these issues. They develop as we age and our minds influence how we interact with our world more, which can lead to careless actions and words. Leaders are as vulnerable as the rest of us in letting their shit get them into trouble. The way we think, behave, speak and act are all a result of our past experiences, upbringing, and genetics. We are influenced by our fears, opinions and values which have all evolved from our life’s experiences. The problem is though, just because we believe something doesn’t make it true. Our minds are susceptible to feeding us fake news based on the influences delivered by our biases, values, beliefs and past experiences.

The unconscious leader falls for the stories their minds tell them without ever questioning their accuracy or appropriateness. They may believe that their leadership title of CEO, GM or manager has empowered them with endless wisdom and unquestionable power to be able to manage any situation. Unfortunately, they are guilty of believing their own issues, which influences their leadership style. They may suffer from a flawed self-perception that infects their interactions with others.

Strong leaders are strategic, not impulsive, considered cool-headed, and inspirational not self-centered, confident not egotistical. However, all these positive leadership qualities don’t mean much if a leader can’t act and communicate effectively and consistently with their people. Leaders, like the rest of us, are susceptible to the impulsive responses of their reptilian brain before rationality takes over and brings logic back into the mix.

Think of our minds as the equivalent of an overprotective executive assistant who tries to control our every thought and action to ensure we don’t get hurt either professionally, emotionally or physically. When faced with a situation that is threatening, stressful or unfamiliar our EA (I call mine Bob) may respond inappropriately as they quickly try to diffuse the situation. Bob will jump to conclusions, frantically search the databases and files for similar experience and then apply our biases and fears to the situation. This will often result in us reacting without thinking, and generally wreaks havoc with us unless we performance manage him.

By understanding Bob’s often irrational behaviour and being able to apply a filter over what he proposes we can start to function as a competent conscious leader. Then, once we have our stuff sorted we can focus on our team. As a good leader we have the responsibility to support and develop our team to sort their issues out and become the best they can.

Gary Waldon
Gary Waldon is the author of Sort Your Sh!t Out (Do Good Sh!t Publishing $29.95). He is a business transformation consultant who works with people at all levels from CEOs, business leaders and professional athletes through to teachers and retirees to help them take back control of the things that matter to them. Gary Waldon is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.