Category Archives: Thoughts
Trust in business leadership is at historic lows, according to surveys by Edelman and the World Economic Forum. One reason might be what INSEAD professors Gianpiero and Jennifer Petriglieri call the “dehumanization of leadership”— that is, our tendency to think of leaders as either instrumental (pursuing a particular business goal) or heroic (pursuing a unique vision). In short, we want super-machines or super-humans, or both, at the top of our organizations, and many CEOs strive to meet those expectations. They’ve been trained to hide vulnerabilities, to plan and stay the course, to minimize risk, and to be consistent, level-headed, and in complete control at all times. Inevitably, however, they fall short.
It’s therefore time for a different approach — one that allows leaders to fully acknowledge their humanity, thereby winning both the trust and respect of followers. This may seem like conventional wisdom, but it’s still not easy for leaders to do. Here are three specific suggestions:
Get emotional. The marriage researcher John M. Gottman has long contended that small moments of attachment and intimacy are vital to a healthy relationship. This is true in business, too. More than purpose or perks, employees value heartfelt moments of connection that meet their needs as social beings. I’ve forgotten many interactions with former bosses, but I will always remember the time that one of them began to cry in my presence during a time of immense investor pressure. That moment of vulnerability cemented my loyalty to him. Yes, you’re probably comfortable showing happiness or excitement. But, when it’s called for, you can also show disappointment, worry, and anger.
Systems under severe stress degrade.
While individuals might do extraordinary work while pumped with adrenalin (lifting a car, running through a burning building), panic can decrease the efficacy of a system by 30% or more–often completely destroying it.
Compare the typical throughput of a highway during rush hour (when it’s filled with seasoned commuters) to a similar road when people are fleeing a natural disaster…. in the first case, the cars naturally keep a safe distance, drivers are sufficiently alert, everyone gets home. In the other, there’s a complete standstill.
Or consider how the TSA functions in an environment of stress (like the Orlando airport). A combination of leisure travelers, poor management and bad architecture means that (at least every time I’ve been there), there’s a lot of yelling, invaded space and wasted time. Not to mention frayed nerves among Disney-overdosed parents in need of anything but more hassle.
L2L Infographic: Core Values of America’s Top 7 Tech Firms Infographic Courtesy of MidAmerican Nazarene University
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I can clearly remember years ago driving from what I thought was a good meeting to the airport with a fellow leader and colleague of mine. Why do I remember so clearly? Because it was a constant barrage of negativity directed toward our then new leader all the way to the airport.
I didn’t feel the same way as this person felt, and I formed a strong mistrust in some areas towards this individual for the rest of our time on the team together.