The demands to keep up and do even more seem to be the key drivers of success in many organizations now-a-days. It’s a no brainer that leaders within these organizations must achieve results. Therefore, the intense focus on efficiency and getting things done are essential to helping leaders move their organizations forward. Although this is the reality that many leaders face, how might organizational climates such as this impact morale and engagement in the workplace?
In their best-selling book Scaling Leadership, authors Robert Anderson and William Adams emphasize that, although all leaders are under pressure to perform, the most effective leaders are the ones that are excellent at balancing task and people-focus.
Their evidence shows that overly task-focused leaders tend to be more reactive and are known to operate from a position of fear. According to Anderson and Adams, these types of leaders exhibit ‘highly directive, controlling or perfectionist behaviors that can alienate others and be disempowering to their teams’.
Anderson and Adams refer to this as getting caught up in the ‘doom loop’ of high task focus and low people focus. The 'doom loop' creates a workplace culture that greatly limits the mindset of leaders causing them to constantly work from a deficit mode of thinking.
Anderson and Adam’s work has shown that the leaders who rise to the top are the ones who are deeply respected and consistently focus on bringing out the best in people. These types of leaders prioritize building relationships, inspiring their teams, developing others, and also display great empathy. They remove the focus on everything being about them and look at all they do through the lenses of empowerment, empathy, and trust.
They are also willing to slow down to ultimately move fast. The act of slowing down allows them to double down on strengthening relationships. Taking on this approach has been shown to have a compound interest effect when it comes to long-term productivity and overall job satisfaction in their organization.
Great leaders understand the power of feedback and seek it with regularity. They also develop their capacity to depersonalize the feedback they receive and take action on it. As much as possible, they are transparent in their words and actions. They also ensure that building and maintaining trust never fall to the wayside, regardless of the challenges they face. They are role models for other leaders in their organization.
Most importantly, these types of leaders prioritize and regularly engage in self-observation and deep reflection. When engaging in deep reflection and self-observation they notice in 'real-time' when they are moving too quickly, being impatient, covering up their own mistakes, (re)acting from a position of fear, being too egocentric or worrying about their own needs more than the needs of those who they serve.
They are willing to double-click on their actions in order to better understand what is driving their own behavior. As well, they immediately recognize when they have become misaligned in regards to their own core values and demonstrate the ability to re-calibrate and course correct when necessary.
They learn that making themselves vulnerable is not a weakness, but rather a strength as they understand that, they alone, are not superheroes who need to carry the weight of their organizations on their shoulders. They are willing to lean on others and let them know they need them.
In his ground-breaking work, well-known psychologist Dr. Irvin Yalom stated that, "I prefer to think of my patients and myself as fellow travelers, a term that abolishes distinctions between 'them' (the afflicted) and 'us' (the healers).”
Dr. Yalom takes a firm stance that we are all in this journey of life together and that we must learn to work alongside each other in a way that allows each individual to find true growth and to flourish. After all, we are all here for such a short time. Although Dr. Yalom’s work relates to psychological counseling, it is a perfect metaphor for the journey of leadership. All leaders should look at their own work as being that of a 'fellow traveler' working alongside those who they serve.
I know that many leaders reading this are already doing good work. Regardless of how good a leader might think they are doing, they all need important reminders, from time-to-time, to truly check in with themselves.
As you read the questions below, please reflect on your own leadership style and sit with the thoughts that arise. I hope you take the time to do this. Better yet, journal about what the questions below might bring up for you. No need to answer all of the questions. Read through the list and answer just the ones that resonate the most with you.
To what extent are you willing to genuinely reflect on your words and actions as a leader?
To what extent do you truly listen to the people in your organization?
To what extent do you deeply invest in others?
To what extent are you genuinely transparent in your words and actions?
To what extent do you balance being task-focused and people focused?
To what extent do your actions and words invigorate, inspire, empower, and engage others in your workplace?
To what extent do you recognize and truly value the people in your organization?
Thanks for reading today’s blog post. I hope the reflective activity helps you to think about your own leadership style and the area(s) that you might need to focus on. Please comment below on anything that resonates with you.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.