At times when the world stands at crossroads battling multiple uncertainties, depending on where you are, whether it is the still looming pandemic, the economic crisis, social unrest, or in general resentment towards the kind of leadership that you are experiencing whether at your national level or its the crisis of leadership at your workplace,its is of paramount importance to note that there are times when even these very Leaders need help- because even they too are human and in times like these they need it more than ever! This article explores that space of vulnerability that plays havoc with Leaders no matter what they are trying to overcome! So let’s understand for sometime what your beloved leader possibly is facing even as they try to keep a smile, a straight face or that mercurial temperament around them!
Who are leaders? They are not super-humans in terms of any anatomical context, but they perhaps demonstrate their expertise and ability to fare better than the cohort that they are part of and that is why they seem to move ahead within the sub-set that are a group of! Look around you, you will find almost every Leader has emerged as being the best alternative in the context of time and space that the Leader has arrived. Perhaps a few years or decades earlier, this person would have been passed off as an average person, a few years down the line, we may not even have people like them in our consideration sets! Since requirements would have changed and they constantly shift and move to wards the next step of dynamic equilibrium which is so much needed for growth and progress no matter what you choose to lead- a company or a nation or even yourself! This dynamic contextual setting within which leaders operate ends up making them fragile and manifest “Leadership Fragility”! Leaders who are touched by fragility, start to become so much risk averse that at times when they are required to act and move ahead rapidly, they seem to freeze and stay frozen from taking any decisions, small or large and thereby put the whole system that they influence into chaos and confusion! This fragility can occur for multiple reasons- it could be because of the leaders arrived at the control too early- without much experience or leadership baptism, it could be that they were given a wrong picture of the operational space within which they were supposed to hold the fort, it could be they were given a wrong army to fight a battle, it could be that the weapons of change provided to them were compromised and no matter what destiny they try to write, the ink simply seems to vanish away each time and they keep starting again and again! These varying aspects of dealing with day-to-day scenarios at work end up making few Leaders fragile and hence you can find their leadership style reflecting this element- when they are intentional slow, take their time, check and double check and re-check and move ahead only when it is the only and the most necessary option and when every other option has conclusively closed!
Leadership Fragility as a concept also shows the flaws and chinks in the armor of the ecosystem within which leadership is supposed to play its role! It opens up the whole contextual appreciation of team dynamics, ability to see through and develop clear view on strategic and operational preparedness that leaders have developed or have not developed which makes them vulnerable to threats within and from outside their ecosystems!
Normally, we always come across leaders who are accommodating, non-accommodating, easy going or headstrong personalities, but what is important is,instead of jacketing them into any of the singular or plural adjective definitions, we must take an effort to understand the eternal , “Why” of their leadership style and what could have lead for them to adhere to what they seemingly are glued upon with no real end in site!
Leaders are in that odd space within the system of things- which is closer to heaven and hell in equal measure with a caveat that nothing from their experienced heaven or hell reaches the earth (where their team lives!). So when team members look up to the leader- they hardly have a clue of the kind of turmoil that the poor soul is dealing with and the only impression that these earthlings carry along with them is whether their boss was good or bad- because they increment was x or y! When the Leaders occupying such tight spots are not the real “owners”of the business, well, needless to say their lives are as miserable and lovable as you can imagine! Imagine a pendulum which swings far away in each direction- one the eternal core of heaven and the other end the core of hell at the speed of light! When Leaders “own” the businesses, they have one and only one benefit- that is ability to decide when to pull the plug off and leave the business- either shut it down or sell it off and start to toy with something else and start a new life by taking a professional rebirth all over again!
Leaders are constantly shifting between managing the pressures that they meet from above and what they must hold within and pass on what they can while ensuring that they soak up every ounce of pressure from below as well! So needless to say often you find leaders who believe in the maxim Mind over Matter, because that is the only thing that stand between them and Insanity- Their Mind applied firmly to the Matters at their hand!
The next time you start to judge the leader that you are facing- whichever reason that may be- think about it- The Leader may be operating from a point of Strength or from the point of Fragility! There could be plans and strategies which the leader may have devised or there can be mandates which the leader has to simply execute and make them operational! Unless you don’t fathom what is the context from which the Leader is acting, it will be unfair to arrive at conclusions in favour or against the Leader or the Leadership style! You may now, want to ask, so what is that you can do about it or should you really do anything about it? Aren’t Leaders paid and haven’t they signed up for the shit that comes along with the glory that bask in?
Well, the fact remains, they too are human, and like most of us, they too sometimes end up singing up for something which they would have either not understood completely, would not have been told about it completely or they would have misread it completely because of the facts and picture presented to them while handing over the reigns to them as they took charge of whatever that they are supposed to lead! There could also be that rarest of the rare case of “Incompetency” playing out – this happens when Leaders arrive too soon to lead on the scene without having a a clue of what they are supposed to be doing and where they are! More often than not, these people end up blowing up and destroying everyone and everything around them, eventually also damaging themselves!
The only thing that you can do while dealing with the Leader that you face or engage with each day of your life is, to appreciate and decipher the contextual settings and studying what is driving the Leadership that you are experiencing, whether it is the strength derived by the Leader because of who the leader is, or is It the strength derived from the position that an individual occupies, next you must observe the pattern of decisions and the impact created around that- if you see diminishing returns on decisions being taken- you know for sure something is not right and sooner or later you will have a changed leader! Likewise when Leaders act from the space of compulsion- driven by the business owners or stakeholders, often you will see that they too will eventually fizzle out as demands and expectations start to borderline around fiction over ground realities of business and facts! Leaders who also own their business, when they start to act in non-coherent manner it is a clear sign of decay and you can be rest assured that a big change is on the way- which will probably involve a change of hands at the business ownership eventually!
It is not always about the yelling boss or the cheerful happy face boss, it is about the undercurrents that keep these professionals on the edge for the right and wrong reasons that either makes them super achievers or ends up pushing them to cramped spaces wherein they experience their fragility and once that sets in you can see it manifest around the team and all that they lead and influence! Next time when you sit and listen to your boss, take a moment and try to read through the unsaid message and listen to the unmentioned whisper, perhaps your boss needs that extra cup of coffee with you more than you do!
I will leave you here, to explore, experience and think around leadership fragility and the experiences that you would have gathered through your working life; being a leader or by witnessing a leader, no matter what the context would have been, the fact will always remain that even Leaders are Fragile and they need help too!
Ciao for now, will be back soon with another article! In case you or your firm is looking out for Individual or team Coaching, write in to us today and we will be glad to help you!