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John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    When Leading You, Is All About Me

    Angry boss with employeeTrue leadership is about influencing others to achieve common goals. But when leaders place too great a focus on their own self-concept, their status and their personal goals, this self-absorption is generally driven by feelings of insecurity or superiority. These feelings drive behaviors at two opposite ends of the spectrum, and stifle the growth and development of the team and organization. Let’s look at examples of each.

    Insecure Leadership

    Chris is the CEO of a multinational company. As he banged his fist on the conference room table, his frustration was palpable to those in the room. Joe, the VP of Product Development had worked for Chris for a year now. He joined the firm enticed by the scope of responsibility in this VP position, and by Chris’s excitement and commitment to developing a new product line. But now, he was wondering how much longer he could endure working there. Having moved his family half-way across the country, he wanted to give it his best effort, but his natural optimism had waned sharply.

    Every week in Chris’ staff meeting they reviewed the same issues with seemingly no progress. Chris asked detailed questions on obscure topics; was obsessed with short term metrics; and intolerant of any appearance of a mistake, misunderstanding or missed goal. He frequently yelled at or cursed his direct reports when they were unable to answer his questions or for their apparent failings. He rarely left his office to meet with employees or customers and lacked a sense of reality about challenges the business was facing.

    Joe and his teammates learned to take additional time before these meetings to “get their story straight” or “rearrange” data to make it look good, just to avoid the verbal harangue. They never knew who was going to be in the hot seat next. Meanwhile they all knew that despite the favorable quarterly reports, the business wasn’t meeting customer needs, nor keeping pace with innovation in the market. It was just a matter of time before the shareholders would turn on them. But meanwhile, there was no way that anyone would confront Chris with the negative impact of his leadership style.

    Superior Leadership

    Across town at another major company, Pat, the CEO, was having a great day. She just returned from a trip visiting several plants and was pumped up by the reception she received. The “troops” were all gathered to meet her helicopter as it landed. Her announcement of bringing new work to the plants was met with the expected cheers, and the union leadership was exuberant. Pat met with community leaders, and the media recap was fantastic.

    It irritated her a bit that the plant managers were more reserved. They each had tried to insert too much time for one-on-one discussions about issues at their respective plants. One seemed concerned about allocation of funds to upgrade the machinery to ensure they could meet new production goals. The other was nervous about recent tests of water quality at the plant, possibly a result of the manufacturing processes. She made sure they understood that they were responsible for managing these issues successfully at the local level, or they’d lose their jobs.

    Pat didn’t have time for those details, nor for other “bright ideas” from her leadership team on growing the business. She was focused on strategies to maximize the company’s market capitalization. And she was in talks to buy out a major competitor that would result in having a lock on the market. If all went well, she could end up heading the largest company of its type, and greatly expand her compensation package. So, she wanted to make sure nothing interrupted the success of this deal.

    Both Have the Same Impact

    Chris’s insecurities as a leader are evident to all. His obsession over details, and tongue lashings from any small miss-step mute his team’s willingness to investigate new ideas. Pat’s image of superiority is stifling, and her team knows that every event should be an opportunity to reinforce her intelligence. As leaders, their styles are very different, yet similar, because they’re both mired in self-absorption. Their decisions are driven by how they will be perceived. Their leadership isn’t characterized by focusing on their teams, organizational goals, meeting stakeholder needs, or adding value to others. Instead, their motto is…”it’s all about me” and they may well believe that their leadership adds priceless value to their respective companies. They are self-absorbed leaders.

    We all hope that Chris and Pat are extreme versions of this, but I’ll confess that I’ve had at least a moment (some might say 2 or 3) when I felt insecure as a leader and it negatively impacted my leadership results. Similarly, there were a few times when I was caught up in the midst of my critical role in addressing a major business crisis, only to be brought back to earth by a call from my mother that required patient listening. I’m thankful for both learning opportunities.

    The Shift

    Self-absorbed leaders will only grow and shift their behaviors when they begin to value others as greater than themselves; when they recognize that the key to their organization’s success lies in bringing out the best in their people. Gaining this level of security requires a balance of humility and self-confidence.

    Think about the following behaviors and where you might be displaying traits of self-absorption. Recognition of how your behavior impacts others is the first step in making this shift.

    1. Self-absorbed leaders dominate the conversation with stories of their greatness. Self-confident leaders pull great stories out of others.
    2. Self-absorbed leaders demand loyalty from others. Self-confident leaders demonstrate loyalty to others.
    3. Self-absorbed leaders inhibit critical conversations. Self-confident leaders look for opportunities for improvement.
    4. Self-absorbed leaders have all the great ideas themselves. Self-confident leaders surround themselves with others who have great ideas.
    5. Self-absorbed leaders tear others down. Self-confident leaders build others up.
    6. Self-absorbed leaders can’t handle the truth. Self-confident leaders speak the truth.
    7. Self-absorbed leaders are resistant to change. Self-confident leaders are open to growth and development.
    8. Self-absorbed leaders create negative talk about others to justify their own behaviors. Self-confident leaders create positive talk about others to reinforce others’ good behaviors.

    So, what behaviors are you using to demonstrate more self-confident leadership?

    Copyright 2017 Priscilla Archangel Ph.D.

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