Sunday, April 5, 2015

What’s your Leadership Psychology?

Leadership is both art and science; psychology and philosophy.

The substance of leadership never changes: it’s about the future, change, and influence. However, the leadership style is varying: are you empowering people to learn, develop and grow? Or are you leading or managing through fear or anger? How does your leadership style affect corporate culture and the business result? Or broadly, is leadership psychology or philosophy?

Leadership is a psychological phenomenon, but only positive emotions can lead forward: Some say, leadership is in its full regalia: fear, anger, blame, resentment, small-mindedness, dislike, inspiration, passion, commitment, charisma, and brilliance. But fear or anger are not elements, keys, qualities, cornerstones or benchmarks of leadership, nor are they the qualities we admire in people and leaders. As children, we learned how to treat people, either through anger/fear or other psychological abuse tactics or through care, respect, compassion, and love. Either way, as adults the choice is ours in how we treat each other in a positive way (trust, appreciation, respect) or negative way (envy, fear, anger, bias). Looking back, it's the examples of positivity and brilliance that shine brightest, rather than those that left people feeling disappointed and wretched. Those leaders that were brilliant were kind, self-critical, empowering, unbelievably insightful and endlessly patient. It's these things that make leadership inspiring. When we know that anger and fear are counterproductive to learning or building trust, then, the onus of responsibility is to change how we think, feel and act towards others.

Fear only creates order in the short term: One thing that is true, fear and anger operate on the lowest level and can do little more than create order in the short term. When leaders realize that if you want to achieve greatness in your realm, you will have to touch the upper levels, thus, eliminating fear and anger as options. Once you realize that you have to find other options, you begin to investigate the real motivators like passion and trust. There is no substitute for creating an environment of success. Fear creates order at times and in some departments, but it creates short term results only. Anger and fear can cause damage for the long term, and make the negative impact that has on results and the successes of other approaches. However, sugarcoating bad situations to avoid fear and anger in others will make a bad situation worse as well. The key is that the message or the information conveyed by the leader/messenger must reflect true integrity (truth and transparency). Truthfully telling what it is might invoke fear and anger spontaneously, but will quickly change into curiosity if the message is deemed truthful. Many people have applied the theory to many different business applications. It takes a much more talented leader to move up the pyramid than it does to stay at the base.

The good leaders are also great coaches: The leaders are also a coach who is either teaching people "how to fish" so that they can do it themselves; or they are just telling, ordering, barking out commands. Earning or building trusting relationships was like teaching someone to fish- so that they could feed themselves for a lifetime. Empowering people isn't about having all the answers, giving people the "secret of life," nor supplying them with a list. Empowering people cannot happen when we are using anger and fear tactics to "teach people a lesson." You have to empower people to learn, develop, and grow by finding out what their goals are. Most people have goals. You create the stepping stones they need to reach their next goal. You allow for mistakes because that's how most people learn. You guide. You care. You support. You listen. You give your employees the tools they need to perform. Always maximize people's strengths. Insisting on making them stronger where they are weak and uninterested is a waste of time, energy, and resources and a source of frustration. Instead, concentrate on what they do best, and get them to thrive.

Leadership is all about change. The organization (or group, or individual) has to have a compelling and credible reason to change. Even then, each person grieves the loss of status quo differently, and at different rates. Taking an organization to a new level of performance requires "relentless pressure, lightly applied" until a new level of normal is achieved and internalized. Even then, if pressure is removed, the normal will drift back to where the multitude of forces takes it over time. Hence, the leadership style is important, sometimes leadership through passion and commitment was enough. Sometimes it needed clarity and direction. And there were those inevitable moments when leaders faced open resistance. It was in these moments that you built up the skill to understand that what was needed in some situations was a combination of stick and carrot: never one without the other. Still, the high mature leadership shall evoke positive emotions in order to make change sustainable and lead business transformation more effectively for the long term.


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