Recall the Scenario
In my last article I introduced you to a scenario where two people, Ben and Chris, are very different types of leaders. At the end of the article I asked for feedback about some leadership elements at play. Thank you for all who responded. Much of the feedback was empathetic (“Are you writing about [fill in the name]? Because ‘Ben’ sounds exactly like them?”)
Other feedback was critical (“I would say that neither of them are leaders, they are just control freaks.”) It’s not easy when you are forced to choose between two imperfect options. But, that often is reality, isn’t it? What you can do to keep your sanity and make the best of things is to understand the natural laws of leadership that are at play in the situation that you are facing and adjust accordingly.
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As a leader, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you are in charge of someone who is challenging or difficult to lead, as was Chris in the outlined scenario. You will also likely find yourself working for someone who isn’t the strongest leader, as is Ben. In either situation, the question to you as a leader is this: Are you going to allow the inadequacies of another to determine your own success as a leader?
As a leader, you have the responsibility to demonstrate your versatility and adjust to the situation, both up and down the organization, to ensure you are as effective as possible.
This is why it is helpful to understand what I call the Natural Laws of Leadership.
Natural Laws of Leadership: Empowerment Though Inaction
Just as there are laws of nature (objects will fill fall to earth at the same speed, water will follow the path of least resistance to the sea, smoke rises, etc.), there are also natural laws of leadership. Despite our best intentions and desires, we can’t change these laws. They simply exist.
Leadership is an inherently interpersonal endeavor. Because of this, the natural laws of leadership intrinsically deal with people’s behavior. One of the key natural laws of leadership at work in the scenario described above is the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.
Let me describe it this way. A person looking to get something will find the easiest way possible to get it. They will follow the path of least resistance to reach their goal. It’s human nature. Ask any parent of a child who wants some candy how it works. The child will go to the parent who they feel is most likely to agree to the request. They will even work one against the other to get the answer they want. The same thing is true of people in a professional setting. Look at the way the staff has learned to adjust to Ben’s micro-meddling in the previously described scenario.
The converse of this behavior is also true.
Any behavior, however inappropriate or unacceptable, will be continued until enough pressure is applied to force the behavior to change.
Therefore, as a leader, one of your jobs is to recognize and respond to behavior that shouldn’t be continued. Part of a leader’s job is to put up the appropriate level of resistance (organizationally, interpersonally, within a team, etc.) at the right place to drive the right behavior and outcomes. If a leader fails to do this, the net effect is no different than if they were to officially endorse the undesired behavior.
What is tolerated and accepted is perpetuated and becomes the norm.
This likely explains why Chris, in this scenario, continues to demonstrate unprofessional and dysfunctional behaviors. This also clearly illustrates, in very real terms, the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.
Stay Tuned for More
I’ll introduce more of the Natural Laws of Leadership in the coming weeks.
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