Source | LinkedIn : By Rajat Vibhas
I don’t know what makes good leaders nor do I claim to be one myself. I have failed far more number of times than I have succeeded in meeting the standards that I set for myself. I don’t even know if I am even vaguely qualified to write on a subject like this. There are so many things that you read on leadership which are so powerful and yet seem so distant at times, from the possibility that each one of us inherently possess. There is no absolute truth and the fact that there is no absolute truth, is not an absolute truth in itself! So whatever you read is an impulsive interpretation and I am almost apologetic for even daring to subject you through it, considering that there are people who spend their entire life researching this fascinating area and are far more accomplished, credible in their backgrounds. It’s almost an atonement of sorts for my own failings at times, as a manager of the extraordinary teams, that I have had a privilege of managing so far, who tolerate and accept me, despite that.
But what the hell! Sometimes even a rookie can score by a stroke of luck and I am hoping that’s what happens for your sake, if not mine. The world and time are cyclic they say – whatever is said, has been said earlier and will be said again anyway.
The dominating and the wisest voice in the room
An uncomfortable thought to begin with – sometimes to lead you have to be willing to un-lead – which is simply get out of the way. A lot of overzealous , over eager and highly educated managers, start ‘managing’ the teams without making any effort to build a relationship with the teams – to understand them, to learn from them, before trying to get them to follow and dominate them. I guess ‘domination’ or ‘avoiding domination’ is a fundamental insecurity in every human being, that comes in the way, of what could have been and managers are no exception. This brings me to the first contradiction of the classical imagery of great leadership, that is built around a voice so strong, that dims everyone else’s.
Are you willing to allow others to dominate you? Or at least be with the semblance of the thought that you don’t need to worry about being dominated?
Whether it’s an argument or a criticism or a situation gone horribly wrong – the need to stamp your authority or to be proven right or not be proven wrong, shuts down the self-expression of the team and there is only one person who goes home completely expressed. However the cost of that facile victory is far more than the results that the silence or simply listening to everyone, could have brought. The key question that we need to ask is whether you and I have the generosity and the large heartedness to take criticism from our teams – do they feel empowered that they would not be subjugated or demolished if they bring in a counter view point or an unpleasant ugly truth, that we don’t like to hear really deep down but just have to pretend to.
Sometimes some of the worst communicators as leaders are oddly the ones, who have great command over the language and relatively are more eloquent. The problem is that they are too much in love with their own voice. Most people stop listening after forty five seconds anyway but they are in such awe of their own possible superior knowledge and wisdom – they just keep going on.
When Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely “– I wish he had also told us that while its inevitable, one of the symptoms to catch yourself from marching further into this self-serving glorious path of doom, was to observe – how we dominate others through the sound of our own voice as managers, leaders, administrators – whatever you may want to call them.
I have caught myself so many times when I suddenly realised how intoxicated I was in listening to my own voice in the meetings, trying to solve problems for everyone else, trying to sound smarter, wiser – only to realise later that I don’t need to. If only I listen to the teams or the person sitting next to me, the problem will solve itself and it did miraculously, the moment I started listening to what was being said and what was even not being said.
Sometimes it’s good to just shut up and listen. You don’t have all the answers and it’s all right. Of course even if you speak less, listen well but in your background, the little voice inside your head is saying something that is disempowering others and you – it still doesn’t help. That brings me to the next question that I constantly struggle with but that is where the magic of Un- Leading happens.