“The progression of a career in leadership”
I keep threatening to write a book titled “Leadershit.” This drawing is a great representation of why!
image New hires are sucked into the vortex of organizational leadership theories about white water, chaos theory, flexibility, doing more with less, participative decision making, strategic thinking, reliability and clear focus without any regard to the massive internal conflicts these impossible-to-maintain and mutually exclusive values set up.
Eventually being flexible can be interpreted as unreliable and white water is going to mess with people’s expectations for clear direction and focus. Simply reading most organizations’ list of leadership competencies is enough to make the most competent person feel incompetent OR to feel compelled to lie to himself or others (or both) about who she/he really is.
Good intentions created these “reach for the stars” lists of leadership qualities, but they have encouraged systems designed without regard for the fallibility and flawed nature of human beings. This creates a situation where every honest human being (who says, “Oops, I screwed up” every now and then) can easily be rejected in favor of the more image conscious less-competent individual who blames someone else. I taught leadership for years, and yes, I know that we have a “new definition” of leadership.
But the problem remains – even the leading leaders model is unrealistically positive. Facing the shadow side of human nature is scary, but incredibly valuable. The place where our common humanity can be revealed is the birthplace of compassion and tolerance. True cooperation does not occur between people who feel they must hide their flaws from each other.
This hiding separates them so much that ideas don’t flow freely, information is bottlenecked, and hesitation chokes their voices. Creative collaboration require strong connections between people that can only be born from a “warts and all” authenticity.
“We give 100%” is less believable than, “We give 100%, except for when we don’t.” If a group wants to develop trust, a good place to start is for EVERYONE to be honest about who they are and who they aren’t. In the best intentions to pursue high standards we have created a culture that doesn’t tolerate human flaws very well.
No wonder people are burning out and leaving their jobs… and it is the most creative, authentic and courageous ones that we lose as a result. Let’s try to make our workplaces safe for human beings and maybe we’d have more around when we need them.