Tuesday, 6 May 2014

What are you afraid of? - leadership action

Don't be afraid of what will happen if you act. Be afraid of what will happen if you don't act.

I've found myself having this conversation a lot lately. Leaders tell me that they haven't tackled something they know they should, because they're scared or worried about a reaction. I ask them about what that reaction is likely to be and they describe another person's bad or immature behaviour. They'd rather battle on - and force their team to battle on -  than address a problem.

When I ask what will happen if they do nothing, eye contact is broken, they get a guilty look and then they tell me they know they should do something, but they are gripped by fear.

I ask again - what will happen if you don't act? - and keep asking until they face themselves. Eventually they realise that doing nothing about a problem is worse for everyone.

Sometimes they tell me stories about how they've inherited a problem and that a person has been allowed to get away with certain things for a long time. They tell me these stories, manifesting frustration and blaming the others who came before them and did nothing.

I then ask whether they are about to be the next person who does nothing or will they be the person to make the choice to act?

Some people make the decision to act at that point, others need another nudge, so I tap into their empathy.

"Imagine if you were that person, acting and believing you're doing okay, but actually there are major problems that everyone else knows about, but no one has ever respected you enough to talk to you about it."

It's easy to make excuses when the path of action is challenging. It's easier to do almost everything else when you've made an effort to address problems that need fixing.

I've realised this week while working with another group of leaders that I've brought my activist mindset with me. To me, the business of leading is about acting in a way that sets your people free to do their best work. The key is that leadership is an action, not a noun. It's not a title or a name on a business card. It's action framed by mindset. In any setting.

Are you taking action? What are you avoiding? What are you afraid of?

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