Leadership – breaking the chain

I’ve recently been struck by several examples of leaders and teams in a bit of a rut, doing the same thing, running the same behaviours, over and over again and hoping that things will improve.

The famous quote by Gandhi is often banded around: “be the change you want to see in the world…” I cannot help but think that as leaders we have a responsibility to break the chain of these habits. In doing so we show our teams, other observers and stakeholders that there is indeed “another” way.

These examples I have seen recently have been very similar in the way they manifest and I have tried to capture these in this simple model. There appears to be a vicious triangle of feelings which drive unhealthy and sometimes destructive behaviours in the team. The feelings are ones of

  • Scarcity – feeling that there’s never enough (time, money, people etc)

  • Fear – fear of “losing it”, recrimination, being “done to”, job loss etc

  • Distrust – an unwillingness to trust oneself and/or others because of the above

When these three feelings and consequent behaviours combine there is no team, just a group of individuals, and the subsequent commercial results are severely attenuated. Whilst we all know and acknowledge that an element of fear and stress can be good in the short term to “get things done”, in the medium to longer term these are destructive. Over time the feeling in the organisation is one of stress and anxiety and the results of this type of environment are well documented; increased absence through sickness, high attrition rates and not too many smiles around!

I believe as individuals we know when things could be better. It is the difference between true leaders and those who simply assume the title as to who does anything about this. You have to try to break the chain. You have to “be the change you want to see in the world.”

So what’s the alternative? Quite literally the opposite of this vicious triangle is the virtuous one of

  • Abundance – believing that there is and always will be enough (maybe you just need to look at it differently)

  • Love – an extreme word and feeling maybe, but you get the point….running towards things for positive reasons with a genuine positive intent at your core

  • Trust – starting from a position of trusting one’s own feelings and abilities and then that of others, empowering them to be the best they can be

Organisations, whether large or small, can often feel like a massive oil tanker, which take an inordinate amount of time to turn and some may be put off any action for this and other reasons. Clearly these “fears” and thoughts are simply the vicious triangle playing out (scarcity, fear and distrust). The challenge, as always, is to ignore these and embrace the new way.

When the positive behaviours which flow from the three virtuous feelings (abundance, love and trust) are exhibited regularly by the leader, then others within the organisation begin to see that “this is the way things are done around here” and they too start to act this way. The culture within the organisation begins to change! People feel trusted and valued. They start to act with more responsibility. They get more creative and innovative, commercial results begin to accelerate and, perhaps best of all, there are smiles and a real buzz around the place.

…and I know where I would rather be!

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