Passionately detached

Have you noticed leaders who are anxious and confused around when to listen and when to act?

I wonder if some leaders are being overly influenced by the never-ending stream of books on leadership. Added to which is a lot of energetic chatter on platforms such as LinkedIn.

These talk of psychological safety and models such as servant leadership, compassionate leadership, distributed leadership, and more.

Written as if they are cosy, accountability-shielding concepts, set in a single, unchanging, operating context.

They talk to the need for creating environments and setting examples which enable everyone to feel included, able to learn, encouraged to contribute, and ultimately to constructively challenge the status quo. And that is good.

Very few talk about context, confidence, accountability, and action.

Context, Confidence, Collaboration

I have watched leaders nervously ask questions hoping to promote a discussion with their team or a wider staff group.

Their body language and eye contact, and their verbal hesitancy, fluency, and volume convey a lack of confidence in what they are saying and doing. They defer in a way that signals a hope the discussion won’t be difficult. They aren’t really clear about the purpose of their engagement, other than a vague notion of it being a good thing to do.

They are acting out someone else’s leadership model. Not very convincingly.

Confident and competent leaders sense the context and consciously choose to “communicate at” (i.e. my point of view), “consult with” (i.e. still my point of view but I will give you a shout), or “collaborate with” (i.e. how do we create fresh insight together?). These leaders have at least 3 modes of context-relevant engagement.

Less confident, less competent leaders will feel uneasy about any engagement. At best, they will cling to the comfort of control that “communicating at” or “consulting with” offers. Fearful and adrift.

Highly confident, less competent leaders won’t just cling to these two modes, they will stick rigidly to them with relish as it is all about them, their control, and sense of power. Fearful and attached.

Confident and competent leaders artfully create powerful questions, model active listening, and facilitate a dialogue. They are passionate about achieving a higher collective outcome, and detached from any sense of a personal starting position. They let go to let come. Passionate and detached.

Action, Accountability, After-Action

Confident leaders and their teams will have worked out why (context), how (modes of engagement) and when (time is so important) they must converge on a decision and take action.

No confusion or dithering.

There will be levels of trust that enable constructive challenge, commitment, and mutual accountability.

No “my way or the highway”.

And they will continuously review and adjust their decisions and courses of action.

No “fire and forget”.

All in the service of the higher collective outcome.

Passionately detached.


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