“One is often unconsciously surrounded by one’s own personal reality”
― Pawan Mishra
The more power one possesses, the more deceived one becomes. Title, influence, and status can leave you in a bubble. We become out of touch and our own insecurities take over, amplifying our vulnerability to manipulation, defensiveness, and bad decisions. Power can be poisonous; we are all susceptible to its venom.
Many of today’s most interesting organizations are digitally native and boundaryless, leaving their traditional competitors in a state of panic. The new economy has left many organizations unprepared and without answers after disregarding their customer’s changing needs for years. If you are not an emotionally healthy leader, you are vulnerable to a fall.
What gets in the way?
Over half of senior leaders fail within their first 18 months of taking on a new role. My research suggests that, for most, a lack of leadership health is a prime factor. Everybody is insecure on some level. Chances are that your least attractive attributes are seen by all and hiding these insecurities hurts you much more than you think. No one likes a perfect person, and leadership insecurities operate similarly, hindering our ability to honestly listen to feedback and lead change. When we feel insecure, we often pick one of five coping mechanisms: denial, repression, projection, rationalization, or outbursts of emotion.
Which coping behavior is your running mate?
When our fears get the best of us, we automatically shut down our critical thinking. Triggers become insecurities and insecurities become blind spots, shielding us from honest feedback. If you are not hearing dissenting voices you are more than likely operating in a bubble and don’t even realize it.
Author Patrick Lencioni reminds us in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “Teams succeed because they are exceedingly human. By acknowledging the imperfections of their humanity, members of functional teams overcome the natural tendencies that make teamwork so elusive.” When leaders do not take their emotional health seriously the following dysfunctions set in:
- Lack of Vulnerability– failure to model vulnerability sparks defensiveness and a culture that covers up mistakes. Why is it that most leaders that hate being controlled are some of the most controlling? The most convincing people I know understand that vulnerability is an offering, and you must offer something up if you want to get the best out of people in return.
- Fear of Opposition– failure to embrace opposing views breeds a culture of groupthink. Any time a team embraces niceness over honesty, the culture falls victim to false unity. Can people within your team truly speak freely? Conflict and critique are essential for spurring creativity and rooting out problems within the organization before they fester. They are the lifeblood of innovation.
- No Priorities – failure to articulate crystal clear “limited” priorities will unknowingly lay the foundation for a lack of accountability. The highest performing leaders focus on critical yet limited priorities (ideally three to five), and embrace robust, ongoing, candid discussions.
Any organization that does not address the dysfunctional behavior of their leaders is destined to fall. Emotionally flawed executives negatively impact the culture and the financial results of their respective organizations. Unchecked leadership insecurities create distrust and drains the energy and passion from teams.
Insecurities are part of being human. Embrace yours. Are you surrounding yourself with people who check your insecurities honestly and allow you to drop your guard?
“Trust is the essence of Leadership.”
― Colin Powell