What doesn’t kill you… may kill the desire to lead

Posted October 8, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

Michael Ignatieff, the current leader of Canada’s Liberal party, is having a tough leadership time lately.  It seems the guy can’t catch a break.  With his popularity sliding to even below that of his much maligned predecessor, Stephane Dion, the feeding frenzy on his lack of leadership ability is reaching the usual “life in a fishbowl” fever pitch.

According to so called “leadership experts”, the true test of whether “Iggy” has the “right leadership stuff” is how he will handle this particular set of challenges.  Anyone who’s been leading for any length of time would likely agree that adversity builds your leadership character and (hopefully) makes you stronger.  After all, we typically learn more from our mistakes than when things have gone well.

Although most of us aren’t being scrutinized to the same degree as your average politician, there does seem to be a hyper amount of criticism thrown at the average boss these days.  On behalf of all managers out there who are trying their best, this post is for all you non-managers who seem to think that slinging extra mud at a leader who is struggling is a helpful strategy (for those of you working for bad leaders, skip to our previous post of what to do if you’re working for a psychopath).

The saying goes “if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen”.  I don’t think that anyone would argue with the fact that today’s “kitchen” for leaders, is pretty damn hot.  The workplace is far more challenging than it was 20 years ago and, on top of that, today’s managers have markedly LESS time to lead and manage their teams.  Most are drowning in their own tactical deliverables.

And here’s the interesting irony… people I talk to generally want to work for a manager who is personally supportive of them.  This skill, my friends, is called EMPATHY.  Studies have shown that leaders with higher empathy scores get more out of their teams. Period.

But here’s the thing… if you work for a people-oriented boss, chances are they also take the verbal hits a little bit harder than most and, in my observation, are the ones that start to question whether they could be just as effective being an “individual contributor/coach” vs remain in a formal management role.

This leaves the low empathy, thick skinned leaders at the table.  Is this really what we want or need in our organizations… more ego-driven, bottom-line pushing, grind-down-the-team to produce results types?  Think about that for a minute.

Maybe we need to think about the type of leadership we’re encouraging by how supportive we are of people who are trying their best.  Afterall, you probably don’t go into work everyday trying to screw up… and I don’t believe that your boss is either.

Happy leading!


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