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The naked leader...

Being a management consultant, I get opportunities to experience hands-on as well as hear about and discuss different successes and failures around organizational change and transformation efforts.

More often than not - one of the biggest bottlenecks to the well-being of a function or an organization at large is its leadership.

At different organizational levels, the leadership is expected to define and provide direction, create a shared vision and inspire people, be an enabler for the larger organization to "do the right things the right way", foster a culture of openness and collaboration within and across, and so on...

To be able to execute all of the above efficiently and effectively is a holy grail for leaders. Often, the "excuse" being - I got too much on my plate.

But, deep down the issue is more to do with lack of needed capabilities and / or the attitude towards acknowledging the capability gaps and / or the sheer lack of courage and commitment to address the gaps.

But, what if - you don't know what you don't know. What if, your team members or for that matter even the peers don't provide you constructive feedback.

What if, you are a "naked leader”.

As in Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Emperor's New Clothes," several leaders share a common circumstance as the king and his minions did in the well-known fable. In the story, the emperor is wearing a magnificent new outfit that is invisible only if the wearer is stupid or incompetent. The so called confident emperor parades around the town naked, but the townspeople are too afraid to tell him. Only when a child speaks up, the beans are spilled.

A leader could appear just as silly thanks to the silence that often surrounds the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Ego, arrogance, pride, stubbornness and ignorance can easily lead leaders to the view that they are smart enough. And when this happens, a culture of deference can easily foster silence.

The less aware often believe that seeking feedback is no different than inviting negative criticism, and would compromise their leadership, portray them as weak. On the contrary. Research has shown that leaders who seek feedback, acknowledge mistakes are actually perceived as more competent, more influential, and more effective.

A true leader needs to surround himself / herself with individuals who can speak up openly about what’s going on well, but more so about what should be done differently. A true leader needs to not just listen actively, but proactively seek feedback and more so act on it every minute, every hour, every day.

Only then can a leader be truly sure that when the big parade does come, one has the confidence that they are seeing themselves more as the others see them.

So, what has it been / is it going to be for you?

  • Do you / are you willing to listen to the brutal truth from others around you?

  • Do you / are you willing to discover and get rid of your blind spots?

  • Do you / are you willing to bare it all, yet not be naked?

Note - This post was originally published on linkedin.

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