Do you look up to the people in leadership roles at your workplace? Do they set an example for you to strive for? Do they create an environment in which you can grow and develop?
In recent times I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of new people and discussing the general topic of leadership. This, in turn, has led me to reflect on my own experiences, specifically in the context of this blog (i.e. seeking growth opportunities). As a result of this reflection I had the realisation that one of the key factors in my decision to leave previous roles was a loss of confidence in the ability of my leaders to challenge convention, to see things differently and strike out in new directions.
I’m not sure that I was even conscious of this aspect at the time. Rather, this loss of confidence manifested itself as a general frustration or job dissatisfaction. I was ‘comfortable’ and/or sensed that my leaders were comfortable, which made me….uncomfortable! Craving growth and change I found myself turning elsewhere to satisfy this need. Once this threshold was breached it was only a matter of time before physical departure followed.
I appreciate that there is a delicate balance that leaders need to strike and that doing so often requires them to discount a natural confidence in their own knowledge, accumulated over years of experience. What do I mean by this? In most circumstances it is normal for organisations to award leadership positions commensurate with an individual’s level of experience. That’s ok, but I think that it is important to acknowledge that years of professional experience and career success carries with it a kind of psychological baggage; namely the confidence that causes a person to believe that they ‘know’ what to do or how to act in a given situation.
I am not advocating that leadership roles should be given to inexperienced staff (although career planning and ‘fast-tracking’ is essential for any organisation wanting to retain top talent). Instead, it is my contention that confidence bred of experience needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of ‘self-scepticism’. It is this scepticism that will enable a leader to balance their natural propensity to produce answers, based on their experience, with the ability to retain an open mind, continually ask new or different questions and be receptive to fresh ideas.
I am interested to hear the thoughts of others on this subject. What is your experience as an employee? Are you currently a CEO, Managing Director or senior executive who has grappled with this issue?
In closing I am reminded of an old joke:
Q: What do you call a leader with no followers?
A: Just somebody taking a walk.
I should be going now…it’s time for my walk.