Courage: Ditch the Armor (Part III)Posted on January 19, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

As we have discussed over the past few weeks, protective leadership armor can take many forms and can impact teams in different ways.  The last grouping of armor we have not yet explored are those that fall into the category of “control.”  I hear this word often from leaders, whether it be a desire to control an outcome or control the people with whom they work.  The insecurity created by being accountable drives this armor of control behaviors.   

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leadership control behaviors can negatively impact a team, preventing the team from speaking up and having the confidence to lead from where they are.  Control armor can take the form of behaviors that demonstrate “power over” others.  This behavior does not inspire our team to work with us for a solution.  Instead, it reinforces a negative hierarchy that there is a powerful and powerless.  When leaders are not self-aware enough about the strengths they bring to a team, they may lead by jumping into roles to try to prove their worth.  This could help dissolution members of a high-performance team.  The lowest form of control behavior is leading with fear and uncertainty.  Leaders use this control tactic lord scarcity and uncertainty over their team so that they can be the ones to deliver easy answers and a common enemy to blame.

How can you do it? 

Re-frame power to “power with” versus “power over.” Martin Luther King defined power as the ability to achieve a purpose and effect change.   How leaders use power is what makes it good or bad.  Re-frame your thoughts about power to “power with” versus “power over.”.  Power “with” is leading to build collective strength and multiply individuals’ talents. 

Know the value your leadership brings the team. Get clear on your strengths and the strengths that each member brings to the team.  This clarity allows for each member of the team to know who is best at what and to trust the delegation of work for the good of the team.  Once everyone understands their value, no one needs to hustle for their worth at the expense of the team.

Acknowledge and normalize fear and uncertainty. Rather than using fear to control, it is the ethical thing to do in an uncertain situation to acknowledge fear within our team.   During times of discomfort, effective leaders commit to telling the truth and keeping the team informed whenever new information is available and is accessible to answer questions.

What strategies have you used with success that helped you positively re-frame “control” in your leadership role? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

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