As a Business Leader you need to be confident, even fiercely determined, but arrogance will bring you down. The ideal leader respects and listens to colleagues, communicates honestly, adjusts opinions when confronted with new evidence and makes decisions that strengthen the organisation rather than his or her own position. But is this happening? Is the work environment we are creating pushing us to work like this? I fear not.
Actually the problem is that everything else in business life pushes Business Leaders in the opposite direction. Business Leaders find themselves having to focus relentlessly on themselves, as by doing so they gain power and prestige that isolates them. In this way, arrogance is almost inevitable, as is (somewhat paradoxically) paranoia. It is interesting that all the leading research with regards what top business leaders are concerned about, the following top worries or fears always come out:-
- They are worried about appearing to be incompetent, vulnerable and foolish
- They are worried about under-achieving;
- They fear political attacks from their colleagues.
Interestingly, none of these concerns involve the businesses or the organisations they led. Business leaders are being caught up in themselves and their fears are limiting their effectiveness.
In my opinion, the key solutions is in the ability is to reset your workplace emotions from pervasive ego-expanding and ego-threatening cultures. Here are three small steps I find to be effective.
Connect to all levels: I find that a great way to have an good outward outlook is by connecting to all levels of the organisation you are leading. Some of the best business leaders make it a point of having lunch with non-executive employees at least once a week. Not only to talk about their role in the company, but mostly about their families, weekend plans and other pleasures. It is a proven fact hat we can reduce our fears simply by talking to others, which would help you reduce your paranoia.
Trust: This one is tough. Most probably the toughest of them all. However as a Business Leader you need to trust your colleagues more than you think is wise. Too often many Business Leaders think that being wise is about talking about risks and instilling fear in others (sometimes with a hint of arrogance). The best Business Leaders always speak about the benefits of intentionally choosing to trust colleagues. You may end up burned a few times, but the goodwill you would generate with this approach more than compensates for the occasional short-term damage.
Focus on people and be the last to speak. Give people the attention they deserve. It’s a gift that also builds goodwill and rarely backfires. Not only does it pay off over time with easier conversations later if things get stressful, but it subtly changes your frame of reference. As a Business Leader do not do the common mistake of being quick to give your own opinion, putting subordinates who think differently in a vulnerable position. As Simon Sinek puts it you have to learn to be the last to speak. This goes beyond just listening. Doing so helps stimulate a wider range of ideas, which put the organisation you are leading in a better position to succeed.
At the end of the day, Business Leaders have lots of ways to improve their performance, but the most important and effective one is the one related to themselves. Using disciplined practices to overcome the fears and the arrogance, will increase their effectiveness.