Leadership Cancers #6: Leave your heart at home

by Gary Monti on April 21, 2010

Can you list the tribes to which you belong? For most of us work, family, social clubs, and recreational teams are a pretty typical mix. Does your role change as you move from tribe to tribe? Does the persona (mask) that you present change with the roles? If it does, at the end of the day how do you answer the question, “Who am I?” Coming from mythology the question can be restated as, “What’s in my heart and are my actions true to it?”

In business there can be a temptation to stray from one’s truth for the sake of the score, the big contract, or some other external goal. A friend of mine who is a sales engineer jokingly sums it up with, “I feel very strongly that………what are you willing to pay money for?”

Let’s explore the dangers of this approach along with a realistic remedy.

Styles

In psychology of temperament the way we prefer to come at a problem or situation is referred to as our native style. This varies from person to person. For complex situations a team comprising a range of styles is needed to get the job done. For example, one person prefers to plan while another wants to execute.

In making room for others’ style we may shift how we work. This is called an adaptive style. It means flexing and letting go of demanding work be done “my way.”

We can, however, drift away from ourselves and move into the cancer, coercive style, where we stray completely from who we are because we desperately want something, are afraid of repercussions or a combination of the two.

Consequences

If it is a cancer why would anyone want to use coercive style? It boils down to one of two words – greed and fear. The definition I use for greed is:

“Unrealistically high expectation of return on a minuscule investment.  There is a focus on consequence at the expense of principles.  A loss of self and a loss of boundary due to a focus on acquiring something external.”

And the definition I use for fear is:

“The feeling one has with the sense of negative consequences.  It increases with increased perceived impact and the degree of powerlessness.  A loss of self and a loss of boundary due to a focus on a perceived threat.”

Notice that regardless of whether you are the predator or prey the results are the same – loss of self.

What’s the Big Deal?

A possible response to this is, “What’s the big deal? It’s business, a dog-eat-dog world.” The answer lies in my first blog in the Leadership Series. Complex situations require leadership, which means you don’t know how to get through the situation. Instead you lead the way by believing in yourself, the team, and the underlying principles. Leaders work from an internal compass that keeps its bearings on the overarching principles as the terrain shifts. Without that compass the team is lost.

What’s the Answer?

The answer is something of a paradox. The more challenging the outer situation the more one looks inward. Be true to that inner compass. It’s best said in a proverb regarding meditation:

“One should meditate at least a half-hour a day unless there is trouble. At that point meditate an hour a day.”

Share you comments! I’d like to know what you think. In addition to commenting on this blog you can also send a response via e-mail to gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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