Leadership Breakdown

“Leadership is a state of being, constantly evolving; changing from the inside out and then again from outside in.” – Enfkay

Have you met or worked with people in key leadership positions who are charismatic, dynamic, supremely intelligent and have oodles of experience but who:

  • appear to be inconsistent in what they say
  • have selective listening
  • are never around when you need them the most or in most cases are inaccessible.
  • are constantly pre-occupied with a thousand things and you seem to be most often the last on their priority list.
  • are very concerned about being seen in the right circles, connecting with the right people.
  • call themselves ‘Strategic Thinkers’ / ‘Thought Leaders’ but often come up with only half baked ideas and expect you to fill in the gaps.
  • have an intense desire to be motivators, life coaches and mentors to other people around but appear to be restless themselves.
  • have created a brand for themselves no matter how hollow it might seem in retrospect.
  • refuse to get their hands dirty in the grime of work saying (if not in so many words) that with their kind of experience they should not be doing this sort of work or they have long past the stage of doing that kind of work.

If you have answered a YES to any of these questions it is indeed cause for concern to you as well as your organization and most importantly to the Leader in question. Most of these leaders are unaware of their behaviours and its impact on their immediate environment. Tragically it is seen that more prolific and well known the leader the more prone he / she is into falling into these traps or dysfunctional behaviour patterns.

As members of influence of the inner circle it then becomes your responsibility to directly or indirectly adopt means not just to ensure the smooth functioning of the organization but also to gently nudge the leader back on track. In order to do so it becomes imperative to have a better understanding of the various stages / levels in leadership and the traps that leaders might fall into at each stage / level.

Stage 1: The Unconscious Leader – A leader who is unaware of this true potential but displays all the characteristics of an influencer, role model and visionary.

Leadership Trap: Tends to remain in the background, may not utilize his full potential, may not purse goals / dreams with the required passion. Tends to be a tad bit unsure of himself and us very often overly self critical.

Corrective Measure: Needs to be shown the difference that he has made as a leader to people, teams and organization as a whole. Should be encouraged to take the fore front more often and lead larger teams openly.

Stage 2: Unconsciously Independent Leader – these leaders have risen to the position of power through years of dedication and hard work. They have made serious efforts to build a brand for themselves. They are in the news and headlines, are often quoted by the media and are in the constant limelight. These people often call themselves self made leaders who have worked hard to realize their dreams through persistence and hard work.

Leadership Trap: Personal Power serves as a trap door in this case. They do not realize that it was a large group / team of people, working behind the scenes who helped them reach the position there are in today in addition to their own efforts. Most leaders in this stage develop inflated egos due to the position they are in and the unprecedented amount of power they wield. Leaders in this position tend to become stubborn and are not very open to change. They prefer to do things in there own manner and do not like others telling them what and how to do things. It is seen that they often enjoy having the last word.

Corrective Measure: If remedial steps are not taken quickly at this stage, leadership is most likely to break down. Motivation of team members begins to dip, dissidence becomes common within the team and the team culture radically changes from an open and transparent one into a closed and authoritative one. The work environment is strained, misunderstandings and communication gaps become frequent and conflicts are on the rise.

The Leader needs to be made aware of his ‘Blind Spot,’ furthermore, he has to be sensitized on the importance of letting go and learning to take a step back. Personal credibility of the leader is maintained only when he learns to balance ambition consciously without trampling on the ambitions of his immediate team members. A classical example of Leadership failure at this stage is often seen in the Political Arena, wherein personal gains take precedence over societal welfare.

Stage 3: Consciously Independent Leader – This is a leader who has been in leadership position for an extensive period of time. Over time he has learnt to make quick, independent decision, is well aware of the consequences of his actions and is not just willing to take risks but becomes a ‘change champion’ within the organization. At this point in his career the leader is not very concerned about personal power and recognition – he has moved beyond that; now as a leader he aims at empowering his/her team and he defines success as a measure of his teams performance.

Leadership Trap: The leader at this stage begins to question his purpose in life and tries to find inner meaning in all his actions. Tragically, what he sees around him plunges him into depression and often feelings of being a failure take prominence as he feels that he has not made a significant impact on society in improving the quality of life. He wants to give back to society at large, but encounters bottlenecks in the form of corruption, dishonesty, complacency and indifference at every stage, which de-motivates him even further, questioning his efforts of making a difference. Self doubt is one of the biggest traps for a leader at this stage.

Due to inner changes and challenges the leader typically encounters a lot for problems with his family at this stage, as there is a paradigm shift in perception and wave length which many a time the family is unable to deal with. The leader prefers to spend time alone, finds socializing unnecessary and a waste of time. Typically the leader would want to spend every minute dedicated towards making a difference. It is at this stage that most leaders become very preachy which only has an adverse affect on everything around them, adding to their bucket of woes.

Preventive Measures: The only thing that will help the leader from falling into a trap at this stage is working without expectation, cultivating a non judgmental attitude, and deep insight into one’s current state of being. The leader has to learn to respect the fact that people around him might not be at the same level of develop as him. This is an exceptionally difficult phase in a leaders development and very few leaders make it through and move to the next level.

Stage 4: Consciously Dependent Leader – This is the highest level of development, which involves consciously crushing the ego and emptying one’s self completely. It is a time to unlearn everything assimilated over the years and walk the path of a ‘Leader without a face.’

It is a state of consciously becoming dependent on others, knowing very well that he is most likely to contribute much more if he worked on his own; but the time of individual gain and personal power are long gone. The leader realizes that he alone is nothing and must come down to the level of the common man to help others realize their true potential, for in it lies his true purpose. It is state of constant giving, without expectation, constantly working behind the scenes – a state of utmost humility.

‘Detached Attachment’ is the calling of this leader, being a part of everything, yet not being attached to any of it. This is what is called ‘Spiritual Leadership’ and sustained growth of an organization depends on it. There are just a handful of these leaders and it is almost impossible to meet them for they take great pains to fade into the background.

There are no traps for a leader in stage, the traps lie for the rest of us who are fighting hard to strike a balance between ambition and conscience.

It is important to note that, leaders  might not follow the stage wise sequential approach. There are a few leaders who jump levels and come to the final stage at a very young age, and then there are those who are constantly swinging back and forth between levels.

“The situation never changes, it is our perception of it that is constantly changing.”  – Enfkay

– Noor Fathima

(E):nf@dishacv.com / noor.fathima@gmail.com


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