A Leader's Privilege

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Or know-it-alls.

Leadership Fail

Flash to a conference room in Anywhere, U.S.A. for a weekly project meeting. A leader is sitting at the head of the table with his project managers all around. The project hit a snag and a 2 week adjustment to the plan is in order. The leader has a plan and is prepared to communicate it to the team.

The leader convenes the meeting, communicates the change in plans and a project manager raises a concern. The leader explains his reasoning for the particular course of action he selected.

The project manager considers the leader’s reasons and offers his operational perspective on another option. The leader restates his reasoning.

The project manager identifies pros and cons of the two options and requests a change in direction. The leader restates his reasoning.

In the next 30 seconds, employee engagement would be lost.

When the project manager spoke again, it went something like this, “I recommend, and prefer, an alternate course of action  . . .  but you are the boss. If you want us to do it your way, we will.”

Did anyone else just see what I did? Absent the project manager throwing his hands in the air, it was a clear declaration of defeat.

I looked to my left, I looked to my right and I looked to the leader - just in time to hear him restating his reasoning again.

Leadership Lesson

Leadership is hard work. Leadership is about inspiring people and leading change. It's about being present in the moment to influence options and approaches to new or long-standing issues.

The 2 week change in plans would not determine the success and failure of the project; it was a matter of preference and approach. The leader did ultimately agree to accept the project manager's suggestion, but it was too late. Presented with an opportunity to engage the team in jointly solving a problem, he chose to hold his ground.

Leaders have the benefit, and responsibility, of position. Rank does have its privileges but being right is not one of them. Leadership is not about self, it’s about others and leaders are judged by their actions. How a leader views, and acts upon, their leadership privilege speaks volumes.

What are your actions saying about you?

Photo credit iStockphoto