Lessons in Leadership – What is it…

Part .1.

Leadership, so many people throw this word around so many people claim to be good leaders, so many people crave effective leadership but really… what is it? What does it do? How does it affect our businesses? Let me explain.

Starting at the beginning, I will explain what I believe effective leadership is, and what the evidence explains it to be. I will give you a hint. It is in the title.

Simply put a leader “leads” get it…?

Leaders are at the front of the pack they share the load, sometimes more of it than the rest of the team. They hold the vision for the team, they hold the tempo and standards of what is acceptable.

Let me give you some examples.

When I was working with a crisis response team in the mental health service there was a resounding perception of “poor leadership”. Now this is not uncommon in many industries however in such a high stress environment where if something went wrong it immediately affected a patient’s wellbeing. It is imperative that the leadership was strong and there was a mutual environment of support.

On initial assessment the primary area of concern presented was a lack of honesty, clarity and certainty.

The number one attribute of effective leaders reported by staff is honesty. Above all else the staff need to know that when they place their trust in someone they know as much as they possibly can about the current scenario and not tricked manipulated or going to essentially get bitten.

In this scenario what was unfortunately happening was the Team Leader was seeking acceptance from his team and like every other human being wanted to be liked by his team. What this resulted in was him telling half truths about the upcoming issues from corporate, leave requests, extra duties etc.

Whilst his intention was to protect his team and his reputation within the team all he served to do was to actually create unwanted surprises for his team and leave them lost and unsure about what was coming their way and not be able to prepare.

This in turn left the team feeling unprotected and unconnected from his leadership and simply being at the whim of anything that came their way.

When a human being is to function at their highest capacity there are a variety of core needs that have to be met. In this scenario the two most basic of needs are being left unattended.

Humans require a degree of CERTAINTY (routine, plans, etc) in their life and a correlating degree of UNCERTAINTY in their life (adventure, surprise, new things).

These two needs work in conjunction like a set of scales, more certainty a staff member has in their role (right hand side) the more uncertainty the staff member can tolerate (left hand side).

Now with that in mind in a profession where a phone call means someone is having a crisis event in their life that could include, psychosis, attempts on their life, and major setbacks in therapy etc there is already an enormous degree of uncertainty naturally in this career. So if anything the staff in this scenario need a greater degree of certainty than your average employee.

So when certainty outweighs the certainty in a staff member they can manage this internally by having more routine in their personal life, work life etc. However this is if they are managing it resourcefully. In most cases a staff member will move to an un – resourceful action such as procrastination and avoidance. This deals with the immediate concern of overwhelm however allows the issues to gain momentum and become a more painful experience later.


The Resolution

The initial solution to this was reasonably simple,

  • Education of the Team Leader about the secondary effects of his actions.
  • Coaching around self esteem and self management for the leader
  • Team workshops about maintaining self care and managing uncertainty
  • Operational statement development of crisis scenario and categorisation of crisis presentations and associated actions.

Through the implementation of these simple tasks, we addressed the downward trend of team performance and supported the team to once again move forward and perceive control over their situation. This was supported by ongoing monthly coaching of the leader for a period of six months to manage any kick backs and cement new routine.

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