See if the following comments sound familiar:
1. “I’m good with conflict. I have no problems firing a poor performer."
2. “He’s way too emotional about this. It’s been long enough, and really, he needs to move on.”
3. “She takes stuff way too personally. As a leader, she needs to have a tougher skin and not let little things get to her.”
These are comments I have heard from leaders. You may be thinking these are signs of a strong leader.
I would disagree.
All of the above comments, in my opinion, are simply signs of a leader who isn’t comfortable in their own shoes. I know they may sound clear and confident to you. So, let me explain.
I will be the first to say that I have said some version of all of these. Likely, we all have.
However, when I have, I know that I am often coming from a place of either righteousness or defense. Neither is a position of strength. Power maybe, but strength, no.
Power or Strength
Power means to dominate or control others, or using one’s authority, title or physical force to get someone to do something. It can be appropriate at times, but is not the best for a sustaining leadership style.
Strength means to come from within, to have your own opinion, but not fight to be right, prove anything or dominate another. It is about being clear and honest, without being dependent upon how another reacts or responds. When one is in their strength, they are influential, and I believe this is a sustainable leadership style.
When I come from a place of strength, I own my position as simply that, my position, not truth, not forever right. I am not trying to control through power. I am simply providing my current position, or what I like to call, my location related to an issue or a person. I am sharing where I am in the moment, and how I have arrived there.
It’s quite empowering or better said en-strengthening.
Mastering My Location
Mastering my location means that in any given moment, I am clear on my current opinion and how I got there. As a result, I can listen without defense and hear the other person without having to fight back. This is real leadership.
So in regards to the three comments above, here are my thoughts:
1. I can fire someone: Before I fire someone, I need to be sure that I have had the courage and skill to give them regular on-going clarity and feedback about what they are being asked to do, and how they have been doing it.
2. Too Emotional: When someone is “emotional,” it’s only a problem for me, if I am “reacting” to their emotions. If I am not reacting, I am able to listen, reflect and have compassion.
3. Too Personally: When people are passionate about their work, it is personal. Saying the person needs to have a tougher skin usually is dismissing what is important for that person because we are uncomfortable with their reaction.
Leadership Presence involves flexibility. It involves having an opinion but not getting too righteous or defensive about that position. This is simple, but not always easy.
There is nothing wrong with having conversations and sharing my views. However, when I notice I stay in my judgment and want the other to change. I am in my own righteous position, using power rather than strength.
Leaders locate themselves, sharing their opinion, so that others can, and will, give them feedback. Leadership Presence means I locate and listen, which requires strength plus curiosity.
Not the easiest traits to develop, but in the long run are essential for on-going growth and sustainable leadership.
CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict
CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.
They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.
Check out their website: www.thriveinc.com. Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.