One Director, who clearly had not practised what he wanted to, said “it’s all very well talking about this leadership stuff but in the real world we are just too busy”. This got me thinking, “Is the ‘real world’ different to that embraced on training programmes, or is it the people who make the difference?”
The thing I noticed was that a senior Director was talking as if the world was something that happened and he had no control over. Of course there are events that just happen that we have to step in and respond to, dropping all our planning and strategy to get through it. However, even in today’s fast paced world, these are still the exceptions rather than the rule. Much of our ‘out of control’ busy-ness is self-inflicted and can be changed by senior leaders – if they want to.
More often, I’m finding leaders are stressed out by longer hours, more emails and feeling as if they have to give up their personal time just to stay on top of the workload. This inevitably takes them out of being a purposeful leader and into ‘busy manager mode’, and further perpetuating the stress by firing emails down the line to their team at 11.00pm at night. What do they think will happen if they turn off their smart device at 6.30pm? Or if they don’t respond immediately to every email? Or (horror of horrors), if they have a holiday without checking their messages?
One delegate told me the story of a frustrated wife who, when going on holiday, took the Blackberry charger out of her husband’s case without his knowledge. When they arrived, she told him ‘You have one battery’s use of your Blackberry – use it wisely!’
I believe this all too frequent culture is playing to the human need to be wanted – to feel valued and important. Have we lost sight of what is really important to us? Most senior leaders who work at home in the evenings and weekends feel resentful and wish they could stop. My belief is they can stop if they get in touch with what their purpose is, what they are leading for, what is it they want to create in the future that isn’t true now. We all have the power to change our ‘real world’ if we understand what we are like at our best and focus on being like it more of the time.
What is the ‘real world’ for your organisation, and do you need the people within it to change? Do your leaders ‘play to win’, with self-belief and focus on what could be, or ‘play to avoid losing’ with too much focus on the present day and covering their backs?
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