...but what is right, that is important.”
As we continue to focus many of our writings on critical thinking and the leader’s ability to set direction for their teams, this quote from Thomas Huxley rang true on so many levels. We continue these discussions in the context of operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. It is a recurring theme because we continue to see and hear about business leaders struggling with change and conflict they feel they have limited control over. It stems from a frequent chorus of leaders struggling with what should be, versus what actually is, the current reality!
In tough situations, it is not uncommon for leaders to hear themselves and other leaders lament the current situation through the lens of, “it could/would/should be this instead of that.” or “It isn’t supposed to be like this”. While these statements carry an element of truth in that the leader saying it can be right about what they are saying. So what? If the leader cannot correctly frame any challenging situation in its current reality, then they are clearly not going to effectively lead in the realm of what’s right.
When this happens, we see two common solutions leaders need to address when they find themselves in these situations:
- React to the Actual Situation ~ In our coaching practice working with leaders at all levels of leadership and in all industries both for-profit and non-profit, a common situation involves conflict around how to deal with a specific issue or situation. Often times these situations are reactionary and thus carry a high emotional quotient within leadership communications. As we delve into these situations, we find all too often the leaders are reacting to the reactions of others involved in the situation and have lost touch with the original issue. It is a classic case of the conversation turning from what is right to who is right about how to deal with the given situation. To overcome this urge to react to the reactions, leaders must keep the core issue front and center so that when the emotions run high, and they will, the collective discussion does not waver and become more about the reactions and less about the right solution!
- Be Accountable with Ownership ~ The second situation we often see is when leaders are reacting or responding to an issue and not keeping the discussion focused on accountability and ownership to find a solution. We find first and foremost that many leaders do not understand the difference between responsibility and accountability. Additionally, we work with several clients who have a negative perception of accountability due to past experiences where it was used too much as negative motivation. So, whether leaders call it accountability or ownership, there is a distinction between that and responsibility. When the discussion focuses on responsibility, it is too easy to focus on who is right and who is wrong based on their given responsibilities. It is very frustrating to be in a discussion where everyone claims to have “done their job” yet the problem still persists. It is at this point that collaborative ownership around what is right for the whole is the only way to actually resolve the issue!
We would be remiss if this discussion did not address a key reason for leaders wanting to be right. Simply put, they don't want to be wrong! Yet, to address what is right may well highlight that certain points of view are, in fact, not correct. Effective leadership communications is about all parties understanding the issue in the same context. The only way to do that is to put personal agendas aside and collaborate around what is good for the whole team, organization or business!
How are you focused on what’s right as a leader, even if you may be proven wrong in any given situation? If you are not sure, we can help!