What To Do When You Are Off Course
Do you know a leader who insists everything is fine when everyone else knows trouble is ahead?
Have you watched someone so oblivious to signs and signals that employees are not engaged?
How do leaders accurately assess and view how they are perceived in an organization?
My friend Tanveer Naseer recently co-authored Leadership Vertigo: Why Even the Best Leaders Go Off Course and How They Can Get Back On Track. It’s a thoughtful read designed to help leaders accurately diagnose and solve problems with culture and leadership. I recently spoke with Tanveer about his book. Tanveer leads his own leadership consulting company and is an award-winning leadership blogger.
False Signals and Leadership Danger Ahead
What is leadership vertigo?
Let me first start off by explaining what vertigo is. For most of us, the word vertigo brings to mind the famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film where we see the lead character looking down a staircase and seeing the floor below suddenly pushing off into the distance.
In reality, vertigo refers to a perceptual phenomenon where our brain sends us false signals about our motion, which we believe to be true. The best known example of this is the crash of John F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s plane in the Atlantic Ocean, where his brain was convincing him that he was flying his plane level, even though the gauges on his instrument panel were telling him that he was in fact heading on a downward angle towards the ocean surface.
So with this understanding of what vertigo is, leadership vertigo basically refers to the gap between how we view our leadership and how those we lead experience it. It refers to those moments where we’re convinced our actions and words are creating the right conditions for our employees to succeed, and yet that’s not what our employees are getting from us.
This is exactly what we see in all the studies of the past few years that show that despite the growing knowledge base on how to engage and empower our employees, most leaders are still not connecting their message with their employees. It’s because they’re convinced that they are being the kind of leader their organization needs, despite all the evidence around them pointing out the contrary.
4 Key Leadership Principles
Briefly walk us through the 4 Leadership Principles of Leadership Vertigo.
1. Build community.
The first Leadership Principle, “Build Community,” refers to recognizing that in order for us to better understand the realities our employees face, we have to consistently demonstrate our respect for them as individuals; that they’re not simply there to do a job, but they’re there to help us collectively succeed because they see and understand the value of our shared purpose. And we can engender this feeling by recognizing the value of their contributions to that shared purpose, as well as promoting a culture of shared accountability to encourage equal and fair participation.
2. Develop competence.
The second Leadership Principle, “Develop Competence” refers to how we show up for those daily interactions with those we lead. Are we going into those meetings and those conversations with a genuine interest to learn and understand what our employees have to say? Research has shown that emotions are very contagious and that our brains are hard-wired to pick up the non-verbal cues we give off before we even say a word.
So the minute you walk into that meeting room, your team members have already read those non-verbal cues you’re giving off, and everything you say and do is going to be filtered through that initial perception they got about your emotional state.
3. Earn credibility.
The third Leadership Principle, “Earn Credibility,” looks at something that we’re seeing more and more in discussions about leadership today. Specifically, how do we go about increasing our awareness, both of our own mental state as well as the realities of those around us? What’s critical to this principle is being open with our employees that we don’t have all the answers because only then can we free ourselves to be genuine about what it is we’re after, what it is we need, and what we can give them to be successful in their efforts.
4. Cultivate compassion.