I was sitting and chatting with one of my unit leaders today, and I was trying to understand what leadership really meant. She is focused, high on achievement orientation, knows what has to be done and puts in a lot of effort. The centre has begun to improve in performance after she took over 8 months ago. But then why was I discussing leadership with her?
I am picking up feedback from the ground that her team is scared of her, the doctors feel she tries to do everything herself. I found out that her new Ops manager has only been given part of her role responsibility even after 2 months. And hence my conversation on leadership with her.
Some questions I posed to her:
– is leadership about achievement alone?
– is leadership about being perfect?
– is leadership about getting the work down, even at the cost of doing it oneself?
– is leadership about making sure your team never fails ?
As we explored these questions, some interesting ideas emerged. Leadership is about letting your team make mistakes, but being there to ensure they don’t make the same mistake repeatedly. Leadership is about being the safety net when your team fails. Leadership is about trusting your team, and giving them the space to perform and grow, even the space to make mistakes. Leadership is about ensuring your team achieves, not that you achieve alone.
The other interesting aspect that emerged was that she was surprised by the feedback I was picking up. Do we as leaders have our ears to the ground? Do we listen to our employees as much as we listen to our customers ? I picked up signals when I interacted with her team that people would look at her before answering a question posed at them. Why did she not notice? Are leaders using all their senses to pick up signals ?
The last interesting concept that emerged was her own desire to be infallible. She was afraid to reach out and ask for help when in doubt. She was afraid to show that she did not know what to do. Like she did not want her team to fail, she was scared of failing herself. Is leadership about being vulnerable? Is leadership about being human?