The question I’d ask today is, “When in a followership role, what do we as followers owe a toxic leader?”
Let’s first discuss the definition of leadership. My definition of leadership is the thoughtful and methodical application of a continually studied framework that becomes a mindset which promotes positive culture and ethics.
I subscribe to a school of thought that believes leadership is a positive trait and should be defined as such. Of course, there exist “leaders” who embrace negative traits to achieve their goals. We tend to refer to these folks as ‘bad’ or ‘toxic’ leaders. I don’t believe they should be honored with the title of “leader” at all. One who is embued with the authority to direct others, but whom lacks the traits to be a good leader (or sees no need to implement the same) is, at best, a manager with the legal authority to direct action by subordinates. All that said, I will keep with the naming convention for the purpose of answering the asked question, “What do we as followers owe a toxic leader?”
What is a toxic leader? I suspect we can all name the traits that make an individual leader toxic. Such people are often arbitrary, negative, insulting, intimidating (or use intimidation), narcissistic and tend to rely on authority in lieu of actual leadership to achieve a goal, which is likely personally driven vs in service to an ideal.
What do we owe such ‘leaders’?
Such individuals are in violation of the social contract, the glue that holds us together in a society.
We do not owe such toxic individuals allegiance or deference.
I would go so far as to suggest we owe one another a duty to speak out against such individuals, as we are able.
Happy Monday, folks! I’ll take just a moment to apologize for my silence of the last month. I’m still very much committed to the idea of daily posts as a career decision and my battle rhythm. Life often has a…penchant…for getting in the way of our operational models for the same. Tangentially related: this is a good reason for having an operational model or framework. These aren’t meant to be necessarily hard and fast but are plans. You CAN deviate from your plan. Your framework should be your baseline, to which you can return to time and time again.
Anyhow, today leadership is very much on my mind.
It’s a topic I’ve written about several times here. Definitions abound but my working definition of leadership is this:
Leadership is the thoughtful and methodical application of a continually studied framework that becomes a mindset.
Tonight, I’d expand upon this, maybe step back a bit and ask us all to pause and consider that on the other side of every interaction is a human being.
From a professional perspective, this will absolutely help your business. Consider, please, the last place you visited where the representative of the business didn’t make eye contact, didn’t engage with you, didn’t acknowledge you…is this a place likely to earn your business again?
On the other side of the equation, when you last visited Starbucks or the Apple Store (both known for their customer service), how were you made to feel? Likely, you were made to feel like you belonged, like you were a member of their team or tribe.
From a personal perspective, I think this is a valuable lesson to remember as we interact with our fellow people. We are all part of this tribe called humanity and I believe, if we could just try to see the world through one another’s eyes, we could accomplish wonders.
I’ve previously blogged about the need of businesses to evaluate their strategies as a function of thermodynamics:
The short answer is that a business that does not engage in the continual evaluation of their operations becomes isolated from their competition. Their entropy increases.
I’ve also discussed this as a function of the evolution of a business in a competitive marketplace.
What got you there will not keep you there.
Today, I’d expand that line of thought by citing Anthony Giddens, a sociologist, and a particular thought on structures:
Structures do not determine outcomes, but define the potential range of outcomes. (Giddens)
In the context of the running discussion here about strategies and frameworks, I think it reasonable to posit that a framework and strategy do not determine an outcome but helps define the potential range of outcomes. Specifically, it helps you consider input, evaluate your options and execute your decision in accordance with defined parameters (such as goals and values).
In the same post, I wrote that language reflects our thoughts, our essence. Leadership is the thoughtful and methodical application of a continually studied framework that becomes a mindset.
Building on the same thoughts on the importance of language and viewing language as a framework, I would share this thought:
The entirety of human knowledge is contained with the framework of ‘language’. Without an agreed upon framework, this knowledge would cease to be decipherable. It would cease to exist. – Me
Fundamentally, language is a construct we use to house and share knowledge and ideas. Language is important. It’s use is important in the spread of ideas, in the motivation of people and the implementation of ideas.
The question was asked in response to my having offered assistance to a complete stranger. When I relayed what I’d done to a friend, they offered that they would have wanted to do the same but would have hesitated in doing so for a fear of physical safety.
This is a question I think about every day and could be – should probably be – the subject of a much larger post than this is likely to be.
Have you seen the world through my eyes?
This question stopped me in my tracks when it was asked and still resonates with me today, in a profound way. It’s a question I have asked thousands of young leaders, when I taught a course on leadership, ethics and perspective at the United States Air Force Academy.
The short answer is, of course, “No.”
The longer answer is, “What a powerful question to ask. While I cannot do so, I can and surely ought to try.”
From a personal and business perspective, sincerely asking this question launched a journey of introspection of which this blog is the current manifestation.
From a business perspective alone, what an incredible cornerstone of a framework to consider our actions through.
Have we seen the world through the eyes of a consumer or a client?
Have we seen the world through the eyes of our partners or vendors
Have we seen the world through the eyes of our employees?
Phrased and applied another way:
Have we tried to see ourselves as others see us?
I don’t offer definitive answers here, just food for thought.