Want to Buy a Pair of Sunglasses?
I was at the gym this morning and one of my friends offered to sell me a slightly used pair of eclipse glasses at a reduced price. I passed on the generous offer, smiled and went back to work. Just a few days ago eclipse glasses were a hot commodity. Today, not so much. Monday, they were necessary and today they are not. Obsolescence is defined as the process of becoming obsolete, outdated or no longer used. In the case of eclipse glasses, it’s a pretty easy determination. Matching the need with the solution, safety specs aside, was relatively easy. But, I wouldn’t recommend wearing your eclipse glasses when driving to work tomorrow morning.
In terms of leadership behaviors, I have seen my fair share of leadership behaviors that are the equivalent of walking around wearing eclipse glasses. They just don’t fit the need. These behaviors may have been useful at a different time and place, but now they are a mismatch. It’s hard to believe it’s been seventeen years since Daniel Goleman challenged leaders to rely on more than one leadership style. His HBR classic article “Leadership that Gets Results” whet our emotional intelligence appetites. Despite the research and the prevalence of conversations about emotional intelligence, it is still challenging to change behaviors. Once we get comfortable wearing the glasses, it’s hard to take them off.
There are no quick 3-step solutions for changing behavior. It’s hard. Generally, it requires a significant wake-up call, a crisis that surfaces a desperate need to try something different. You cannot flip a switch and suddenly become self-aware. You need help. The challenges of change are well documented. But, one aspect of change that has become particularly relevant is the gut wrenching sense that new behaviors do not feel very efficient. It’s easier and quicker to go with default behaviors. It requires very little reflection.
Leading the way you have always led allows you skip over a few steps. You don’t have to listen as much. No need to gather more information. Just react. In many situations, it works well. But, sometimes your “go to” leadership style is obsolete and the collateral damage is hard to dismiss. Some of your leadership behaviors are no longer useful and your team members know it. You might as well be walking around the office with a pair of designer eclipse glasses.
After presenting the efficiencies and benefits of quick, reactive thinking, Charles Duhigg warns about the dangers.
"THE DOWNSIDE OF REACTIVE THINKING IS THAT HABITS AND REACTIONS CAN BECOME SO AUTOMATIC THEY OVERPOWER OUR JUDGMENT." (CHARLES DUHIGG)
Face it, in the world of leadership, good judgment matters. Take off those glasses. There’s no eclipse today. You can begin with a few practice rounds. For the next few days, try increasing your awareness of whether your leadership seems to match the needs of the situation and those around you.