To what degree does the way you behave with another person influence how they subsequently behave towards you? Parental research would suggest that kids very often demonstrate many of the same characteristics of their parents. But even beyond this there is also an innate human behavior that will “fight fire with fire”. Another way of putting this is that perhaps you get what you deserve.
So what happens when you translate this to leadership and more specifically the behaviors of leaders? In the book Good to Great Jim Collins alludes to Level 5 leaders possessing personal humility (as well as professional resolve). The Webster dictionary defines humility as “modest opinion of one’s own importance and rank”. Another way of viewing this is that it’s less about you and perhaps more about others.
History suggests that many great conflicts have been resolved by people meeting half way, somebody taking the first step and ultimately seeking compromise and doing what’s right. Despite what some might think, this is not suggesting weakness; on the contrary many would argue it to be a brave undertaken. Yes there might be some vulnerability associated with it but, as with most things in life, the end justifies the means.
Some examples of this are:
- The senior VP who felt he always had to prove himself and therefore dominated conversations much to the chagrin of his peers. Then he realized that a behavior focused on asking questions of others and really listening positively enhanced this same peer’s perception. He made the conversation more about them and meetings became far more productive. He who asks the (good) questions very often controls the conversation.
- Old: This is what I think we should do………
- New: What are some other ways we can address this problem?
- The Leader who directed orders all the time in terms of what she wanted using language such as I want, I need and I expect. The message was been delivered very clearly but received very poorly because of fear. Then she realized the power of “we” and of questioning the ability or likelihood of a desired outcome.
- Old: I want that report of my desk by Friday
- New: When will you have your report ready to submit (Note: very often you will get an answer that is better than what you might have demanded)
This not suggesting that the “Old” way is bad, but if this is your dominant means of behaving, then there might a problem. Positive behavior engages people, builds involvement and ownership, inspires and ultimately gets Positive Results.