Let’s have a real conversation about whether you’re hearing the truth

So you’ve arrived at a leadership position, and now you’re in charge of more people and more things – you’re more powerful than you’ve ever been. You’re being rewarded with a good income. When you walk the halls of your organization, you’ve noticed how everyone now pays more attention. You see more deference from others, and more doors opened. You see submissive body language. You’re getting invited to more dinners. People smile at you now, and if you were ever invisible, you certainly aren’t anymore. You might hear the title “Ms.” or “Mr.” more often now, and your first name less often.

Power and achievement can be fun – I know. But the sad part of this is that there’s almost no way that your elevation in the organization can occur without a corresponding decline in the ability and willingness of people to be honest with you.

A difference in power between two people creates a natural conflict. A significant difference in power creates fear. Leaders who lead from integrity don’t blame their employees for being fearful. Instead, they understand this fear is entirely natural, and even a useful emotion for them to feel in the presence of influential people who can make or break their career, or enhance or harm their working experience.

So it’s a problem, that when you arrive at a powerful position, you stop hearing the stuff you used to hear – the gripe at the water cooler, or the real reason Susan Smith left the company, or the fact that people think the company brand is a dishonest joke. It takes an extraordinary effort to keep your ears to the ground. You have to cut through the happy talk and read between the lines of the superficial comments you are getting during site visits, or the insubstantial conversations with people who are now protecting themselves from you rather than engaging you as an equal.

The best leadership always involves a vigilant search for the truth. Just know that it becomes more and more difficult for that truth to find its way to you now that you have a corner office.

About the Author

Sarah Thomson

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