Has the “Lens of Power” Distorted Your Leadership Role?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Maybe you’ve had the experience I’m about to describe. You’ve introduced your plan for a new product or service to your team. Everyone has praised your idea. Nobody has suggested any improvements. Either you are a product development manager with super-​powers, or your team members are afraid to tell you the truth. Lou Diamond, at Diamond Leadership, calls this situation a distortion of the lens of power.

Safe Environment

In many organizations, team members hesitate to speak their minds. They know the truth could help the organization, but they’re afraid that they’ll risk their personal position in the company if they say what they really think. As a leader, it’s up to you to make your team members feel safe. 

Maybe you’ve become a little stuck on yourself since moving into the corner office. Diamond cautions against getting carried away with the concept of yourself as leader. If you send out the wrong vibes, your team members will just pay lip service to your ideas. When that happens, you “eclipse the reality of teamwork.”

To fix this problem, encourage every member to speak their mind freely. If necessary, ask one reliable person in advance of an ideation or feedback session to point out a weakness in one of your suggestions. Publicly thank that person when they do so. When other team members see you are open to honest feedback, your team will function as it should.

Daily Reinforcement

Some leaders believe that a promotion to the corner office means they can kick back and put their feet on the desk. They convince themselves that they are so involved in formulating strategic direction that they don’t have to worry about day-​to-​day operations. Not! Engaging in this kind of behavior isolates you and reinforces the notion that individuals with certain titles in the organization have privileges. 

If you want your team members to see you as an effective leader, roll up your sleeves every day. Take the responsibility of making coffee or cleaning the kitchen regularly. Help a team member who’s struggling with how to write a blog post. Spend a minute chatting with a different team member on a daily basis.

As Diamond reminds us, "the legitimacy of your role has to be earned anew, moment by moment, through attitudes, behaviors, and communication."