Defeating Skepticism

Defeating Skepticism

Skepticism in leadership takes on several forms; some are advantageous, and some are detrimental. In its truest sense, skepticism is a logical and rational challenge of ideas to get to the reality or truth about a specific issue. Leaders with such a constructive, critical eye possess a positive strength, especially in a fast-paced environment where many proposals compete. But this sense of the word has been overridden in today’s culture. Within the last generation, the typical impression we have of skepticism pertains to a close-minded, doubtful, and hard-to-convince mentality. Leaders can also allow distrust or resentment to play into this picture. This kind of skepticism is damaging in many ways, and stifles organizations. Fortunately there are ways leaders can undo skeptical traits and adopt a better outlook. Embracing Failure Skepticism is often bred out of a fear of failure. A leader can be so concerned about failing that no ideas appear to offer a reasonable level of risk because they are scrutinized so heavily. None will work well enough. The task is too difficult to attempt. The threat of failure looms too large. Have you ever felt like this? You’re not alone. There isn’t a leader who hasn’t feared the possibility of failure. They’re under constant pressure to produce, succeed, and grow the organization. Though they have this in common, leaders have a choice of how they view potential failure: something to be avoided or an opportunity to improve (and succeed.) As author Gary Burnison describes in his book, No Fear of Failure (Wiley, 2011), failure happens to everyone, but there can be significant advantages. “Success may instill confidence,...
The Paradox of Leadership Give and Take

The Paradox of Leadership Give and Take

Western leaders have been conditioned for generations to believe that the way to advance is to claim as much as possible, to take more than you give. Many leaders make personal gain the objective of business life, and almost any means to achieve it is fair game. Hard work, perseverance, passion, and talent are valuable, of course. However, in the human dynamics of business, taking what you can, even if it’s from others, is often the method used to attain rewards. But what if there was a paradoxical truth that showed the opposite to be the case—that by giving away what you have, you’ll get even more? There is substance to this truth, and it warrants examination. The majority of employees see their bosses fitting the mold of the “taker.” These leaders are viewed as prioritizing their personal needs above everyone else’s, in a competitive arena where there are definitive winners and losers. This perception is so common we stereotype managers by their interpersonal behavior. An aggressive, self-serving leader who gets what they want by using people to get it is seen as powerful, competent, and productive. We assume this taker is a person who will work their way up the corporate ladder effectively. Conversely, leaders who put their needs last, who serve their people by giving more than they take, are seen as weak, interdependent, and insecure. These “givers” are not viewed as likely to advance. Again, cultural experience makes some of these things seem factual, but looking deeper reveals another reality. Adam Grant, in his book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (Penguin 2013),...