Do you have the mental and emotional fortitude to lead others, as well as yourself? If I were able to follow you around with a movie camera, what would I observe about your leadership skills? Most of us relish in the positive ego-centric benefits around leadership such as power, prestige, possessions, sometimes known as the 3 P’s, yet we undervalue or discount the adherent dangers within today’s organizations. 

In the world of diversity and inclusion, individuals at all organizational levels will need to have a mature fortified leadership perspective if they hope to provide a positive influence within the workplace. A typical approach toward addressing human interaction or relationships usually associated with diversity, inclusion, and inequality issues, are often relegated to know-how, policies, and procedures. Professors Robert Heifetz and Marty Linsky would call that technical. On the other side, most intricate human relations issues require an adaptive approach. Heifetz and Linsky consider these challenges adaptive because they need experiments, discoveries, and adjustments from numerous places including the individual and the organization or community. 

The irony of adopting adaptive thinking to complex organizational issues, Heifetz and Linsky suggest you tend to appear dangerous to people because you will question values, beliefs, stereotypes, or habits built over a lifetime.  Having an adaptive mindset places you “on the line,” especially when you tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Leadership becomes dangerous and require courage when you must confront people with loss of the status quo, diminishing highly treasured power, prestige, and possessions. 

Adopting an adaptive perspective and approach it is essential that you armed yourself from a onslaught of attacks and personal criticism, Heifetz and Linsky suggest the following:

  • Find partners – Acquiring and identifying like-minded people can help you deal withstand the fight.
  • Keep the opposition close – Knowing who you are up against is crucial, and may not be visible. 
  • Accept Responsibility for Your Piece of the Mess – We all have complicity in organizational dysfunction. Being able to own up to yours is essential and promotes authenticity. 
  • Acknowledge Their Loss – Being empathic over letting go of previous power structures and policies let the opposition know that you realize this, not an easy process.
  • Model the Behavior – Modeling the behavior of being a courageous leader helps others learn vicariously what it takes to lead in areas of uncertainty and ambiguity.
  • Accept Casualties – Understand some will hold onto the past as if their life depends on it. Their unwillingness to let go, so the new can come forward might mean release from the organization. 

So are you ready to be a leader and confront all its inherent dangers, or are you a wimp? Taking a look at  Heifetz and Linsky’s resource to navigate through the hazards and staying alive might prove useful.

About the Author

Gerry D. Bouey, Ph.D.

Gerry is a C-level executive coach with over thirty-five years’ experience in business, consulting, improvement efforts, and leadership development with senior and mid-level business leaders and managers. Clients consist of individuals and organizations in financial services, small/mid-size businesses, attorney’s and health care executives. Expertise consists of building and evaluating learning programs and resources, coaching, organizational development, including training trainers. Experience encompasses developing leaders, client experience methodologies, and implementing organizational change strategies. Gerry’s approach towards leadership development focuses on the production, accumulation, and distribution of the energy of love, with individuals and organizations. This mindset integrates all aspects of people systems analysis, design, development, delivery, training technologies, and evaluation.