“A LEADER’S REAL ‘AUTHORITY’ IS A POWER YOU VOLUNTARILY GIVE HIM, AND YOU GRANT HIM THIS AUTHORITY NOT WITH RESENTMENT OR RESIGNATION BUT HAPPILY.”
– David Foster Wallace
(1962 – 2008)
Sue Ashford, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, breaks down years of her research on leadership —who achieves it, and how people grant it. According to her, the world isn’t divided into leaders and followers. Instead, leadership is a state that everyone can reach, whether they’re officially in a position of power or not. She emphasizes that shared leadership can highly benefit a team and an organization as it effectively grows leadership in people who can take leader-like actions in more places and can create a domino effect leading to more progress.
According to Simon Sinek,“the WHY is the purpose, cause, or belief that drives every organization and every person’s individual career”. Why does your organization exist? Why did you get out of bed this morning? And why should anyone care?
He says every organization—and every person’s career—operates on three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. We all know what we do: the services we offer or the jobs we do. Some of us know how we do it: the things that define us and set us aside from others. But very few of us can clearly articulate why we do what we do. Once we can answer this question it not only becomes inspiring (in an introspective way) for ourselves but for all others too, whom we engage with, in professional and personal capacity both.
During an interesting academic session by SPARK Neuro CEO, Spencer Gerrol, I came away with one key outcome that any leader can use and be aware of, is to gain a persuasive edge by developing emotional literacy. He explains that emotion is everything. It’s well established in the neuroscience literature that people do not make decisions based only on rational arguments. He spoke about notable psychologist Antonio Damasio, who have found that emotion plays a major role in decision-making.
“Emotions and decisions are intrinsically intertwined,” says Gerrol. Emotions bias decisions subconsciously, simply put, you cannot influence anyone in the absence of emotion. A leader’s job is to inspire others but if a person fails to make an emotional connection with the target audience, the message won’t stick.
Recently, I attended a session with Melissa Andrada, who is a Creative Executive Coach and Strategic Advisor. She began her session with a question; what would you do if you weren’t afraid? She spoke how over the years, Google has gathered endless amounts of data, and spent millions trying to better understand the secrets to team effectiveness. One of the company’s most interesting initiatives, Project Aristotle, help the organization codify this secret. According to the findings of the study, one of the strongest characteristics of enhanced teams is psychological safety.
We’ve all been there during meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incapable, have held back questions or ideas. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under scrutiny.
But imagine a different setting. An environment which is safe enough for everyone to take big risks, voice their honest thoughts, and inquire judgment-free questions. A culture where superiors provide air cover and create safe spaces so employees can let their guard down and be vulnerable. That’s psychological safety – which is the foundation on which leadership oriented ideas are built on. This is an invitation to wander outside the comfort zone, where, the real magic happens. In a psychologically secure environment, people feel safe to try and lead, they identify more with the group, and so they act more like leaders.
Leaders are built and can thrive only when they have a purpose, believe in their work, have emotional intelligence, feel that people around them are high in warmth and, spaces are safe without any judgment.