Ask any CEO or Vice President about his or her management team and you are likely to hear about some managers who can't seem to make decisions soon enough; who can't give constructive feedback; who are reluctant to develop subordinates or to make employee changes when necessary. Basically, managers who aren't really managing or are reluctant in their role as a manager.
Now, the truth is that most employees are promoted into managerial roles for doing a good job in their area of expertise, and not because of their ability to handle people and resources. Although promotions like these are great for the individual because it’s a form of reward for them, having a manager who is reluctant or uncomfortable about being in charge could lead to a lot of problems for his or her team and the organization as well.
Newly promoted managers need to learn how to think, feel and behave as managers, rather than as individual contributors or "doers." They need to stop thinking of the "people" and "business" aspects of their job as two unrelated challenges. Their job is to get the people to work towards delivering business results which requires the ability to assert themselves, show initiative and influence others.
Unfortunately, reluctant managers tend to fall short in these areas. In most cases, the reluctance is not because the manager doesn't know what needs to be done. It’s because they are simply afraid of the responsibility of supervising people or believe that they are not going to be good at it.
Especially, high achievers in technical areas may tend to be competitive and loners and may not have well developed interpersonal skills. Reluctant managers often ignore problems because it's easier to just not deal with unpleasant situations. Subconsciously they hope the problem will simply go away if they ignore it.
Rather than helping people grow professionally by providing them with the training and tools they need to improve, reluctant managers tend to ignore low achievers and may even step in to do the job themselves. When this happens, everyone loses out because it impacts the morale and capabilities of the team and also its performance.
Sometimes the role as boss can be twice as hard for managers who have a strong need to be liked by everyone. Such managers are unable to assert themselves and hence not able to generate results.
So, what can you do as the supervisor or superior of a reluctant manager? How can you help them become empowered leaders? You could sit them down and explain that it is their job to make the team perform and that they need to be able to take hard decisions and influence people. But then, in most cases, they already know what they need to do. The problem tends to be at a deeper level.
As humans, we tend to limit what is possible by what we believe is true. Our perception becomes our reality and we actually look for evidence which supports this view and ignore the rest. It takes as little as one or two unfortunate experiences and a perspective is formed – which we then generalize across all facets of our lives. For example someone who froze on stage as a child might carry the belief that they can never be good at public speaking.
Applying this to the current topic, your reluctant manager may have had some experiences that made him or her believe that they will not be a good leader or that they are not a good leader. So even if you believe that they are capable of leading the team, and they take on the role, somewhere deep down they might be coming up against a wall – basically telling themselves subconsciously that this won’t work, and might even be sabotaging their own performance to conform to their belief that they can’t be a good leader.
Another possibility could be that they believe that good leaders need to behave in a certain manner – for example be loud, pushy, demanding, and extrovert and so on. This could be based on what they have been exposed to while growing up or at work. So, they may then try to fit into that mould and behave like that, even if that is not their natural personality type. This is bound to lead to an internal tussle or incongruence and eventually convince them that they are not good enough to be a leader or that they are better off being an individual contributor.
So, what you need to really do is to understand what is making them reluctant about their managerial role. What’s standing in their way to assert themselves and get work done? What are their beliefs about their own leadership capabilities? Once you understand this about them, you can help them change their perspective by opening their minds to new possibilities and ways of looking at themselves, their role and their impact.
Another way in which you can empower them is by understanding that managers are often reluctant to make a decision for fear of making a mistake. So see how you react when things go wrong. Do you back the manager and tell them to focus on how to resolve the problem or do you spend time analyzing their role in things going wrong? Your trust in them will empower them.
And finally, you can help reluctant managers by developing their capabilities through training and coaching. A good training program can change the way individuals think. A coaching program can help them overcome their internal barriers and develop their thinking capabilities. After exploring all these possibilities, if the manager is still reluctant, accept that they may fit better in another role. It is not worth losing a good employee if you can find a more suitable way to reward a job well done.
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If you’re ambitious, I’m sure you’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about strategies that will help you achieve greater levels of success – whether it’s a more impressive job title, higher compensation, or responsibility for larger revenues, profits, or numbers of employees. The interesting thing to reflect on is whether this definition of success is yours’s or is it heavily influenced by family, friends, and colleagues.
Do you sometimes feel that despite all your efforts and accomplishments, you lack a true sense of professional satisfaction and fulfilment? Do others see you as successful but you still don’t feel you are successful enough?
For someone like me who transitioned from client-facing investment banking to a non-profit and then to set up my own personal development company, I know what I’m talking about.
Do you have fleeting thoughts that your career is not really turning out the way you’d like? Do you feel trapped sometimes by your own success? Are you afraid of losing your stature and don’t want to let anyone down, but at the same time you don’t want to keep doing what you are doing?
A possible reason for this could be that you’ve been so busy trying to reach specific milestones and impress other people that you’ve lost sight of what you really enjoy doing. It’s never too late to re-examine your career and focus on achieving success as defined by you and not by others.
The question you need to ask yourself is “Am I reaching my potential?” and not “How do I rise to the top?” or “How can I be successful in my career?”
It’s about taking a very personal look at what success means for you in your heart of hearts and then finding your path to get there. Needless to say, talking to a coach like me, who’s experienced it personally, can help you find your answers quickly. So reach out and let’s talk! Click on the Request Consultation button above.
What is credibility? Credibility is simply the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real, or honest. Personal credibility is about trust, respect, and being believable. A leader’s credibility is typically defined in terms of the degree of employee confidence, belief, and acceptance towards the leader.
While personal credibility applies to everyone in the workplace, it is especially important for leaders. Why is that? Because, if your employees do not believe in you as their leader, you just cannot be effective as a leader. Under these circumstances, employees will simply comply with rules but will not work towards the common goal and will not put in their best efforts. Their morale will be low and customer service will be poor.
Lack of leadership credibility creates employee distrust and disengagement thus impacting the reputation of the organisation and also its profitability. Studies have shown that the credibility of the leader influences employee engagement which in turn impacts the organization's productivity and performance.
While credibility has many facets, in most cases it is judged simply by comparing what you say with what you do in your day-to-day behaviour. Leaders that say one thing but do another won’t have the authenticity and credibility that’s essential to be an effective leader in today’s VUCA environment.
But being trustworthy is not the only contributor to your credibility as a leader. The other very important component of credibility is the perceived competence of the leader – i.e., people’s faith in your knowledge, skills, and ability to do your job and get the job done as a leader.
Employees form such opinions or perceptions not just through direct interaction with you but also through indirect observation of your actions and performance. And these perceptions are extremely important in this hyperconnected age, when vast amounts of information about you is easily accessible in the public domain.
So basically, your credibility as a leader is important because employees want to have the assurance that when you are managing them and assessing their performance, you are yourself competent and trustworthy.
To assess the level of your leadership credibility in your organization, you need to ask yourself these questions and honestly reflect on your answers:
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you have a leadership credibility gap that you need to work on.
While there are many factors, let’s talk about the six key behaviours that undermine your credibility as a leader.
Research shows that employees seriously question the competency of leaders who fail to take action or ignore problems. This is especially true when it comes to problems that impact the sustainability of the organization.
One of the key roles of a leader is to make sense of the operating environment and take strategic decisions about the future of the organization. When you are seen as not fully clued in to the operating environment and lack vision and clarity about the future direction of the organization, you quickly lose the respect of your employees.
Leaders who make promises without making any effort to fulfil them, really erode their credibility. For example, if you keep saying “I’ll get back to you,” but never do so, it impacts your credibility. Many leaders tend to over-promise even if it is with good intentions, but when it comes to the crunch they can’t deliver what they promise. Your employees will believe your promise and expect you to fulfil them. If you can’t offer what you promise then you will quickly lose credibility as a leader. Another behaviour that undermines your competence is giving contradictory information. The contradictions might come from different people on the leadership team or even from the same person- but it confuses employees and makes them suspicious.
When leaders create confusion among employees and other stakeholders by distributing incorrect or misleading information or they misrepresent the facts, it can really undermine their credibility. Sometimes leaders do this without even realizing and sometimes they may do it intentionally to paint a rosier picture, in the hope that it will motivate employees – either way, it results in people getting totally confused at best — and suspicious at worst.
Research shows that self-serving behaviours can undermine employees’ trust in their leaders. These include bending the rules to privilege yourself or your close associates, making decisions based on your self-interest rather than what’s best for the organization, urging employees to make sacrifices while wasting the organization’s resources on perks for yourself, and taking credit for the achievements of others. Even if you don’t act unethically yourself, you can suffer a serious loss of trust if you permit colleagues to act unethically. You must uphold high ethical values to protect your organization and your people, or your followers and key stakeholders will lose faith in you.
Leaders who treat their employees as expendable or tend to openly ignore the opinions of employees and key stakeholders are perceived as untrustworthy and hence not credible. Leaders can damage their credibility when they ask for information and reports that don’t seem worthwhile or that they don’t review and act on. Such requests can cause confusion as to what the organization’s priorities are, and the employees may feel resentful about what they see as a waste of their time.
So, these are some specific behaviours that erode your credibility as a leader. What is interesting is that even though leaders lose credibility when they display incompetence or untrustworthiness, employees are much more tolerant and forgiving of an incompetent leader than they are of an untrustworthy leader. They believe that incompetent leaders can at least try to become more competent, whereas untrustworthy leaders can’t easily become more trustworthy.
What positive actions can you take to strengthen your credibility over time?
Credibility isn’t something that you just gain as you step into a leadership role. There is a process to gaining trust and dedication from your employees, which then leads to credibility.
Here are five specific things that you can do to build your credibility over time:
This is very different from simply stating a strategic vision or setting performance targets and then just going about business as usual. It involves mapping out, in detail, how the organization will achieve its goals in the medium to long term.
Having a sophisticated knowledge of industry trends and clear ideas about how the organization should respond to them can really build your credibility as a leader. You can also actively predict and prepare for upcoming changes. For example, by making strategic investments in new technologies or markets. These will really enhance your perceived competence.
When you work consistently to improve organizational structures and processes and maintain financially sound operations, your credibility as a leader soars. Eliminating unnecessary reporting structures and careless spending, establishing new strategic roles, or investing in technology that improves operational efficiency or business effectiveness are some actions you can take to build your credibility as an action-oriented and competent leader. Don’t shy away from taking tough decisions.
Leaders are perceived as trustworthy and credible when they communicate and behave in a consistent manner. To begin with, this means making decisions that aren’t contradictory. But it also means behaving in a way that aligns with the promises (both explicit and unspoken) that the company makes to employees and other stakeholders. By pre-emptively looking out for stakeholders’ needs, you can prevent stakeholder conflicts and organizational crises, as well as gain the trust of your employees and other key stakeholders.
Be clear about your values and the organization’s values so that employees and other stakeholders can see why you do what you do. The culture of the organization flows from the top. If you want your employees to trust you, you need to start by showing that you trust them. If you want your employees to be open to change, be change-ready yourself. Basically, know that your employees are observing you minutely all the time and if you want them to behave in a certain way, they need to see you doing the same. Demonstrate your values in how you talk and act to establish credibility and authenticity as a leader.
So, there you have it. Why credibility is important for leaders – because your success as a leader and the success of your organisation depends on it. Credibility stems from your perceived competence and your trustworthiness.
Credibility takes time to build, but it can be torn down in seconds. You don’t need a big scandal or mess up to destroy your credibility – it’s often the little things that you do over time that can add up to destroy your credibility. So, keep your promises, do what you say you will, give credit where it is due, acknowledge mistakes, don’t talk about others behind their back, don’t withhold information, don’t belittle others, be consistent and be accountable.
As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. The diversity, intensity, and rapidity of these changes create volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, which challenge you on ways to lead effectively as what methods worked in the past seem inadequate to deal with this environment. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges.
Each letter of the acronym VUCA represents a type of change that we need to identify to cope fully with the environmental unpredictability.
Our world is volatile — things change, change quickly, and for reasons beyond our control and cause instability.
It is uncertain — we lack full and confirmed information and hence gaining conviction about future outcomes becomes ever more challenging.
It is complex — we can never know the interaction of the multiple variables we must consider, let alone how to integrate them effectively.
It is ambiguous — the same data can yield multiple and often competing interpretations and lacks precedence making it difficult to move ahead.
Globalization and technology have and continue to fuel the VUCA dynamics through increased innovation, interconnectivity, and digital revolutions, which, in turn, give rise to new and nimble competitors, who operate globally to transform customer expectations radically and thus produce organizational turmoil. The current turbulence has baffled leaders due to its novelty and because the proven approaches of the past have been inadequate in the VUCA-world.
The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business.
It’s natural for leaders to react differently to this environment. Some have become so distracted by the volatility and constant change that they have stopped planning and are just trying to react to events.
Others have become so intimidated by the uncertainty and ambiguity that they don’t act for the fear of making a mistake. Still, others try to do everything they possibly can in this complex environment and don’t end up focusing their efforts in any one direction.
Only a few leaders have been able to fight through all the complexity and uncertainty and chart a way forward for their organizations. They have managed to impose their will on such complex environments and succeeded where others haven’t been able to do so.
In fact, a study by DDI in 2015 had shown that only 18% of leaders were capable of leading in a VUCA world! I haven’t come across any update on this study in recent times but I believe that the percentage may have moved only marginally. If you ask me why I don’t think leadership development in the last few years has really focused on developing the specific competencies to deal with this VUCA world.
So, what are the leadership traits or competencies that would prepare them to be successful in a VUCA world? What would help them to thrive where others flounder?
Based on my inter-disciplinary work in leadership development, social and cognitive psychology, coaching, and my own experience as a leader and a coach, I have come up with a model for leadership development that can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner. I call it the CARES Model of Leadership.
CARES is an acronym for
C – Credible
A – Adaptive
R – Resolute
E – Emotionally Intelligent
S – Sense-making
Let’s look at each of these aspects as to why it is important for a leader in the VUCA world.
Why does a leader need to be credible to be effective in the VUCA world, or actually under any circumstance? As a leader, credibility lets your employees see you as a dependable source of reliable information and for fair, effective decision-making. This information could be on a day-to-day basis or on those occasions when it's most critical. If you have credibility with your team, you will earn their mutual trust and respect. This would enable you to align them with the goals of the organization. Without credibility, there cannot be a culture of trust and shared goals. So the creditability of the leader is of prime importance, especially in a VUCA world where you need the team to trust you to lead them in the direction that you want them to go.
To welcome change is to be adaptive. Adaptive describes people who are flexible — they don't lose their cool when plans change quickly and they are always willing to learn new ways to do things. Being adaptive helps you cope with the volatility and uncertainty and sail along in today's ever-changing world. Clearly being adaptive, flexible, agile, and adaptable is paramount in a VUCA world.
Developing and articulating a clear view of the future in today’s increasingly complex environments demands that leaders make judgments about the future — something that entails risk and could be wrong, and there could be significant consequences. Successful leaders are those who can overcome those doubts and act to prepare the organization for success in the future.
I am calling this trait Resolute because it refers to someone who is purposeful, determined, and unwavering. A resolute person has the courage to act with conviction in the face of uncertainty and risk. Be able to manage their emotions and be decisive even with limited information.
As we discussed earlier, dealing with uncertainty, volatility and ambiguity can be emotionally challenging for any leader. Unless you are able to manage your emotions on this roller-coaster, you might end up burning out really fast. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their own emotions and intuitively aware of the emotions of others. This self-awareness also helps them to manage their emotions when dealing with stressful situations. Their social intelligence enables them to lead with empathy and factor in emotions when presenting information, or otherwise engaging with their people. Leaders set the tone of their organization. If you lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.
The primary function of any leader is to point the way ahead. This requires vision — the ability to see something significant about the future that isn’t readily apparent to others. Today’s VUCA environments are tough on leaders. The more volatile and the more ambiguous the environment, the harder it is for leaders themselves to come to grips with the situation, let alone articulate a clear way ahead.
Sense-making is the action or process of making sense of or giving meaning to something, especially new developments and experiences. Sense-making is how we make sense of the world so we can act in it. A person with highly developed sense-making can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. They have the ability to be able to know enough, even from limited information, to be able to make a measured and appropriate decision. The ability to spot existing or emerging patterns is one of the most if not the most critical skill in decision-making. Hence, it is self-evident that sense-making is a key competency for leaders to succeed in a VUCA world.
As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges. The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business. The CARES model for leadership development can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner.
- Sonali Sinha
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