Leadership that kills… or almost.

Unconsciously negligent leadership.

Some time ago a pilot good friend of mine shared with me his frustration about the relationship he had with one of the captains. They almost no talk each other outside the cabin and during duties he was bitter and authoritarian. All this resulted in a risk situation when a warning light for the hydraulic system lit up  before taking off towards a sea route, it must be said that this system is one of the most critical to fail in flight. When my friend noticed him the warning and he pointed out they would be better review the system before taking off he refused arguing that light lit before and nothing happened before . My friend, whose personality profile is quite analytical and his has deep technical knowledge , he noted that a this warning could end in  a dangerous situation and operations manual indicated it must reviewed so he offered himself to check it in in the external panel because  if the problem arose on the sea there would be no time to return safely. Surprisingly, his answer was aggressive and authoritarian and they took off. The flight ended without incidence but after returning to their base my friend filled the rapport, this angered his commander and the relationship worsened. My friend told me their aircraft was so advanced and complex that even experienced pilots felt overwhelmed, they did not feel confortable flying it and it demanded a lot of attention. All that meant being a good pilot was no longer a matter of mastering the controls but dealing new technologies, this is a really intimidating change for  any professional so I wondered:

  • Could it be that the captain was defensive because he had a more skilled person under his responsibility?
  • Was he afraid that tecnology and a little help my friend put him out of the seat?
  • Could it be that a reliable leader would be affected by her beliefs and emotions so badly he/she would put other’s lives and his/her own at risk?

So I asked him what was his opinion about his captain as a pilot, hi answer was enlightening: He thought he was an excellent pilot who loved flying but he was not fond in processes, paperwork and complex operations, he had no curiosity to discover the full potential of such aircraft.

In professional settings recognising  our vulnerability requires courage.

The aware leadership

This story is a good example how our emotions may create reactive beahaviour that lead into situations that put somone’s lives in danger or may cause economic or  material losses. I recognize that throughout my career I have seen myself making decisions that put at risk results and/or effectiveness. I also witnessed CEO’s and managers taking decisions that destroyed businesses or theirs customers and collaborators trust. How they were not able to lead and manage challenges assertively taking care of what really mattered. How fear or pretending they were in control destroyed years of hard work and investments. Can we say we all develop reactive behaviours?  I do not want to be categorial but Yes. As Nigel Barlow mentioned in his speech about innovation during the last  EAE’s ’Alumni meeting at Barcelona last November the  6th, we all show positive or negative attitudes towards innovation depending of every moment and setting. The studies conducted by Bob Anderson, The Leadership Circle founder, show between 60 and 70% of executives around the world have a reactive leadership style. Then how can be aware if we are behaving reactively? I offer an easy pattern:

  • Observe if you are under the influence of a basic emotion: Anger, fear, happiness, sadness?
  • Ask yourself if there is a belief firing such emotion. Am I feeling threatened, rejected, no appreciated? If people do not obey me I am not respected? Am I hiding my vulnerability?
  • Be sincere ansewring questions like: Am I thinking about what really matters? Is this the best action I can do using all my knowledge and skills? What is the impact I want to make?

Any answer showing your are under the effect of a  limiting belief or it is feeding your ego, fears, etc. or anything that halts you to deliver your best, foster organization’s effectiveness and productivity is a red light telling us we are approaching a dangerous zone.   It is not a matter of putting emotions aside in our professional life,  in the end emotions are cornerstones of our relationship management as human beings,  we just need to be aware if those emotions increase or halt our effectiveness. It is just using our free will as human beings to decide who we want to be, how we want to be and giving ourselves permission to show our best version anytime, and also showing we are vulnerable.  In professional settings recognising  our vulnerability requires courage but  the outcomes may be surprisingly positive. And this is the first step towards the creative leadership that fosters effectiveness, towards the aware leadership .

To embrace this aware leadership a deep and close self-discovering journey is needed, and above all self-acceptance.  Next step is fostering our strengths and allow our beliefs play to our favor, because even fears can be transformed into a motivation source if we learn how to deal with them.

About the author: Romà Andreu, founder partner of Tsetse, Co-active Coach CPCC and TLC® practitioner to foster creative leadership. He is connected with the aviation industry since he was 20 years and he got his commercial pilot license. @romaandreu


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