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Staying Alive In Complex Challenges Of Leadership And Organizations

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  1. It is inevitable that these unrealistic expectations will lead to disappointment. We will never have full and lasting control over systems we are in charge of. We will never make everyone fully happy. Our ducks will never be in a row. Even if they did, it will be for a brief second. That is how life, and organizational life is. And others have other expectations and desires, and sometimes these are in conflict. So the leaders, and all of us, tend to project our inevitable disappointment on to others, creating an environment conducive to accusation, blaming, putting people in boxes, and even polarization. In the subtlest form this can lead to learned pessimism, and in worst, ill will against others. Yet as the conditions dictate mostly the results, this is another form of giving away power. The anger coming from the disappointment over unrealistic expectations is like becoming angry at the weather conditions. So, the disappointment, anger and polarization over unexpected results, is the second hindrance of leadership.
  2. The third hindrance is born out of the weariness and the resignation of actually having a remote sense of knowing that it is impossible to guarantee that things will go your way, as your expectations are unrealistic. This pushes the leader to a certain type of leadership laziness, a certain type of sloth and torpor that manifests as not taking necessary yet risky decisions and leadership actions. The uncertainty of desired consequences moves us away from risky yet crucial leadership stances and actions and investing in building a power base. Instead, we stay in the area we feel more comfortable and secure, and mostly technical, and try to achieve business results we couldn’t get through leadership by instilling a control culture. Most of the time we will be working extra long hours, maybe classified as workaholic, yet we are mostly avoiding the most important and necessary yet risky and uncertain leadership tasks.
  3. Fourth hindrance is a direct result of not being able to see this process and how it manifests. As we don’t see, we develop a sense of regret and self-accusation for past expectations that did not materialize, and a chronic stress and anxiety for our future expectations. As a result, we live our life as leaders in a defense mode.
  4. The fifth and the last hindrance is maybe the most difficult to work with, yet overcoming this one usually helps with others too: As a result of all of the above, the loss of belief and trust in either my leadership capabilities, or in the totality of the leadership possibility. To develop a sense of mistrust of all leadership concepts, theories or even opportunities. And also to look at all others who step up to leadership challenges and opportunities with the same eyes of mistrust.

My experience is such that one or more of these are generally present no matter what the presenting problem of the client is, and building awareness around these is critical to create lasting change and improvement for the client.

These hindrances are not only found in leaders and leadership situations; they are present for everyone. I can even postulate that these are behind all the unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the world at a meta level. The VUCA environment of leadership makes them very alive and makes leaders prone to fall into one or more of these traps. Roots of the many familiar everyday leadership problems, failures and errors we see in a large or small scale and we as coaches are employed to remedy can be understood this way.

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