Top Considerations If You’re Navigating a Power Play
You’ve just received feedback that you are not perceived as a dynamic leader. But you’re happy with your level of performance.
Gaining clarity about other executive’s leadership styles may be the best path forward.
What is really going on?
You might ﬁnd yourself frustrated if:
• The reporting structure is supposed to change. You are praised for your performance, but your boss is telling you to report to someone else. There seems to be a disconnect.
• You are getting results but facing signiﬁcant headwinds. You might have just gotten promoted, but other department heads are clawing for your budget or some other responsibilities.
• It seems people need to pick sides. Your team members root for you, but resist changing to or working with other teams in the organization.
• There is inﬁghting on teams. You are experiencing a lack of alignment, not so much regarding business matters, but regarding leadership. There seem to be cultural Grand Canyons. People seem to value different things.
Important Leadership Development Considerations
If you discover that others disagree with your leadership style, keep the following suggestions in mind before you go ahead with business as usual:
• Gain Clarity
It is important to take a step back and really get clear on the situation and the dynamics. Who is doing what? And why? Instead of asking what is best for A, or what is best for B and taking sides in the process, consider what is best for the company. What will create a high performing and attractive company? Consider what you would do if you were your boss.
Next, think about what is best for you personally, for your career. Is what is best for the company also what’s best for you? If not, you know it is time to change direction.
What do you really want? Where do you see yourself five to 10 years from today? What is most important to you? How much does that vision align with the challenge before you right now?
One of the problems you might be facing is a differing philosophy about how a company should be run. Some people are focused on performance management. Only results count. This leadership style leads to good outcomes that might be short-lived. A culture of hiring and ﬁring is the outcome. The fallout is unhappy employees and much disgruntlement. Others believe in relationship building being the key to success. Most employees are taken care of and if there is not a good ﬁt, people are moved to different positions. However, this leadership style leads to mediocracy.
What are you facing in your organization? Are you clear yet?
• Be strategic
You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by being stubborn or quitting. Weigh the options and consider worst and best case scenarios. What is the greatest risk? And what is the greatest opportunity? The answer is always in the extremes, never in the status quo. It helps to write this all out or discuss this with an independent party, like a coach or a mentor. The person should have your best interest in mind and be independent from the parties involved. Talking it through out loud will further clarify and give you insight into how to best proceed. Also, consider who you would need a dialogue with to move forward.
• Let the affected parties know
Once you have clarity and know who you need to speak with, proactively seek out those conversations. Even if it feels conﬂictual and you really don’t like conﬂict (who does?), don’t shy away now. Don’t wait for others to approach you, but initiate the conversations yourself. Your newly found clarity might help others to ﬁnd some as well. In the conversation you will ﬁnd answers that you hadn’t even considered before. Go into the dialogue with an open mind and curiosity. State: “I have made the following observation … This is what it looks like to me. What do you think? Am I missing something?“ Let the conversation ﬂow from there …
• Expect to encounter disbelief and objections
If you haven’t had conversations like this and haven’t trained that muscle yet, be aware there is a good possibility others might feel threatened. The way to avoid this is by making people feel safe before you get into it. Nothing good can happen if your conversation partner (or your team members) don’t feel safe. How can you make them feel safe? Simply by stating that you don’t have the answer. You are just making an observation and want to verify if the other is feeling the same way. If that is the case you can ﬁnd a solution together.
• Check in periodically
Once you have co-created a solution it’s time to take action. However, this cannot be a one-time deal. You have to hold each other accountable to what you have agreed to. Schedule periodic check-ins that are solely focused on de-brieﬁng and analyzing the dynamics.
• Notify others as needed
Often people agree on a path to success, but forget to inform others of the changed direction. How are they supposed to know that you and your counterpart have agreed to pivot? They can’t read your mind. Consider carefully who needs to be notiﬁed and inform them, multiple times as needed.
• Be courteous if you don’t get your way
You might have an idea on how to resolve the issues and bridge the divides. But you might not get your way. Your boss has to weigh multiple options and might be aware of other challenges affecting the decision. Do your best and be kind if things go the other way. All that tells you is that now that you know, you can make your own decision accordingly. You can decide with conﬁdence, knowing that you have explored every option and tried your best. You don’t want to keep pushing, but go where your talents are going to the best use.
The equation is not high performance or relationship leadership. Instead, the focus has to be on high performance and good relationships. One needs the other to succeed.