How can you rise above the context?

Michael Eales

Over the past few months I have been working with Kate – a leader within a hierarchical organisation. She was questioning how to bring her vision of the future, and the difference she wants to make through her leadership, where she is often faced with policy decisions made above her level. She felt excited about FED, but couldn’t see a way to be the leader she wants to be in the hierarchical context, and her energy for it was sapping.

Together we worked out that there could be ‘non-negotiable and negotiable elements’ within policy decisions – for example where there were clear goals and targets but no fixed plan of action, and where there might be room to co-invent and co-create a process for delivery together with the team.

Then came the ‘but’. She saw a new challenge in her own development. Firstly, having to lead ‘upwards’ and being bold in clarifying what was negotiable. Secondly, talking truthfully to her team rather than fudging the message or faking consultation. Kate saw she had to be straight with her team and help them understand the bigger picture. What helped her here was getting clear on what she really cares about, her values, and what she is leading for. Trust!

How could she have people feel trusted and trust her if she wasn’t practising straight talking with them? She knew that some people might not like that they could not influence certain decisions, indeed that they would feel like she had disengaged. So she set about engaging them around trust, of letting them know where she stood by way of what was negotiable and what was non-negotiable. The feedback she got was great. People thanked her for being straight with them, they got behind her, they felt engaged in her and most importantly they felt trusted and trusting. Far from her energy being sapped, she’s feeling re-energised and re-committed.

Leadership nudge: How can you be the leader you want to be from wherever you sit in a hierarchy? How could your leadership make a difference?

By Mike Eales

Learn more about the author of this article, Mike Eales


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