Leadership Makes it Harder to Get to Reality

When you step into a formal leadership role, you face a built-in obstacle: you have to work harder to stay in reality. Why? Because now there’s a power differential. Honesty and candor comes with risk; it can be dangerous. You get less feedback and it’s filtered.

Apple podcast buttonSpotify buttonGoogle podcast buttonAmazon Music button

Episode Show Notes

This is a LeaderFactor Single Point Lesson. These 10-minute episodes are packed with practical learning on a single topic. These episodes will be published in addition to our regular full-length episodes every Monday.

Today's lesson:
Leadership makes it harder to get to reality.

Key Points:
When you step into a formal leadership role, you face a built-in obstacle: you have to work harder to stay in reality. Why? Because now there’s a power differential. Honesty and candor comes with risk; it can be dangerous. You get less feedback and it’s filtered. In addition, leaders often develop a tendency to focus inwardly. Welcome to the reality distortion field. What's the solution? An open door policy will never work. That’s passive. The solution is to go get reality by soliciting feedback, being accessible, and rewarding the feedback when it comes.

Today's key action:
Go solicit feedback from those who have local knowledge regarding an issue you’re currently working on. 

Episode Transcript

[music]

0:00:02.5 Producer: Welcome back, Culture By Design listeners, it's Freddy and welcome to a new podcast format from Tim and Junior, LeaderFactor Single Point Lessons, 10 minutes of practical learning on a single topic. These episodes will be published in addition to our regular full-length episodes every Monday. Listen to these extra segments and let us know what you think by leaving a review or reaching out on LinkedIn. Let's dive in.

0:00:27.8 Junior: Welcome back, everyone to Culture By Design. My name is Junior, I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark for a Single Point lesson, the most valuable 10 minutes you'll spend in professional development all week. Tim, what's the lesson today? 

0:00:38.3 Tim: The lesson today junior is this, leadership makes it harder to get to reality. Let's talk about that.

0:00:44.8 Junior: There's a quote from The Little Prince, "The vain man never hears anything but praise." That's a fascinating quote. So let's unpack it. What is vanity, the vain man? Vanity is excessive pride or admiration, excessive admiration of one's own appearance or achievements. So the man or woman who has excessive pride or admiration of their own appearance or achievements never hears anything but praise. That's pretty interesting. What do you think about that? 

0:01:11.4 Tim: Well, what are you doing? You're filtering out a whole bunch of data that you need in order to get to the truth, in order to understand reality, in order to make decisions, in order to exercise judgment. So think about how difficult that makes it if you're a leader and you need to lead.

0:01:26.5 Junior: It makes it very difficult. So there is an inherent paradox in the role of a leader, and that's much of what we're going to discuss for the next few minutes. The leader is responsible for reality testing, but their position makes it difficult to get reality. That's the paradox, right? 

0:01:41.5 Tim: That is the paradox. Those things go against each other.

0:01:45.5 Junior: Our responsibility is to understand reality as clearly as possible and help the team or our organization respond to it. It sounds pretty straightforward, reality is reality, right? Well, it's not that simple. If you're in a formal leadership role or a managerial role of any sort, you face some built-in obstacles for doing this based on the fact that you're in a leadership role. So your role gets in the way of performing your role. How about that? 

0:02:14.1 Tim: You need to say that again, Junior. Your role gets in the way of performing your role. Why? Because you hold positional power, by virtue of your position, that gets in the way of actually doing your job. It's ironic but it's true.

0:02:33.5 Junior: Here's an example. Have you ever been in a meeting where the leader starts talking about a current issue that the team's working on, but is way, way out there and is completely disconnected from what's actually happening? I imagine that each of us has had this experience and you're like, "Where have you been? What information are you getting?" And this can happen to each of us at different levels. I've been a part of conversations like that myself where I think people start giving me that look like, "What are you talking about?" And I'm like, "Oh, evidently I'm missing something here. I'm missing a piece of reality that may be difficult to get because of my role."

0:03:13.5 Tim: That's right. And so what happens, Junior, is that you finally realize, "Oh, I've been buffered from reality by my people. How did that happen?" Well, it happened happen gradually and then suddenly, to use a phrase, so we'll talk about how that works.

0:03:33.1 Junior: So there are a couple of sets of obstacles. One set is internal, one set is external that block us from reality. So when you step into a formal leadership role, here's the built-in obstacle, you have to work harder, harder than you did before to stay in reality. Why? Because now there's a power differential, as you mentioned. Honesty and candour comes with risk. We need honesty and candour from other people because what is honesty and candour? It's probably reality, and that can be dangerous for people, so what do they do? They start filtering, they start holding back, they get more quiet, and then you develop a tendency to focus inwardly. So if you're not getting the feedback from those around you, you have a tendency to go say, "Well, I guess I'm gonna have to find the answers" or maybe, "Hey, I already have the answers. There's a reason that no one's giving me feedback, I'm supposed to have all of the answers." So welcome to the reality distortion field that we're talking about.

[chuckle]

0:04:29.6 Junior: The adage goes "Big lies work in lonely minds." That's a powerful quote.

0:04:33.4 Tim: Right, and a corollary principle to this, Junior, a way to summarize this is that reality, for those around you, if you are in a managerial position, if you hold positional power, reality is expensive for them sometimes. They're worried about the negative adverse consequences of bringing reality to you, so you've gotta think about that, reality can often be expensive for them. That's what's getting in the way.

0:05:00.0 Junior: Well, you think about how expensive is it to share that type of honesty and candour down the hierarchy. Well, not necessarily that expensive. Peer-to-peer, often not expensive at all. If I'm going to share reality with someone above me, let's say, that at that first level, it's a dollar. It's not monetary, but let's just call it, it's one point of risk. If you move up the hierarchy to the next level, what happens to how expensive it is? 

0:05:26.9 Tim: I think there's a multiplier effect.

0:05:29.0 Junior: Me too. And so if you're the CEO of an organization and you wanna get some local knowledge from someone at the front lines, you have to understand that is terribly, terribly expensive for that person. The risk...

0:05:40.1 Tim: It's not a dollar.

0:05:42.1 Junior: No, it's not a dollar. It's not one point. It's probably 10 or it might be 100 if it's exponential like you're saying.

0:05:46.2 Tim: That's right.

0:05:47.2 Junior: And so you have to work even harder than that layer below to get the reality, to put that person at ease, to create the type of safety that's necessary to receive that candour and honest feedback. And that's something that I think we neglect. I think it's something that we dismiss or maybe we're ignorant to, the fact that we must work harder and harder as we move up an organization to get that reality that's so elusive as we move up.

0:06:15.2 Tim: Yeah. Well, Junior it goes back to the change in the feedback that you receive, you're gonna get less feedback and that which you do get is going to be filtered and will be of lower quality. And so the burden, the onus is on you to go get that. You can't make the operating assumption that people are going to bring you reality on a platter, it doesn't work that way because you can see that it's expensive for them to bring you reality often. Even just the perception. That's what we have to deal with.

0:06:45.1 Junior: So that's the requirement for each of us is to go get reality. As Tim said, an open door policy will never work. You can't just have a standing invitation and say, "Hey, any time you wanna tell me something, just come in." That's passive and it's not going to work and we've seen that a thousand times. You need to solicit the feedback. And the ability to get that feedback through solicitation is going to come through two ways because again, it's not enough even to go and ask for it. So passive, being passive will never work. Solicitation in isolation won't work. It's solicitation with the combination of two things, relatability and accessibility. Those two things have to be high in order for people to give you the type of honesty and candour that you're looking for. So Tim, how do you get relatable? How do you become more relatable to people? 

0:07:35.3 Tim: Well, I think what it comes down to, Junior, in both cases, relatability and accessibility, is that you're inviting people to be vulnerable with you. If you want them to give you reality that is vulnerable behaviour for them. And so what that means is that you need to reward that behaviour. So you're relatable and accessible to help persuade them to take that chance to give you reality instead of buffering you from reality. When they do it, when they take that chance, you've gotta be ready, willing and able to reward that behaviour.

0:08:16.5 Junior: One thing I'll call out here is that the modeling behaviour and the modeling of the vulnerability is something that's especially important when you're trying to get that type of feedback. So if it's expensive for the person to share something that's vulnerable to them, how do you make that easier? You go and share something that's vulnerable for you with them.

0:08:35.3 Tim: That's right.

0:08:36.2 Junior: And often that comes down to the informal and the personal. And so it may not be something you need to share in confidence about the business, I'm talking about something personal that's a little bit vulnerable for you. If you can do that, your relatability will go way up and the propensity for someone to share something important with you that's vulnerable for them goes up. So get to know your people, be willing to share who you are. As you close that professional distance, this job gets easier. Tim, as we wrap up, any final thoughts? 

0:09:03.7 Tim: Just to restate the situation that we're in, when we have positional power, it's harder to get reality, people are going to be inclined, they're gonna be incentivized to buffer us from reality, and so we've gotta go get that. It's going to be expensive for them to give it to us unless we can persuade them through our modeling and rewarding behaviour that it's okay and you're actually going to be rewarded for it.

0:09:30.7 Junior: That's our call to action. Go solicit feedback from those who have local knowledge regarding an issue you're currently working on. That's it. Thank you everyone for your time and attention during today's Single Point lesson, we hope that this was 10 minutes well spent. See you next time.

[music]

Show Notes

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Recent Episodes

The Dangers of Contingent Self-Esteem

Published
April 15, 2024

Leadership is an Invitation

Published
April 8, 2024

Do Little Things For a Long Time

Published
April 1, 2024