Why Some Leaders Are Afraid of Psychological Safety

Published:

December 5, 2022

Length:

46:48

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Show Notes

During this week’s episode of Culture by Design, Tim and Junior dissect the two kinds of leaders who shy away from psychological safety: those who feed on title and status, and those who try to hide their incompetence. They encourage healthy introspection as a tool to avoid becoming one of those leaders yourself. Are you a business leader looking to introduce psychological safety into your organization? Crack yourself open with this enlightening episode.


What is psychological safety? What’s the dilemma? (1:15) Despite the transformative benefits of psychological safety, it puts insecure, mediocre, and poor leaders to the test. It becomes a leveling device that redistributes influence. For leaders who feed on title and status, it threatens their positional power. For those lacking in competence, it threatens their exposure.


Leaders who feed on title and status (9:50). Tim and Junior reference Ralph Linton and differentiate between ascribed and achieved status in the workplace. 


Do you encourage constructive dissent? (22:30) Tim and Junior talk about dissent and how healthy leaders welcome it, while unhealthy ones avoid it. 


Leaders who try to hide their incompetence (28:30). Incompetent leaders try to blend into the hierarchy they belong to. While hierarchies aren’t inherently bad, they’re also not all created equal. Tim and Junior talk about the advantages and liabilities of power hierarchies.


Who gets to participate, and who gets to decide? (37:30) Decision-making rights? Not everyone has them, and that’s on purpose. But participation rights? Everyone should have them. Why?


Imposter syndrome and psychological safety (41:00). Tim and Junior discuss when you should let self-awareness ignite change, and when you should realize that you’re not going to be perfect all the time. 


Related Links:

Why Some Leaders Are Afraid of Psychological Safety Article

How Psychological Safety Cures Imposter Syndrome

The Complete Guide to Psychological Safety

Episode Transcript

0:00:02.4 Producer: Welcome back Culture by Design listeners, it's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast and today we have an episode on why some leaders are afraid of psychological safety. This episode will cover a lot of ground because despite the benefits of psychological safety, leaders who feed on title and status will find their positional power threatened and incompetent leaders will find they face exposure. As always you can find links to this episode's show notes at leaderfactor.com/podcast that includes a link to the original article of which this podcast is based. If you have not yet read the book The Four Stages of Psychological Safety, we highly recommend you take a look. Thanks again for listening and thanks for your reviews. Enjoy today's episode on why some leaders are afraid of psychological safety.

0:00:59.0 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark. Tim, welcome back.

0:01:02.8 Tim: Thanks Junior, good to be here.

0:01:04.8 Junior: And today we'll be discussing why some leaders are afraid of psychological safety. If you've heard our definition of psychological safety, you might ask yourself how could anyone be afraid of that? We're talking about attracting, retaining and developing our talent. We're talking about inclusion. We're talking about innovation. Do we not want all those things? Ironically, or perhaps not because humans are humans, no, not everyone seems to want those things or at least they're not willing to pay the price to get them. As we have seen and as we will talk about today, the price can be steep, especially when your ego is on the bill. Some leaders see it as threatening and we are going to talk about why. So Tim, set it up for us. How did we get here? What has happened over the last few years, the last decade or so that has led us to this conversation?

0:02:02.9 Tim: Well, let's go back to the definition of psychological safety, which we define it this way, a culture of rewarded vulnerability. As you said, Junior, you would look at that definition and you would think, well, that's something that we all want and that's something that every leader should be naturally disposed to want to cultivate and have and model and reinforce. But some things get in the way. What gets in the way? Personal obstacles get in the way. As we look across the entire waterfront of leaders, we see at least two camps of leaders that don't really like psychological safety. Now let's go back and talk a little bit more about what psychological safety is and what it does. We said it's a culture of rewarded vulnerability. It's a leveling device. It's an equalizer in terms of participation rights in the organization. So there's some potential to democratize and redistribute participation rights and influence in the organization. Now on the face of it, you might look at that and say, well, that's fantastic because we want everyone to contribute. We want this to be a collaborative organization, a cooperative enterprise. Everybody gets to play a part and that sounds great.

0:03:35.3 Tim: But then when we get into it, it becomes threatening. Sometimes it becomes threatening to leaders. So then they get in the way and they end up trying to block what we really need in the culture of the organization. So there's the paradox. There's the irony. The leader ends up getting in the way and creating obstacles for the organization that they're trying to lead. This is very interesting. In many ways, leaders have to get over themselves in order to do their jobs. The two groups of leaders, two camps of leaders that tend to get in the way would be leaders who feed on title and status and then leaders who are incompetent. So we've at least identified those two populations of leaders that they have a hard time with psychological safety. They really do.

0:04:29.6 Junior: So that's really the short answer to our question today is why are some leaders afraid of psychological safety? Because one of two or both things are true. You feed on title and status or you're incompetent. And so we're going to break those open, excavate them a little bit and talk in some detail about both of those groups.

0:04:52.6 Tim: Can I give an example before we jump into those camps? So just think about this as an example. Think about a leader or a boss or a manager that you've had in the course of your professional life and think about how important it was to you that that leader listened to you. Just think about that for a second. Think about how important listening was. If you keep thinking about that, you will eventually come to the conclusion that to listen is to lead and to lead is to listen. And that attribute, that quality, that skill of being able to listen well, listen actively, listen empathetically is such an important part of leadership and creating the culture that you would need to thrive in. Let me give an example. So one biographer of the novelist EM Forrester, this is what the biographer said. He said to speak to him, meaning the novelist EM Forrester, to speak to him was to be seduced by an inverse charisma, a sense of being listened to with such intensity that you had to be your most honest, sharpest and best self. Now think about that. We're just talking about listening, but listening reflects the attitude of that leader, the openness of that leader, the compassion, the empathy, the collaborative nature of that leader to create that inverse charisma, that sense of being listened to with such intensity that you want to be your best self.

0:06:44.7 Tim: Well, that's what a leader would do to create psychological safety. So that's just one example of what that does for a person to draw them out, to engage them, to motivate them, to contribute, to release their discretionary efforts. To me, I've always loved that statement, Junior, because it conveys such concern about the individual that you really care as a leader. This is what psychological safety is all about. So these two camps that we're going to talk about here in a minute, these are about categories of leaders who are preoccupied with themselves. They are getting in the way. They are the obstacle. We're going to talk about them.

0:07:31.7 Junior: I want to talk about the inverse to what you said for a moment. So if a good leader shows up and listens and listens intently, then the poor leader does what? It fills the space. Yeah. They can't stop talking. Yeah. It's striking to me, your comment. I love that quote. It makes me think about the transfer of critical thinking that's happened. One of the words that you mentioned was sharpness. That was very interesting to me. What is it about the other person on the other side being quiet that requires you to be sharp? It's that not every word you say is met with a response. Not every sentence you finish is met with another opinion. That requires sharpness. It requires critical thinking. I haven't thought about that a lot, but it popped into my head as you were talking that that may be one of the most effective levers we can use to elicit good critical thinking from the people that we work with. That's fascinating.

0:08:33.8 Tim: Think about how desperately you need that as a leader and think about how desperately the individual needs that as a person. To get in the way of that, to violate the cultural conditions that would nurture those things, that's a pretty big infraction of leadership when it comes right down to it. These two categories that we're going to talk about, Junior, these are not minor misdemeanors in being able to practice leadership. These are actually, they have far reaching consequences. They can actually be profoundly important. They'll determine the success of your people and your team and your organization. That's what's on the line. That's what's riding on this here. It's not a problem that's omission necessarily. It's commission. It can be actively negative the way that you show up depending on these two camps. Let's jump into the first one, leaders who feed on title and status. There are a couple of distinctions that we want to make out the gate in this category. Tim wrote a recent article by the same titles as this episode and you mentioned Ralph Linton and the difference between ascribed status and achieved status. And I thought it was interesting that this is the way you decided to lay it out and I think it's really good basis to talk about this piece.

0:10:03.4 Junior: Tell us about the difference between those two things.

0:10:06.1 Tim: Right. So this is a distinction that Linton made. He was a cultural anthropologist about, oh golly, he's about a hundred years ago. Achieved status means that your status is based on what you have accomplished. It's based on your efforts and your results. It's an appropriate title. So achieved status. It's status again that comes as a result of what you have achieved or accomplished. Ascribed status is a status that is given to you. You could be born with it or you could be given it by the society or the organization. So there's one application of ascribed status where it really, really helps us understand. In organizations, we often find leaders that have ascribed status. And what that means is that they have been given title and position and authority, but they didn't earn it through their own accomplishments. And so they're insecure about that. Those artifacts become so important to them that they want to hide behind those. They're very insecure. There's a real sense of imposter syndrome. And the only way to get rid of that sense of impostiture is to get better, is to get competent. So if you have a leader that's incompetent or even mediocre and the leader is not striving to get better, to come to mastery, to develop the skills and abilities that they need to do the job, they will feel progressively even more insecure because they're not getting better with the passage of time.

0:11:54.6 Tim: What's the expectation? The expectation is that you're going to become better. You're going to become a more effective leader. So if you don't do that, then you will become more insecure and you will try to hide even more behind your title and position and authority and the artifacts the organization has given you. What else are you going to do? You're not becoming more competent. So that distinction between achieved status and ascribed status helps us understand the way that some leaders act who are not happy about psychological safety due to their incompetence. So we see that. That's a category.

0:12:35.4 Junior: I'm glad that you called out the fact that the longer they're in that scenario, the more viciously they fight to keep that title and status because the pace of change is so fast, especially today, that if you are not keeping pace, if you're just standing still, you're going to get left behind, which makes you more and more vulnerable. It's easier and easier to be found out, as it were. And that is a motivator for those who feed on title and status to retain that so that they're not found out. And so that element of time and the pace of change, I think, is really interesting.

0:13:15.8 Tim: Let me point out one other thing, Junior, to your point. It's not just that the leader is incompetent and we're all suffering from the effects of that. The consequences actually are more far reaching than that. And the dangers are more far reaching than that because the less competent the leader is, the more that leader is tempted to exercise control through fear and intimidation and shame and manipulation. That temptation increases to mistreat people. The longer this goes and the more insecure the leader becomes, then the greater the temptation to do this. Eventually, the more effective the leader, the more that leader will genuinely listen, collaborate, lavish credit on others, rather than hoard it themselves. Why? Because they're secure in what they do. They rejoice in the success of the people they work with. They've learned to contribute through other people. So they're having a great experience. They don't need to hoard credit. They don't need to treat people like that. So what I'm saying is that this isn't just some benign thing that you have an incompetent leader. And do you know what? We'll just work around it. It's okay. It doesn't stay okay, actually.

0:14:45.5 Junior: The fear and intimidation piece I want to call out because it can be used as a diagnostic tool for organizations. Wherever you see fear and intimidation, shame, some of the symptoms that Tim described, you can be certain that one of these two leaders is lurking somewhere in the background. And it gives you a target. You can say, okay, if there's fear inside of the team or the organization, it must be true that there's a leader somewhere who either feeds on title and status or is incompetent. And if you use that to do your root cause analysis, it can be enlightening because you know that it's there. That is a symptom, telltale sign that one of these things must be true.

0:15:34.0 Tim: I'm glad you said that, Junior. You're right on. The team, whatever your organizational unit is, your team, your division, your functional area, your department, whatever, that organizational unit is a patient. It's an organism. And to your point, Junior, those outward signs of the culture are the symptoms of what's going on in the culture. And as you say, if you see pervasive fear or intimidation or shame or things like that, it's symptomatic of - that's a direct reflection of leadership.

0:16:09.0 Junior: I also want to point out that sometimes in these types of conversations, it looks like we're pointing fingers and that you're on a witch hunt to find this person. But maybe you find out that the person is you. And that's something that I want to make room for here is that we each need to be able to ask this question of ourselves. So if you start to see fear inside your team, if you start to see intimidation creep up on your team, maybe it's you. And when we say leaders who feed on title and status, there are also leaders who might nibble on title and status or snack on it. Yeah, good point. Maybe you don't feed on it, but every once in a while, you'll have a little bite. And I think that each of us finds ourselves in those positions occasionally. And it's important that when we find ourselves moving toward that, that we take inventory, we take a step back and we have the self-awareness to say, hey, there's a pattern here or hey, this behavior wasn't quite healthy or it wasn't as good as I would like it to be. Because all of these things that we talk about exist on spectrums.

0:17:15.4 Junior: And so, think about the opposite of leaders who feed on title and status. If you don't feed on title and status, if feeding on those two things is negative, then what could you feed on is positive. It's all of the things that Tim mentioned. You're feeding on achievement. You're feeding on the success of other people. You're feeding on all of those motivators that we would consider to be healthy. And so, where do you go? And part of this conversation has to do with the motivational profile of the leader and the motivational profile for you. Is the motivational profile based on external criteria or internal criteria? Because if the motivational profile becomes too external, then you can almost be certain that you're going to move in this direction to start feeding on title and status.

0:18:02.3 Tim: Yeah. Junior, that's an excellent point. Well said. And that reminds me of this concept that we use in executive coaching, which is the concept of the final stage of confidence. The final stage of confidence refers to really the ultimate emotional and psychological, the last stage, the ultimate stage of psychological and emotional development in a leader where they have come to peace with themselves. They have arrested their egos. They don't need to hear themselves talk. They don't clamor for airtime. They finally stopped telling the world how smart they are. This is a beautiful thing, but there aren't enough leaders that achieve the final stage of confidence. And so I just wanted to talk about that a little bit because they are driven primarily by, as you say, intrinsic rewards. They can toil in obscurity for a long time without reward or recognition, and that's okay. They've really come to that place of security with themselves. It's interesting to see the patterns of leaders that get there and that don't get there. For example, just take praise, for example. Leaders that get there, they praise others genuinely and specifically and in a timely manner. They don't praise gratuitously.

0:19:50.4 Tim: Those that don't get there, they praise gratuitously. There's a lot of flattery often in what they do. It lacks intent. It lacks good faith and you can smell it. There are different things that we can point to, but eventually what happens is the leader that gets to the final stage of confidence, they achieve this elusive ability, this rare ability to be more kind and yet more demanding at the same time. My entire professional experience tells me that's not easy, but that's what they do. Think about that. There's a leader that is extremely kind and extremely demanding at the same time. If you do, that's special. You have something special there. That is not easy to get to that point. That's reflective of the final stage of confidence.

0:20:47.1 Junior: I really like that. That gives us something to aim at for sure. That's a difficult thing to achieve. It was something that we should strive for. Let's talk now for a second about dissent. I think that this idea of dissent is really interesting underneath the umbrella of title and status. This can be used again as a diagnostic tool as you look at your team and organization and as you look at your own behavior. What does a leader who feeds on title and status think about dissent? We talk about challenger safety and the idea that dissent, divergent thinking is raw material for innovation. There's this real practical tie to performance and innovation inside organizations. I want to pull on that thread for a second. Let's think historically because history is ripe with examples of leaders who fed on title and status, isn't it? It is. What would happen if a leader, and I even hesitate to use that word, let's say that someone who found themselves at the top of the hierarchy, right?

0:21:57.1 Tim: Yeah. Someone at the top of the hierarchy.

0:22:00.4 Junior: Yeah. That did feed on title and status. What happened when they were presented with dissent? Throughout history for thousands of years, many, let's call them social collectives, civilizations would call that treason. That's pretty interesting to me. Dissent in and of itself was treason. Was there anything treacherous in the nature of the dissent itself? Not necessarily, and perhaps in most cases, no. It could have been something that had significant merit even at face value. It could have been something that was obviously productive, but the very fact that it was dissent meant that it fell into this category that was treachery. Now we're going to shut that down real fast. If you're at the top of the hierarchy, you're feeding on title and status, and you're presented with dissent, you bury the dissent, and you probably also bury the bearer of the dissent. You don't want to see them anymore. That's happened in history in a literal sense for a really long time. As we were talking about earlier, there are still pockets of the world where that's true. In pockets of the world where that's more true than not, even in today, 2022, you look at the entire globe, there are many, many places that think quite ill of dissent.

0:23:30.2 Tim: Yeah, that's true. It's considered sedition. It's considered mutiny. But yet, I think we can come to the conclusion that punishing constructive dissent, let's qualify this, constructive dissent. Good point. We're trying to find answers. We're trying to make things better. To punish constructive dissent is cowardice, is it not? But we see it over and over again, and it reflects the insecurity of the leader. Then you go back to what's motivating the leader. This is where you come back to this category of leader that's feeding on title and position, indulging in grandiosity, enjoying disproportionate privilege, addicted to the narcotic of power. This is what we're talking about. That gets in the way. It just gets in the way again and again and again. In organizations today, there's less tolerance for that. We're just seeing this again and again. We're looking at leaders that need to be prepared to lead in the current environment where they don't worry about that. But what does that mean then? The imperative for them is you better get busy and become competent and learn how to contribute through your people. That's what happens. But if you find someone, and it goes back to what you said, Junior, if someone is jealously guarding a toxic culture, why are they doing that?

0:25:09.8 Tim: Why would a leader jealously guard a toxic culture? Why would they shun equity? Why would they not give people their participation rights and their license to disagree? Why would they not invite and welcome and reward dissent? Why would they not do those things? Because they're worried about themselves. They see leadership as a glittering path to their own rewards. Somehow they didn't get the memo that it's not about them. It's not about them. They're getting in the way. We see this a lot.

0:25:48.1 Junior: That's a pattern to look for is how do people, how do you respond when you're presented with constructive dissent? Conversely to the original question, what does a leader who doesn't feed on title and status think about dissent? They welcome it because they realize where it leads. Let's move on to the next category of leader, leaders who try to hide their incompetence. I want to start out this section by talking about hierarchies for a second. Hierarchies are not inherently good or inherently bad, but they're also not all created equal. That's an important premise to state as we enter this conversation because there are very good hierarchies and there are very bad hierarchies. Let's distinguish between the two. We're going to say that the first category is a power hierarchy or a dominance hierarchy. This is based just on that power and dominance. Sometimes it's based on what we described before, title and position. There are advantages and liabilities to this type of hierarchy depending on where you sit. If you sit at the top of a power hierarchy, it's great. You want to stay there. Many leaders that find themselves attached to title really like that position.

0:27:07.4 Junior: If you're anywhere above the top, it's not a happy place to be. It's also true that those power hierarchies eventually degrade into non-performance. For a long enough timeline, those hierarchies will always topple because they're built on unhealthy foundations. It could be true that that foundation originally was good, but that it eroded over time and became something very, very bad. There you go. Power dominance hierarchy. On the other side, you have competence hierarchies. This goes back, it parallels ascribed status and achieved status. Ascribed status isn't inherently negative the way that a power hierarchy might be, but I think that that parallel is interesting to call out. The competence hierarchy is the achieved status equivalent where the hierarchy is built on merit. It's built on personal ability and achievement and competence and skill. We definitely want those types of hierarchies. If that type of a hierarchy didn't exist in medicine, man, it would be a different place. Tim, what do you think about the difference between those two types? Anything you want to add or take away?

0:28:27.2 Tim: Well, I would just say, let's step back and think about why we have hierarchies. Hierarchies always emerge in human collectives every time. There are good reasons for that, but the hierarchy can be used as a tool of oppression as we know. Hierarchies allow us to divide labor, to create clear roles and responsibilities, to execute, to communicate, to hold people accountable, to perform. Many good and wonderful things come out of hierarchy and we need that. The problem is when we begin to use hierarchy for less than virtuous ends. That's really what we're talking about. Power is not an end in and of itself, or at least it shouldn't be. Unfortunately, it is for many people and that's where they get it wrong. If power is your end, then you're really not going to accomplish very much. You will shuffle, you'll rearrange the furniture a little bit in your life and then you'll go sleep with your fathers and that will be the end of your life. That was really nice. Congratulations. You're just another garden variety autocrat. We've seen a lot of those and they didn't help anybody. What we're really looking for is virtuous leaders that can use hierarchy to accomplish great things.

0:29:54.1 Tim: I just want to step back and let's just remember what leadership is all about. The best synonym for leadership in the English language is the word influence. Leadership is about influence. For what? To influence people to create and accomplish meaningful goals. That's what leadership is all about. Then speaking of spectrum, if we go back to influence, influence ranges on a spectrum from coercion at one end to manipulation at the other. We have force over here. We have force. We're going to press people into service. Over here, we have manipulation. We're going to deceive people. We're going to trick people. We're going to dupe people. Both of those ends of the spectrum are illegitimate. They don't represent leadership. Leadership's in the middle. What's in the middle? Persuasion is in the middle. The legitimate forms of influence are in the middle. Hierarchy Junior, just to go back, hierarchy is not inherently bad. Hierarchy is inherently good, but it can be used for dark purposes. It can result in very negative consequences. People can try to harness it for their own selfish ends and then it's not working. They hide behind it.

0:31:22.3 Junior: I'll add that the quality or the health of a hierarchy is never permanent. Good hierarchies can turn bad. I suppose that bad hierarchies could turn good, but that almost never happens. Once you have a healthy hierarchy, if that exists, we need to constantly till the ground and weed that garden to make sure that it can stay healthy because those at the top will have a tendency. That is a real big attraction to the role and the position and the title and the power and all of those things that come with climbing that hierarchy. Over time, that can become a very, very dangerous thing. So kind of an interesting conversation about these types of hierarchies. Let's talk about why inside these hierarchies leaders who might be incompetent are scared of psychological safety. They're afraid of it. What's the mechanism that psychological safety introduces that they're really afraid of? What is it that would strike fear into you if you're not competent? It's the fact that psychological safety is a leveler. It's the fact that psychological safety crushes down that hierarchy inside a given piece and makes it an environment where everyone can contribute and participate. If you're not competent, it's obvious why you wouldn't like that.

0:32:50.8 Junior: You will not be able to keep pace. You will not be able to have those very conversations about the descent, the idea, the what if because you don't have whatever it might be, the skills, the horsepower to be able to keep pace. And you're scared that you'll be found out. So what do you do? You suppress all of that. You push psychological safety away so that that leveling influence is never introduced. You can stay at the top and you're not forced to go and have a conversation that would really demand some skill. And so I want to call that out that in plain words, leaders who hide their incompetence are going to shun psychological safety. So it's another diagnostic tool is what's your reaction when you hear about these principles? Does it worry you? Because it might worry you just a little bit. If so, why? Let's dig into that. There may be something in there that we want to fish out, something that we want to put on the table and examine so that we can become better leaders. And if you look at that institutionally, what's the pattern of the leadership population when they're introduced to these types of concepts?

0:34:00.7 Junior: Do they embrace them? Are they a little bit reticent or do they outright deny that it would even make an impact? That will probably tell you once again a little bit about their motivational profile. And it's an interesting way to gauge the health of an organization. So let's talk about participation rights for a second, Tim, because that's part of this. Participation rights and decision-making rights, what's the difference?

0:34:24.4 Tim: Participation rights are rights that should be inherent in any role. Participation rights refer to your ability to give suggestions, give a point of view, share ideas, even challenge the status quo. And those are, as I said, inherent in your role. They're irrevocable. The organization gives them to you as part of your role when you join the organization and encourages you to use those participation rights. Your decision rights are different. Decision rights are based on position, authority, role, and that's as it should be, right? Because we're not going to use a consensus decision-making model. So everyone should have participation rights and then the designated person or the designated group of people will make the decision. They have the decision-making authority. But what happens is that in a power hierarchy, as we discussed, even participation rights are withheld. They're often withheld, let alone decision rights. But they don't even feel, a lot of people don't even feel that they have their participation rights. And so going back, I just want to make one point, Junior. Introducing psychological safety or committing to psychological safety raises the specter for incompetent leaders that we are moving from a power hierarchy to a competency hierarchy.

0:36:00.4 Tim: Whoa. That's very threatening because what could be the fallout? The fallout could be my exposure. The fallout could be that I lose the perks, the benefits that I get with title and position and authority today. That's a looming threat that, oh, we're going to do psychological safety? That dilutes me. It dilutes the power that I have because everyone has their participation rights now. And I don't carry extra weight by virtue of my position. When it comes to discussing issues, no, you don't. And so you can see where that becomes a threat to status and reputation.

0:36:48.4 Junior: So what about imposter syndrome? I want to talk about this for a second. And I'm interested in your thoughts, Tim. Imposter syndrome, incompetence is a really strong word. Leaders who try to hide their incompetence. And incompetence seems binary, it might. But again, it's a spectrum. On one end, you have utter incompetence. You are 0% competent. And on the other end, you have 100% competence. And we all live somewhere in the middle. And we're not pegged out on either side. And so in many cases, we'll be asked to do something by the organization, by virtue of our role, that we don't feel 100% comfortable with. There might be a gap between where we currently sit in terms of our competence and what the situation requires. And I want to call out the fact that that's not abnormal. That's not atypical. That's the norm. That's the default. As we progress through leadership and through organizations, we will be asked to do things or the situation will require that we do things that we're not comfortable with. There may be or there likely would be this element of imposter syndrome. And what we're saying is that if you feel that little twinge when we're saying, oh, you know, hiding incompetence, we're not talking about this.

0:38:17.5 Junior: This is natural. The fact that we're met with a skill gap that we need to overcome is normal. That's natural. It's whether or not we consistently apply ourselves to reduce that gap. That is the question. If we can see the gap and then we deny the gap or hide the gap, that's when this becomes unhealthy. That's exactly right. And if done consistently, becomes toxic. Then we end up here where we're trying to move participation rights out of the equation. On the other hand, there's some real vulnerability with introducing those participation rights. If you're a leader that's trying to get better, you need to understand and what I've seen is that introducing those participation rights will help you learn faster than you otherwise would because the collective knowledge is greater than your individual knowledge. So by virtue of that fact, letting everybody else weigh in and acknowledging that you don't know everything will help you get to competence faster. You'll close the skill gap faster and everybody will benefit from that. And so I want to call that out. So imposter syndrome, what are your thoughts on that, Tim?

0:39:33.9 Tim: No, I agree with you. I was just thinking, Junior, how many jobs have I had in my professional lifetime where I was qualified going in? Zero. Now, maybe I was partially qualified, but I've never been totally qualified for any job that I've ever had, ever. So there's always a gap between what is required and what I'm ready to contribute. That's normal and natural. Hopefully that spurs you to action to close the gaps. I think you nailed it here, Junior. The problem is when you're not making progress, when you're not striving to improve your knowledge and skills and experience and competency overall. When you're retiring on the job, when you've reached a voluntary state of equilibrium in your professional life and you've worked out this accommodation with professional life and you're okay with that. That's actually not okay. How can that be okay when you live and work in a highly dynamic environment that's hyper competitive, it's unforgiving? There's no way that you can come to the conclusion that that's appropriate. There's no way. And so you should be demonstrating a learning disposition of being an aggressive, self-directed learner, of informally giving yourself a curriculum for learning, the skills that you need to acquire, knowledge that you need to acquire.

0:41:02.5 Junior: That should be the default position. That should be your posture as a professional because there's no such thing. Let me give you an example. My grandfather was an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. He operated those massive locomotives. He drove those. I still remember when I was a young kid, the main route that he would take is he would go down to LA, drive the trains down to LA and back. But it was a different world because what he did is he became qualified and competent to operate the locomotives. That skillset lasted a long time for him. He had to make some adjustments and some modifications and some updates along the way. But the longevity of that skillset was unbelievable. It virtually lasted his entire professional lifetime. But that's such an exception. There's no such thing as permanent qualification. We can't think in those terms. We're constantly qualifying ourselves. It does leave us in this perpetual state of disequilibrium and it does move us out of our comfort zone, but that's where we can do our best work. We're talking about the imposter syndrome that people feel when they're not doing their part to demonstrate learning agility, to learn at or above the speed of change.

0:42:36.6 Tim: That's what we're talking about. If you feel the pain and the sting of that, then you should pay attention to that. That's telling you something that's very important for you to know and then you can take action.

0:42:50.0 Junior: I'm glad that you called that out because the pace of change is seemingly higher than it's ever been and it appears to only be getting faster. So let's wrap up. Where have we been? We're talking about leaders who are afraid of psychological safety and afraid as well as some of the words we've used today is a strong word and it may not be outright fear for some leaders. It may not be outright fear for you, but there may be a little bit of hesitation, a little bit of trepidation when it comes to psychological safety. It's important for us to ask ourselves why. Is it because we're a little bit too attached to title, a little bit too attached to our status? Is it because there's a skill gap? If we want to stay relevant, if we want to truly influence and become great leaders, we need to pay attention to these two things. And instead of feeding on title and status, feed on the contribution of other people, feed on intrinsic motivators, feed on those things that we know are healthy to us and to the organization, and then get competent. When those skill gaps arise, as they inevitably will, close them and do that by inviting the participation of everyone around you.

0:44:04.4 Junior: That will enable you to move faster, to become a better leader, have more leverage and influence more people. And that's why we're here. We want to influence others. We want to be effective in doing that. And we want to make the world a better place. So this has been a fascinating topic for me as we've been having this conversation, something that I'm going to continue to think about. Tim, any last comments before we wrap up today?

0:44:26.6 Tim: Maybe one comment. We talked about the final stage of confidence and leaders that achieve that status. One thing that I note about them, a pattern that I see in them, is that they've graduated from the impulse to impress to the impulse to bless. That's really, really stayed with me. Their chief impulse is not to impress you, but it's to bless you. So that's my parting thought.

0:44:47.3 Junior: I love that. Think about that, everyone. Leave that in your brain for a little while. Chew on it. You'll find some interesting stuff that lies underneath. So just a couple of housekeeping items. There will be a link in the show notes to the article that we talked about today. And if you found value in today's podcast, we'd invite you to share it. Share it on LinkedIn, whatever platform of your choice. Tag us, tag a friend. And lastly, if you have an idea for an upcoming episode or something that you'd like us to dig into a little bit more, let us know. We do take requests. So reach out if you have a suggestion. We'd be happy to incorporate that into the roadmap. So thank you, everyone, for your listenership.

0:45:39.9 Junior: We appreciate your attention. The fact that you would spend some time with us today. So wherever you are and whatever you're doing, we hope you have a wonderful day. And thanks for all you do. We'll catch you next time.

0:46:00.3 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, you made it to the end of today's episode. Thank you again for listening and for making culture something that you do by design and not by default. If you've enjoyed today's episode, please be so kind to leave us a review. It helps us reach a wider audience and accomplish our mission of influencing the world for good at scale. Today's episode show notes and other relevant resources related to today's topic can be found at leaderfactor.com forward slash resources. And with that, we'll see you next.

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