“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” -John Quincy Adams
From one of his books, Richard L Daft, speaks of every leaders six mental mistakes; reacting too quickly, inflexible thinking, wanting control, emotional avoidance and attention, exaggerating the future and chasing the wrong gratifications.
“Kings, heads of government, and corporate executives have control over thousands of people and endless resources, but often do not have mastery over themselves. From a distance, larger-than-life leaders may look firmly in control of their business and their personal behavior ? What about up close ? Personal mastery is a difficult thing.” (Daft, 2010)
Leadership is all about ‘people stuff’. A key element of a leader is to set goals and create performance indicators. The employees should be empowered to solve problems and achieve results. This will enable innovation and create trust. A prerequisite of a leader’s, is an open dialogue with their employees to clarify what goals are, and equally important, what they are not. Open communication will help visualize the expectancy the leader has of the employees and avoid misunderstandings.
Life can be challenging, in all of its aspects. The question is how we choose to face these challenges in order to reach our goals.
When Daft speaks of every leader’s six mental mistakes, he use metaphors. The metaphor Daft use for our two selves or parts are the executive and the elephant. He illustrates this by referring to as the inner executive and the inner elephant. “The inner executive is our higher consciousness, our own CEO so to speak. Visualize an executive riding on a large elephant, attending to control it, with legs dangling on either side of the elephant’s neck. The inner elephant symbolizes the strength of unconscious systems and habits”.
Daft makes us aware of the importance of being able to lead yourself first, which may lead you to become a great leader of your people. By leading yourself means seeing, understanding, mastering and leading your unconscious but powerful inner elephant. “You can appreciate that bringing your two selves into alignment and learning to be the master of your own behavior would have a terrific leadership payoff in satisfaction, inner peace, impact, and productivity”. (Daft, 2010)
Let us take a closer look at; the six mental mistakes.
Reacting too quickly.
Patience, is a key word here, and be able to hold back instant reactions. “You have to be patient enough and make sure that you always remain calm”. (Daft, 2010) Sometimes leaders have a tendency to overreact because their point seemed urgent, which can easily lead to interruption of someone. “Instant reactions often feel urgent, which makes the impulse hard to control. If you feel that urgency, when you were a child your inner elephant probably wanted to eat the marshmallow”.
By slowing down your reaction, it will lead to produce a better response. Daft mentions Robert Iger, who is CEO of Disney, he makes us aware of an important leadership lesson he learned, which was to “manage reaction time better. What I mean by that is not overreacting to things that are said to me because sometimes it’s easy to do”.
Our gut feelings is difficult to change. If we are convinced of something, good or bad, yes or no, we have a tendency to stick with our beliefs. “Once the inner elephant jumps to a conclusion about something, it typically does not like to change its mind. Your inner magician and attorney will fill in any needed details and defend against competing views. Why? To maintain your sense of well-being, prevent or reduce psychological pain, and let you feel good about yourself. Once your inner elephant settles on a viewpoint or belief, it resists, it resists letting go” (Daft, 2010)
People tend to have a desire for control. Managers don’t like to give away control. Daft tells us that many managers need to learn to give away control, managers think it is more efficient for them to keep their control. “If your inner elephant micromanages other people, your satisfaction will be at their expense” (Daft, 2010)
The author tells us that everyone’s inner elephant wants to be in control and is happier when in control. The key is to activate their inner executive to give control to others.
Emotional avoidance and attraction.
Our emotions plays with us. In times we are aware of tasks we have to perform, or deadlines coming up, but can not fulfill the task. This is procrastination. To procrastinate means to; “delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off delay. You do not want to delay, but do it anyway, because your inner elephant resists more strongly than your intention”.
Daft, makes us aware that the resistance to the task symbolizes something from your past which triggers modest anxiety even when your inner elephant wants to avoid it.
We all have dreams and desires, which is important for having a good life. However, strong attractions, such as the need for perfection, may lead to problems for managers. Managers may also feel the need to act on their unthinking desire always to be right rather than let other people shine, to perpetually find fault with other people’s ideas, to win every disagreement, to blame others when something goes wrong despite being culpable, or to speak harshly when upset”. (Daft, 2010)
Exaggerating the future.
Why do we have a tendency to exaggerate the future ?
Simply put, when we are attracted to a task, we are optimistically to the results, and doesn’t see any problems. “When the inner elephant is attracted to a future outcome, it overoptimistically anticipates good results and underestimates potential difficulties, so it fails to see the problems ahead”. (Daft, 2010)
The same is happening when everything looks hopeless. “When the inner elephant dislikes or wants to avoid an outcome, it will pessimistically see more difficulties and problems than will actually occur”. (Daft, 2010)
However, when you start working with the ‘terrible task’, it wasn’t that bad at all.
Chasing the wrong gratifications.
Sometimes we are going in the wrong direction. If your work is only about money and fame, then you are chasing the wrong gratification. “The inner elephant loves the temporary good feeling that goes with external rewards, whether in the form of a trip, plaque, promotion or more money.
If you are passionate about your work, the work will feel easier and happier. ” The inner elephant can chase money into infinity, acquire luxury goods beyond imagination, and never experience the joy of performing a task just for pleasure. That is why the adage ‘Love what you do and the money will follow’.
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. — Charles Spurgeon
Inger Lise E. Greger, MSc. Change Management