secure leadership…..

insecure1A management guru I met recently at an education institute made a very interesting comment. He said the mood of leaders one is encountering these days is rather uncertain about themselves – they discount what they know or are good at and maximize or emphasize what they do not know. Almost  too scared of sharing and exposing their vulnerabilities. Now does that not make for a uniquely lethal combination of insecurity and isolation!  

Perhaps the uncertain economic situation of the recent past has contributed to this loss of confidence. Or that the leadership attributes required to be successful in the new economy have undergone a serious change and leaders are struggling to unlearn and learn with the agility that will help them come up trumps.  

An insecure leader will do whatever it takes to prove they are the boss and in control. Unknowingly this spells death for the individual and the organization while playing havoc with the culture. Let me detail a few signs of an insecure leader :

– Control freaks, demand to know everything that is going on. Nothing that they don’t know should happen

– have a hard time giving credit to others – it is all about themselves, little realizing that they will be the ultimate beneficiaries if the team members do well/are complimented

– micromanage everything, fearing things will fall apart if they do not. This will inevitably limit the growth and development of their best people

– keep information away from their staff. If information is power, its release conveys a sense of trust and confidence in the team

– would not like their staff to be exposed to other leaders, not knowing what may transpire

– don’t ask for help, easily offended, names dropper…….

I can also state with a fair degree of certainity that each one of us has been plagued with bouts of vacillations, self doubt and insecurity from time to time. These could be linked to knowledge, experience, capability, relationships or any other similar reason. Since this can be such a career and organization limiting behavior, we have to find ways to overcome it. Let me attempt to suggest a few :

– awareness : just to be able to recognize the situation is a tough task and more than half the battle won. It is tough as you have to understand your emotions. Need to go thru the symptoms and play back the recent happenings of the work place to determine the extent of the disease. Behavioural changes are called for to rescue.

– big picture : paint the big picture and commit energy to making that a reality. This will take you away from micro-management to dealing with broader and bigger issues leaving space for the team members to flourish

– step back : take a break, deliberately distance yourself from the scene. The moment you let go, it will provide an opportunity to revisit the vision and get the optimism back

– mentor :  a credible mentor would have been through the cycle and will appreciate your situation. So find one and submit yourself to that wisdom.           

The end objective is to recreate an environment of trust and confidence all around and we know that is a lengthy process. If addressed timely, the state of insecurity can be transient and so reflect on whatever made you successful in the past. People are looking to catch signals and therefore even a single step is often good beginning.   

Remember it is not the insecurity that matters – everyone goes through it – but your ability to recognise and overcome it quickly that will determine your future success.   

best wishes


6 thoughts on “secure leadership…..

  1. Super summarization Sir… Another very interesting fact also is that whilst leaders want to recruit the best … they immediately feel insecure as soon as the ‘A’ grade recruit starts contributing more than they imagined.

    Why is it that leaders forget that if they are leading a super group of ‘A’ employees, they elevate themselves to being ready for the next bigger role. They dont need to resort to the signs you have summarized above. But then thats “Common Sense” … right 🙂

    1. That is a great point and thanks for bringing it up. One of the ways of conveying confidence and security is by hiring people who are smarter than you. That is perhaps an absolute first principle of organisation building – very often given a go by though. But then as you imply – common sense never comes easy….

      Another less articulated fact of corporate life is – if you cannot be replaced, you cannot be promoted. Meaning that the moment you create a team of people good enough to replace you, the organisation will be bound to find an alternate and better role for you!

      Unfortunately the human psychology and individual threat perceptions work very differently. That is why they always say – people join organisations but leave managers!!


  2. Today, I went through this blog completely from the first Posting by Rajiv on Sep 21st. Every one of the stories are well written. Shahid Khan’s “What is difficult blog” on tour of Nilgiris was really inspiring. Plus I liked the story of the lady named Rose – never get old, never stop dreaming and laughing. Also Rajiv’s own posts, which had interesting tid-bits on his first manager at Escorts, Bob Wills Vs Viv Richards, 10 min speech on Clive Llyod, Chinese Cracked Pot story. Also I am happy to have met his family – his gracious wife Ruchi, who is the pillar of support and his smart son Samarth. My teacher at my MBA school told me once – A good manager (leader) is a good man (human) first. Rajiv is a fine example of this.

  3. Dear Rajiv, It is a very common phenomenon today and this is more prevalent when we are coming out of a very uncertain recessionary condition. Leaders are the first who are reacting and insecure leader empahises his authority more to sustain himself.
    Your suggestions are very useful however I would like to add in terms of few more input as leader need also to be humble, more persuasive and collaborative. I think this reduces the pressure on leader psychologically plus he gets more input and support from bottom.


Comments are closed.