Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rising to the Level of Incompetence

It never ceases to amaze me how some people rise to a level where, temporarily at least, their egos outstrip their authority. It happens all the time and it’s such a gauge of a person’s true character. And all this ego reveals is a very insecure person deep down within (and we all have insecurities). It is reassuring that justice does eventually come to these situations—in a myriad of ways.

Sometimes if we find ourselves in this situation we acknowledge our fault and our false bravado and come honestly to adapt to the role. In the process we achieve the respect of our peers and those we lead.

But then at other times we resist the feedback. It’s plain humbling and we can’t stand that embarrassing thought—we pretend we’re doing a good job in any event, denying the evidence of problems, or we’re honestly blind to reality. ‘Too bad for those people who think wrongly; I’ll continue “as is” despite them,’ is the prevailing, controlling mindset.

The world is confounded by insincere and dysfunctional relationships. Relational blockers are everywhere to be seen it seems—they stand out in the insincerity of rapport; watch two people interacting... both on edge as they stand together pretending all is good.

It reminds me of a proverb. “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding” –Proverbs 28:12 (TNIV). It seems the best indicator of whether someone’s out of their depth or not is how those under them are coping.
If life is good for those at a workplace they’re generally getting on with their supervisor and their peers—is there even one more important ‘job satisfaction’ criteria than getting on with co-workers?

The only time a supervisor has sufficient reason to get cranky with an employee is if they’re not performing as previously agreed. Even then it probably means the supervisor needs simply to use different tactics to get through. “Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones” –Proverbs 25:15 (NLT). Our words tend to have more power when spoken gently but authoritatively. We need to be creative and innovative, not forceful.

Everyone it seems remembers that ‘good boss,’ the one they not only esteemed and respected, but the one they actually learned many enduring lessons from. This sort of leader tends to loosen people up, creating in them a thirst for learning; they become pliable vessels for learning, especially when in a fun environment.

And this is the whole point. Leadership is about people—it’s about developing people. Sure, we have our objectives and targets and strategies and key performance indicators... but we have a spiritual, thinking/feeling creature before us—we achieve our work through them, not simply because of them.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” –Proverbs 17:22 (NIV). The effective leader is good medicine for his or her charges; they’re not in the trade of crushing bones—why put the whole project at jeopardy?

And the lesson in all this... if we find ourselves, or someone else, in beyond depth, watch for the response. It’s going to tell us a lot of our or their innate character—what we have carried with us, or what they have carried with them, since childhood.

Finding ourselves in beyond depth is an initially very scary prospect. But it’s not the end of the story. The resilient person will see the opportunity in that and rise to meet the challenge with initiative, innovation... and eventual aplomb.

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