Conscious Leadership

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Just because you are efficient in completing your job and are able to navigate information systems within your organization, it does not mean that you are qualified to be a leader.(Heifetz,Grashow, and Linsky, 2009) Instead, being a leader, especially a conscientious one, involves being able to first of all identify those priorities that carry real value to you. Then the challenge is to earn buy-in from others even if this means basic systems within the organization have to change. For example, someone with authority can train employees on how to use a new phone system, but someone who practices adaptive leadership can lead a change in culture where employees are respectful of each other in all their communications.

Leadership must also be ever vigilant. Systems that fail often fail because of issues with organizational dysfunctions, group dynamics, and individual cognition issues.(Martin, 2011) Leaders should always be aware of the strengths and weaknesses within their organizations. Proactively analyzing where problems exist is a continuous process, and only a leader who is truly engaged can stay on top of the shifting dynamics within their organization. Addressing problems in the group dynamic can alleviate the potential for serious problems. Examples of this can be seen in many of the errors that used to occur in operating suites (wrong arm taken off, for example). Running an operating room takes an entire team of people for just one surgery, and the dynamics were often such that the surgeon was treated as the king of the castle. As such, no one questioned his decisions or they faced social pressures such as belittlement and group strain. This culture was addressed and a new culture of safety was implemented in many hospitals across the country in the 1990s. Now team members are encouraged to ask questions and someone who treats others uncivilly will be the one who is ostracized from the group. As a result, near misses are caught more often, and hospitals have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of wrong site surgeries.

When a leader is not acting conscientiously, they often seem unengaged with their staff. This may be because the initiative or value the leader is promoting is contradictory to their own values, and the distance allows them some ability to rationalize away their own behavior. Also, the leader may not want to be confronted by staff who question the new direction the leader has taken.

One way to respond to challenges concerning your own leadership is to maintain an open and honest dialog with your challenger. It could be that the person who is questioning your integrity merely misunderstands why you have come to the conclusion you have. If your stance has changed on an issue, it is important for those you lead to understand why your stance has changed. They may or may not agree with the reasons for your change in stance, but your integrity will be more apparent than if you simply refuse to discuss the change. Others will view a submission (without reflection) to a contrary position as a flaw in your personal integrity, whether from weakness, ambition, etc.

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