So what exactly is needed to let a person don the suit of a genuine executive? If we were to recall all the people in executive positions who we’ve met so far in our work life, we’d meet some pretty unique archetypes.
For one, there are those executives who lack leadership skills. They will not offer unambiguous, clear decisions and their employees suffer from their indecisiveness and procrastination. They don’t show sufficient care for their staff, they refuse to bear any responsibility – in short, there is no leadership at all.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are those managers who seem to ooze executive-ness from their every pore. These specimens tend to overdo it in any way: they do too much, they know everything, decide every last matter, they refuse to yield any space to their employees, and have everything under their (crushing) control. While this dominant behavior certainly may appear as strong leadership, where exactly does it lead? The employees have no chance for development, they are kept small and often feel insecure because the micro-management of their superior more often than not translates to resentments such as “we’re given no credit, we are considered incapable, stupid, and incompetent.” Over time, this can have a negative impact on the self-esteem of employees and most likely won’t boost their working morale either.
And then there are those who simply seem to possess executive skills by design. These managers radiate a kind of natural authority without appearing to be authoritarian, they give employees a direction without forcing them on their way, they have power, but of a sort which doesn’t threaten to steamroll over their staff. This type of executive does not command “subordinates,” but rather offers gentle guidance to his “followers.”
If we were to ask how to expand or strengthen the leadership skills of a manager, we get to the next question: what exactly holds the executive in question back? Why is he overdoing things or showing too little effort and thus deprives himself of gaining the optimal effect?
In our pursuit of this phenomenon we will soon come upon the subjective imperatives and their associated internal conflicts that play a role in the respective forms of behavior. As an example, we can highlight one subjective imperative, which certainly features strong in many executives: “I must succeed!” To satisfy this imperative, an executive may reach the conclusion that he has to do everything by himself and has to have everything under control. He will not learn to trust his employees because he believes that “only if I do things myself, I can be sure that they are really done well!”
Another executive with the same prevalent imperative may come to different conclusions and develop a different behavior: in order to avoid wrong decisions at all costs, he doesn’t decide anything at all – he rather waits and lets situations develop on their own.
And a third manager might be forced to follow his subjective imperative, “I must not be rejected under any circumstances!” In order to safe himself from rejection from his staff, he simply abstains from giving any feedback and rather accepts all re-delegations from his employees.
Each of the many different subjective imperatives has the power to influence our behavior, and we are not able to control this through purely cognitive means. Our imperatives constitute not only the demands they push on us, but also the associated strict instructions to never abandon these demands under any circumstances.
If a person has acquired a subjective imperative he has always also developed an internal alarm system to warn him in time if he should come upon a situation that threatens this imperative, a situation which is therefore strictly “forbidden.” This gigantic stop sign or alarm system has been anchored in the limbic system. The limbic system is a region of the human brain which is responsible for our survival and has developed much earlier than our cerebrum, a sort of “bonus feature” which reacts much slower. The cerebrum is the part of our brain which houses our thoughts and reflections – but long after our limbic system has already issued its primal instructions. And although the individual in question might sometimes feel sorry for his limbic actions – there is no way he could have prevented them.
A subjective imperative can be detected from the fact that we become emotionally agitated by certain topics while the respective situation or the facts do not justify this reaction. In this case an internal alarm is triggered so fast that the rational mind is far too late to intervene with its reasonable arguments in order to prevent “unreasonable” reactions. The environment, and often enough we ourselves, then ask desperately how it can happen that we lose control over our behavior so dramatically.
This is where IntrovisionCoaching comes into play. Introvision in combination with transactional analysis makes it possible for executives to understand in which situations and through which triggers their alarm system is set off, thus inhibiting their leadership efforts.
Such situations may occur in meetings with employees, when a manager regularly is so irritated that he starts screaming and always regrets this in the aftermath; or there may be situations with colleagues who repeatedly force their unloved tasks upon the executive, although he has again and again decided that he will let not let that happen again; or there may be executives who make their staff feel unnecessarily small so that they never get to see the whole potential of their employees.
But it is not only in this immediate way that imperatives restrict the manager: whenever we are in a state of alarm, we also experience stress. The two go hand in hand, and stress robs us of our energy. Resolving internal alarms significantly reduces the daily stress of the person in question. The result is enhanced tranquility – a useful attitude to bring one’s leadership skills to the outside.
The first thing we deal with in IntrovisionCoaching is: what exactly triggers the alarm system and how does this inhibit the coachee’s power? Since there is almost no one who has no subjective imperative, even very good managers are able to further develop their leadership skills – even the best one has some hidden potential that can be raised yet to another level.