In the first article on the delusional leadership perspective, I shared two analogies on how leaders associate their positions with the feeling that they can do whatever they want. I illustrated my points with the story of a Chairman and a CEO. I portrayed lopsided views in the way they reward and lead their employees.
In today’s article, I will review one of the common delusional leadership perspectives. The thinking and mindset influence today’s perspective that a position gives the leader the right to be the ultimate, unaccountable, and do whatever they desire. No, the leadership position makes you more accountable to the people you are leading and to other stakeholders like the environment, society, shareholders, and the sustainability of your organisation. This is what I termed the leaders’ accountability value chain.
Read also: Delusional leadership perspectives
The most primordial of the leaders’ accountability value chain is the people. People tend to learn from successful leaders without a deeper reflection. They want to cut and paste and adopt what was seen as hook, line, and sinker. There are those who do unethical things or never thought it wise to coach their followers on why their actions damage our world. They produce leaders that do and do more damage to society. In leadership, any action rewarded or not published is continuously repeated and massively copied. That attests to the case of corruption in our public and political offices.
How are leaders supposed to communicate?
Steaming from the delusion of ‘I can do whatever I want as a leader’, most leaders communicate in ways that damage the tools that should be doing their work for them. If you have a farming toolbox as a farmer, you ensure your tools are well-clean and preserved after every use. You will protect your farming equipment by keeping it safe in a dedicated place where it can be retrieved. You will repair and maintain them at regular intervals to guarantee optimal performance. All the above actions can be considered communication and relationship with your working tools. As good as leaders look after their cars, houses, images, and public perceptions, they often need to pay more attention to communicating with people around them.
Leaders’ first role is to communicate the vision and mission of their organisations to the people who will deliver the result. In what ways should leaders communicate? Leaders should be inspiring and purposeful in their communication. However, because of the mindset of position and the delusional view of leaders being able to do anything they want, leaders often allow the arrogance of the position to reflect in their utterances.
I have seen leaders who speak to their people as if they were gods. I have seen the use of words to diminish people in the workplace without minding the mental and emotional health of the people involved. One can create a compendium of words used to damage people during the performance reviews in the banking industry in Nigeria.
Desperate to save their jobs or impress their enslavers for huge bonuses and promotions, the industry developed a toxic culture of harassing staff without consequences. Suppose you ask an average banker in Nigeria. In that case, they will share their experiences of how they were brutalised emotionally by the words of their leaders, who see threats and vulgar language as communication tools. The effects were felt on the banks that allowed such a culture.
The former employees of these banks, whether abroad or at home, became the enemies of the organisations. They see the behaviour of the leaders as a representation of the organisation and its boards of directors. The leaders who adopted the negative communication style have either got to their wit’s end or are living a reclusive life without genuine followers. The banks, the platform they use to express their delusional leadership views, need help with quality employees, having lost most of their staff to the ‘Japa’ momentum or the other industry.
In every sphere of life, one person who should be mindful of their communication is the leader in the front. Leaders’ voices and words should inspire people towards an outcome. Adolf Hitler’s oratory skills inspired the destruction of millions of people. Mohammed Alli’s self-hypnotisation talk during boxing matches inspired him to be resilient and made him a champion. While purposeful and inspiring communication is suitable for leaders, it must communicate the big picture and the rewards for moving toward the goals. Where an organisation allows leaders to communicate negatively using the power of their positions, the level of disengagement of employees and divergence of the collective efforts to the goal will be widened.
Before you say things to people as a leader, the first litmus test is to analyse the likely mental and emotional effects of your words on you if you are the recipient of the word. Will you be more inspired, remorseful, or destroyed by those words? Your words and communication as leaders are like the oil that lubricates the relationship you have with your working tools, the people you are leading, and the people who are to deliver the numbers and value for you.
Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on [email protected] or 08025489396.