This article in the San Francisco Chronicles online service SFGate published on 11 June 2015 holds that leaders who are defensive about their actions and decisions are less trusted in their organisations. Have a read and then have a think with us.
Defensiveness might be a personality trait. But I doubt a person who is defensive about their decisions and actions would rise to top leadership roles. Maybe I am naive about that.
It seems to me that defensiveness is rooted in insecurity about the decisions and actions, which further means that those decisions and actions may not have been well thought out, tested within the organisation, or strengthened by selling them well. It is also possible the leader knows the consequences of the actions and decisions but has determined, for whatever reason, that they are the right way to go. And they may indeed be the right way. The history of organisations is full of leaders standing firm with what some thought was the wrong decision but turned out to be a genius insight.
It’s about communication
The issue is not about the rightness of the decisions and actions. It is about how they are defined and communicated within the organisation. Again we find an article that is a quick snapshot that highlights the problem and identifies some facet of the problem but does not explore the ‘how’ question. How does a leader prevent defensiveness? How does a leader recognise his or her insecurity and use that insight to communicate boldness, frankness, forthrightness or whatever stance is appropriate for the action or decision.
This is about leadership presenting itself as leaders. It is about communicating with strength. It is about humility and openness to criticism even if the leader is convinced of the his / her rightness.
This can be a tough row to hoe for some leaders, especially if the leader had no mentors who understood this. It takes guts and fortitude to delve into the anxieties of leadership, including defensiveness and how to have a high quality communications offense.
When leadership gets this right then trust of colleagues, subordinates and stakeholders will follow. Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Keeping on top of how actions and decisions are made and communicated will ensure trust is strong and supportive of building with new and better decisions.
We support leadership in creating and understanding their actions and decisions. We work alongside leaders as co-thinkers in developing communications strategies that cascade throughout an organisation. We help leaders face into their defensiveness, and insecurities, so they lead with conviction and humility in order to sustain trust throughout their organisations.
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