This is a guest post by Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., a mental success coach and cutting-edge leadership consultant, trainer, and researcher.
Judging by the plethora of Marvel and DC Comics movies that come out on a regular basis, we are a society that is enamored by heroes. But, in order to have heroes, you have to have villains, right?
If you are anything like me, you have seen your fair share of villains on the big screen. What do all villains seem to have in common? Of the many things, they seem to have two primary things in common:
- First, they seem to have some sort of chip on their shoulder. If we are going to get all psychological about it, at a very deep level, they have fears and insecurities that are driving their behaviors.
- Second, they believe that whatever they are doing is fully justified. They believe that they are in the right, and that their thinking is the best way to think.
Who is often the villain in the workplace?
If we were to categorize a group of people within the organization who are commonly viewed as villains, who would that be? Isn’t it generally organizational leaders, people in higher-level positions of power? Just consider these statistics:
- 82% of employees do not trust their manager to tell the truth
- 65% of employees would prefer to have a new manager over new pay
Are You the Villain?
As I work with many organizations and their leaders, I see statistics similar to what is presented above. This has led me to ask the question: Why is poor leadership so common?
I think the answer to that question is the same reason why villains are villains. Leaders commonly have some fears and insecurities that cause them to act in ways that are fully justified to them, but are actually damaging to those they lead. Let me give you a situation to demonstrate how this can play out.
In Ray Dalio’s (founder of the largest and most successful hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates) book Principles, he tells a story of when an employee forgot to put in a trade for a client and the money just sat there in cash. By the time the mistake was discovered, the damage was several hundred thousand dollars.
When I do leadership trainings, I present this example and ask leaders how they would respond to the situation if they were Ray Dalio. Most of the time, the leaders in the training say that the best and needed course of action is to let the employee go. They justify this decision by suggesting that such errors cannot be tolerated in a performance-based organization. Here is how Dalio responded to the situation:
It was a terrible and costly error, and I could’ve done something dramatic like fire Ross to set a tone that mistakes would not be tolerated. But since mistakes happen all the time, that would have only encouraged other people to hide theirs, which would have led to even bigger and more costly errors.”
- If leaders take the action to fire the employee, are they justified? Yes
- Is the decision to fire the employee going to have unintended, but negative, long-term consequences? Probably
- Is that behavior driven by fear and insecurities? They are probably at the root of the decision
- Does Dalio’s decision seem driven by fear and insecurities? No
- Is Dalio’s decision an optimal course of action with long-term positive consequences? Probably
Becoming the Hero Instead of the Villain
To be the hero rather than the villain, and truly be a positive influence on the lives of others, it is going to require that you awaken to and face your fears. There are four primary fears that drive well-intended leaders to engage in villain-like behaviors. They are:
- The fear of failure/looking bad
- The fear of not being seen as being right
- The fear of problems
- The fear of not winning or getting passed up
If you want to awaken to your fears, take my free personal mindset assessment. If your results show that you have any of the negative mindsets, that will expose the areas where you carry around fear, and where that fear is wreaking havoc on your leadership.
Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D. is a mental success coach and cutting-edge leadership consultant, trainer, and researcher. He helps improve organizations, leaders, teams, and employees by improving their mindsets. Ryan is currently a leadership and management professor at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton (CSUF). He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources from Indiana University.
He has helped dozens of organizations (including CVSHealth, Deutsche Telekom, and Mondelez) enhance the mindsets of their leaders, managers, and employees to make sure they more fully capture their potential.