Can reaching out to our common humanity stop us making the same mistakes – again? In an excellent and very readable book, “The Power of Human”, the author, Adam Watz explains “how we can solve one of our time’s biggest problems by better utilising the influence we have on each other“.
The book is about our relationship with technological advancement, there are however, transferable themes and ideas, not the least of which is how we recognise each other’s humanity and the consequences of diminishing such recognition.
He states, “Although we might be experiencing a blip in history, I feel confident in suggesting that dehumanisation – that is the failure to consider the other person of having a mind capable of complex feelings and rational thought, suggests a contemporary concern”.
What are the consequences of stepping back from this? An idea arrived to me after having read a piece by Philip Ball in the New Statesman (23-29 October 2020). He discusses how the Pandemic has exposed a crisis of global leadership.
in reaching out to our common humanity, I have selected 3 examples, from his book, that have particular meaning to me and re-framed them in the context of how we as leaders, might act and behave in our day to day lives.
Challenge: “In some democracies, political power is no longer linked to competence“
Substitute “democracies” with “organisations” and we have what I believe to be a common shared truth, that for some organisations and teams within them, there is no amount of incompetence that will bring it down until things have reached a crisis point. One of the jobs of Leaders within organisations is, I think, the “telling of unpalatable truths,” real “Emperor’s New Clothes,” stuff.
Here’s why. Edgar H Schein has written a book called “Humble Enquiry” – it’s about building positive relationships in organisations (you know, human ones!) and in it he states that in several areas of industrial disaster (Chernobyl, The Challenger Disaster, The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill), someone in the job-chain had spotted the weakness.
However, the culture was such that they could not share their concerns for fear of earning the opprobrium of senior colleagues.
Leadership Challenge? The will, ability and capacity to establish a culture that encourages and rewards performance through a culture of achieving “Excellence” (open mindset) rather than “Perfection” (fixed mindset).
The boxes may have been perfectly ticked and schedules honoured, in the examples above, however all this ensured was an intense and devastating occurrence because of a failure to acknowledge and reach out to the humanity of others.
Challenge: “The Disinformation Ecosystem Will Weaponise every Crisis“
Ask yourselves, how many times have you thought “You know, this situation is bad enough without having to deal with toxic rumours and counter rumours and the subsequent fall-out!?”
Leadership Challenge? Develop high trust teams and behaviours in which rumours are “called out” by leadership who then provide a simple alternative. “Stop this behaviour now or go!” It doesn’t matter how valuable the person dishing out the disinformation feels they are, getting rid of them will be far less damaging than keeping them!
For this to gain credibility, leaders have to become accustomed to telling the truth.
The “How’s” are important here, so the leadership dimension is to establish a culture of trust in which the “Truth can be told.” If for some reason we cannot at this point reveal the whole picture, we need to say so, preferably with a timeline that indicates when or under what circumstances information can be shared.
Oh yes, and if you don’t know, tell people!
Challenge: Science and technology do not alter old patterns of behaviour and thought, but simply create new vehicles for them
If you’ve got a toxic colleague don’t expect them to detoxify just because of the role and function of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). I would argue that ICT increases the potential to damage other people, their motivation and your brand.
It’s very easy to micro-manage through technology, but why would you? It’s relatively straightforward for leaders, managers and supervisors to know the amount and types of pressure generated by home working and sadly, to decide to do nothing about it. This includes extra-long working hours without breaks and adequate self-care!
Leadership Challenge? As a team, define your values and deliver on them in the context of information technology and new technology. State clearly its contribution toward developing people in an ethical manner.
Be prepared to dismiss people who don’t want to support you. They’re not helping you now and they won’t help you in the future and their behaviours are more likely to limit the acceptance and take up of newer systems because of the association with authoritarian, unethical control.
The above requires leaders, Maverick Leaders to be clear, brave and to exercise a degree of Social and Emotional Intelligence as we shape the environment to meet the challenges set out above. Set up support groups, give and receive support and look after your well-being.
Good luck in reaching out to our common humanity!