There are many terms used to describe leaders. However, there’s one term that no one ever utters out loud.
People talk about good leaders being inspiring, authentic, selfless, courageous, committed, etc. On the other hand, negative references to leaders include hypocritical, vindictive, indecisive, selfish and numerous others.
But no one talks about a particularly destructive disorder experienced in far too many organizations and embedded in their culture. I refer to this condition as “executive royalty.”
What do you envision when you think of a person of historical royalty? Many of today’s royalty are cultural figureheads who represent national pride through ceremonial obligations and traditions. Unlike their ancestors, most of these kings, queens, princes, and princesses have little or no real power. Can you imagine Queen Elizabeth shouting, “Off with his head!” in this day and age? No, the time of royals exerting power and commanding control over their subjects, in most places is pretty much a thing of the past.
However, in many corporate cultures, that is exactly how we treat members of the executive staff. When orders are given, they are blindly obeyed, and brilliant minds shut down. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating for anarchy and understand that members of organizations are obliged to follow directives from upper management. There is, however, a not-so-fine line between following corporate direction and blindly turning off your brain to obey the king or queen. That just isn’t something that Shiny Leaders do.
Do you think this never happens in your organization? Consider these scenarios:
- Have you ever seen a great concept formulated by a group of people which fails to see the light of day because someone of executive royalty questions the idea, so it’s instantly dropped?
- How about when someone from the upper echelons merely mentions a request and everyone drops what they’re doing (regardless of importance) to provide what was requested without clarifying, explaining, or asking if this is the best use of resources?
- What about a brilliant colleague that folds before royalty and tucks their talent out of sight like a puppy tucks its’ tail?
If you’ve seen any of these situations, then you’ve observed the tip of the iceberg that I call executive royalty. It destroys the very heart of employee engagement and the contributions that smart people were hired to make.
Here are 10 clues that your organization has Royalty Disease:
- Brilliant staff members check their brain at the front door and await instructions.
- A colleague finds himself or herself in the penalty box or doghouse because they dared to challenge an idea.
- Meetings are held to learn about new assignments; never new ideas.
- No one asks for input from individuals closest to the challenge.
- You or your manager returns depressed from meetings with executive staff.
- Qualifications that your employer carefully interviews for are seldom used.
- Recognition for individual achievement is rarely shared with others.
- The corporate mission statement doesn’t square with what you observe.
- Brilliant ideas that originate outside the “executive castle” are considered a threat, rather than a resource.
- People refer to what the “boss wants done” and never offer alternatives.
If you recognize any or all of these royalty characteristics, then you might be less a contributor and more of a loyal subject in a royal kingdom.
It’s true that change requires leadership, and leadership demands courage, but courage should not mean career suicide. A core characteristic of leadership is challenging the status quo. Leaders build coalitions and vet concepts to gain support in complex environments. That being said, if you find yourself bowing to royalty in an environment where your leadership is neither welcome nor respected, then maybe it’s time to find a place where leadership is about responsibility, growth, and opportunity; not royalty. #bestadvice
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Does this resonate with you? Every Shiny Leader knows and practices leading him or herself first but it doesn’t stop there. Find your voice. Whether you find it in your current environment, current kingdom, or next adventure; commit to be the Shiny Leader that’s inside all of us. You owe it to yourself to be a leader that makes a difference for others.