Eugene Ionesco's absurdist drama Exit the King is, perhaps, his most enthralling. It is intended to demonstrate that the human desire to control one's universe is pointless in the end. We watch as King Berenger, the main character, tries to outsmart the cosmos. Yet, despite all his convoluted schemes to change his fate, he dies and fades into the mist.
Exit the King delivers a perfect metaphor for the trap that many contemporary business leaders fall victim. Despite how much a leader wants to control their universe, there's so little under their actual control.
Here are 5 tips to make you more effective in spite of this reality:
Be Present: The message here is two-fold. First, make yourself available to the people that you manage. Secondly, when they take you up on the offer, be sure to listen and understand before deciding and directing. The best way to gain insight and to influence outcomes is to adopt an open door policy that encourages your people to get on your calendar whenever they need your insight and perspective.
Be Inclusive: You can't play favorites. Work to include your entire team in the decision-making process. By engaging them in the process of setting direction and managing change, you accomplish two vitally important things-you establish trust among your people and promote their autonomy. While this may seem counterintuitive, recognize that your need for control lessens if you can empower a team that you can trust.
Don't be a Know-It-All: Many leaders share this fatal flaw-They need to establish themselves as the smartest person in the room. Besides being impossible to accomplish, such behavior can really turn a team off and inspire them to adopt guarded behaviors that limit their open and honest sharing of information with you (for fear of reprisals and being shown up at every turn). Instead, become a great listener and challenge yourself to teach your team by asking them leading questions. This enables them to grow and evolve professionally, while coming up with solutions seemingly on their own.
Don't Expect to be Revered, Just Because of Your Title: Power greedy leaders have this expectation. They expect to gain respect just because they are a superior. Unfortunately, very few professionals operate this way. Rather, most business people require that their leaders earn their respect through action. If you want to be revered, act in ways that are rewarded by respect and admiration.
Keep your Ego In-Check: Megalomaniacs believe that they're better than anyone else on the planet. If you have the tendency to believe that your opinion is the only one that counts, you're probably on the road to failure. Of course, you could be one of the lucky few that have progressed through your career without hitting the wall. But, rest assured, your luck will run out, if you don't make an effort to change your attitude. This is so because the higher you get within an organization (and, the more responsibility that you take on, as a result) the more vulnerable you become to your own ego.
To close, everyone in a leadership role will feel a bit out of control from time to time. But, it can be a fleeting feeling, if you let it be one. Give up the belief that being a leader requires you to be in total control, all the time. Instead, replace that immature notion with a more sophisticated one, like: "My success comes from my people, and, I need to do all I can to enable their success."
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