By Mary Jane Alvero
A manager has been assigned to a new cross-regional project, and the first meeting is today. Unfamiliar faces around and other people are listening in from afar. Managers from across the company are gathered in a conference room at the central office; colleagues from international offices are participating via conference call and Skype. The CEO, there just to oversee the group’s kick-off, opens with a pep talk. They were asked to help map a new path. Exciting ideas are expected to emerge from the group. They are a mix of men and women, with varied ages and titles, representing different divisions and functional backgrounds, living in different countries. Who among them will become the leads of this group?
Studies show that when individuals achieve status within organizational groups, they gain respect, prominence, and influence in the eyes of others. One factor is the demographics. People of the historically dominant race, gender and of a respectable age (white men over 40 in the Western corporate world) are typically afforded higher status than everyone else. Appearance also plays a role. Those who are tall and good-looking are favored over those less genetically blessed. Personality also plays a crucial role—the confidence usually displayed by extroverts helps them advance and move forward in the corporate world. People who achieve high status early tend to retain it. Others use more legitimate measures to size up new teammates. These include expertise, competence, and commitment—all good indicators of whether a person will gain others’ respect. But although educational and professional credentials may testify to these assets, they can be difficult to assess immediately. As people work together and prove their merit, initial impressions change.
In these modern times, an individual can achieve higher status on a team, both at the beginning and over time, by provisionally shifting his or her mindset before a first meeting. The attitude with which you enter a new group which is something completely within your control can help increase your chances of leading it.
While we cannot change our demographic characteristics, personality, appearance, rank, functional background, or expertise to get ready for a big meeting, we can channel our focus on mindset and behavior. Some of our Filipino managers are not being recognized because we live in the stereotype of traditional belief of leadership. They lack certain competence cues such as speaking up, taking the initiative, and expressing confidence that suggest leadership potential. These behaviors can be good indications that a person has useful expertise and experience, or they might simply reflect deep-seated personality traits such as extroversion and dominance. Motivation pushes us to steer clear of threats and adverse outcomes and the approach concentrates our attention on achieving positive outcomes and rewards leading an individual to a higher status.
Leaders concentrate their time and energy on things they can control rather than reacting or worrying about things that they cannot control. They approach problems using various methods of human influence such as empathy, confrontation, example, and persuasion, but understand and respect problems or issues over which they have no control, and try to circumvent such problems. Leaders who possess this nature add value to an organization by leveraging resources in the best possible manner toward realization of the organizational goals.
Are you a reactive leader – reacting quickly to problems and finding solutions? Or are you a proactive leader – having the luxury of time to contemplate all the issues to a problem, thinking about the big picture and making sure that you are solving problems for both the short and long-term? While the most effective leaders are almost always proactive, the vast majority of organizational leaders have behaved predominantly in a reactive manner.
Many of the most effective organizational leaders become extremely frustrated dealing with reactive co-leaders. When we refer to reactive leaders, we usually mean leaders who have their actions determined by situations, and therefore generally act after the fact. Proactive leaders attempt to anticipate what might happen, while reactive leaders often adopt a wait-and-see, don’t rock-the-boat attitude.
Before going into that big meeting, think about what kind of leader you want to be and channel your energy and mindset to becoming that leader.
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