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16 Jan 2014

Leadership, The Secret (Pt 5): Persona

3 Gold StarsMost leadership programs fail to consider a critical psychological phenomenon: persona. They believe that good visions, strategies, missions, execution and authenticity will net good leadership. While important, this belief is akin to rushing headlong into battle with flanks completely exposed.

Often leaders fail because their persona, their image fails them. Conversely, they succeed not because of objective successes but because of successful personae. Managing personae is as critical, if not more so, than managing the objective factors. While many leaders consider this for external audiences, few do so for employees making leadership more of an acting role than a state of being. Of course, mixing good deeds with good acting is still ideal.

To manage your persona for employees, decisions must consider their emotional and symbolic impact. For example, an executive sent my client, an employee, a congratulatory note for securing one of the biggest accounts seen in its thousand-employee regional office. The executive, housed in the regional office, missed a symbolic, emotional laden opportunity by not doing so in person. Even though she might not have been there, the executive coming down from above to mix with the rank and file seeking my client would have had a huge impact.

In sports, coaches get thrown from games or penalized for arguing with officials. While tactically poor, emotionally and symbolically the coach is “sticking up for the players.” In the workplace, it’s a poor use of a leader’s time to jump in and do a subordinate’s job, emotionally and symbolically it conveys “willingness to jump in the trenches.”

Many morale enhancing techniques have little objective value. Yet, they tremendously enhance leaders’ personae which positively colors their deeds. It works because good leadership is subjective. Even something as simple as trust has many hues.

So, how’s your persona feeling today?

Series Navigation<< Leadership, The Secret (Pt 4): Leadership RiddleLeadership, The Secret (Pt 6): Scientifically Unproven >>

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