Leading by Workplace Opinion


Leading by Workplace Opinion

We have become a society driven by polls. VIM Executive Coaching has coached leaders who have gotten so wrapped up “in polls” that they forgot their purpose as executives and instead led by loudest opinion.

Polls are Ubiquitous

It is no wonder that executives sometimes fall into leadership by workplace opinion. Polls are seen in politics, sports, the financial industry and even in the arts. We are enamored by what people think of us. While no one enjoys the prospect of people loathing or reviling us, leading by following opinion will result in no opinion or frequently, inconsistency.

The reasons polls are usually taken is to determine, at a certain point in time, an attitude toward a specific issue. However, a poll is never definitive. For example, an anonymous poll taken to determine how employees feel about the CEO often follows a predictable pattern. The day after the CEO decides to cut maternity leave benefits versus the day after the CEO raises starting salaries would undoubtedly yield very different numbers.

The problem with polls is that they usually don’t account for extenuating factors. In the workplace, as in life, we must sometimes make decisions that are unpopular. We must have the courage or the integrity or even the strength to go against the popular grain and do what is best, not what is deemed popular or “happy.”

Authenticity is not a Poll

An authentic executive leader is less concerned by poll numbers than she might be by doing what is most true, most compassionate and more responsive to a given set of problems. If she must make the decision to terminate the employment of a popular employee due to reports of unethical company credit card behavior, she has no other alternative but to proceed.

While no one might relish the thought of laying off fifty percent of the sales department, if the executive charged with the leading the department through hard times conducts the layoffs with fairness and compassion, no one can ultimately fault him.

On the other hand, to disregard expense report cheating or to carry poorly performing employees at the cost of those who are putting in every effort they can make, will result in perceptions that the executive is weak, panders to opinion or is indecisive.

The problem comes when an aspiring executive leader is so consumed by being admired, even though he or she “knows better,” often results in conflict that confuses or troubles the executive as to how to handle the situation or even their career. That is where VIM Executive Coaching often comes into the picture.

Losing the poll results, real or imagined, requires the executive leader to have no other choice but the road of compassion, responsiveness and authenticity. To reach that level requires the practice of mindfulness.

To be mindful is not to be indifferent, but to do, simply, what is best. Authenticity and mindfulness endure; poll results do not. It is a harsh lesson for executive leaders to learn. For those who love us “in the polls one day,” may whimsically reject us the next. Operate, always, on what is best; never what is the most popular.

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Bruce Wolk