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Our integrative experience in the AGSM MBA this week included a big chapter on adaptive leadership. One of the concepts that were mentioned time and time again was that of rank. How we perceive our and other people’s rank and what effect it has on our assumptions and behaviours.
One sentence that one of our facilitators mentioned (he actually quoted someone else, whose name I don’t remember) struck me as especially interesting. He was talking about rank in organizations and about people “going up the ladder”, being promoted. Then he said:
“When we go up the ladder, we look down and see a lot of shiny happy faces. When they look up, they see…”
Well, he did not finish, so I don’t feel I need to. But that reminded me of the “Toxic Tandem“. People in positions of power tend to be oblivious to the needs and actions of the people who have less power than them. Or in other words, as we described it in class: “managers are usually blind to their rank”. As a manager, it is easy to forget that you are up there on the ladder. That means that the focus of all eyes is on you. And it also means that you are in a different position than everybody else is. Which means it is harder for you to understand them.
Too many managers get to a management position and continue to do what they always did. Their work. Which is good, but not great. The problem is that now their work is being a manager. And that is a totally different job. A job you cannot do without leaving your desk. With out being active about it. without a little, MBWA.
So, the fact that you went up the ladder does not mean you have to stay there all the time. From time to time, you can climb down from the ladder and let the people see your happy shiny face, instead of your…