‘Strong Personalities’ in Leadership:

Six points on how to calculate the cost

People said to have a strong personality often have strong leadership skills in the following areas: drive, clear viewpoints, getting things done. However, behind that label of ‘strong personality’ often hides a deep sigh – from the person herself and from people who work with her.

As much as such a person seems to shoulder responsibilities with ease, their Achille’s heal is often their people skills. They often intimidate others through their sheer confidence, no-nonsense approach, and energy. And no one dares to tell them. Only few feel free enough to have an honest, open conversation. Here are 6 ways in which everyone pays:

  1. People in this manager’s team and even peers go silent. Their contributions fall short of their available potential. You are paying for much more than you are getting.
  2. The strong personality is usually aware of this. It causes her a lot of frustration. She is interested in the issues. She wants to move things forward. However, even when concealed, her frustration is powerful. People confuse her frustration with issues with her frustration with people. And often she does too - but not intentionally.
  3. The leader herself and the team are exhausted and unhappy. People get sick. Sick days, absenteeism, and late-coming increase.
  4. You might also have a lot of chatter on the corridors, on WhatsApp groups and other electronic platforms. This serves to compare notes, get colleagues’ support and voice opinions, at least unofficially.
  5. Turn-over in the leader’s team and among her peers might increase.
  6. The more influence such a manager has, the further away your company moves from a positive high-performance culture. Generating such a trusting culture takes patient leadership work. During these years staff will not be delivering at the level they actually could.

Putting a number to lacking people skills is not so hard if you take heart and work through the points above. Even if you assume productivity shortfalls of only 10% you will find that the cost of doing nothing to support this leader with a ‘strong personality’ is high.

The idea is not to blame the strong leader. She plays her role in the space she is given. But she needs support because she most probably knows that she works in a way that is not sustainable for her and the organisation. But it’s tough to admit to this. For her and for you.

Written by Claudia Brandt - 29 June 2021

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