A top level executive, let’s call her Shweta, was lacking leadership presence. She was known as a hard worker and her team members liked her. Yet, she was missing many opportunities to step more firmly into a leadership role. This resulted in her team members not always getting the opportunities for growth and learning they deserved. Shweta was respected for her business and financial acumen as well as for the impact and growth she had generated – and continued to generate – through her work. However, she avoided confrontation too much and was often too risk-averse.
The stated objective was to enhance Shweta’s leadership persona. She had to move away from the worker’s persona and start thinking and acting more like a leader. She needed to delegate more and let go of her perfectionism to a certain extent. She also needed to learn to take calculated risks to accelerate the growth of the company.
We started the process with a 360 feedback. This helped Shweta understand how peers and direct reports perceived her. When it came to ‘exploring the story behind the story’ to understand the root cause of the issues she was facing, we found that Shweta had always felt she had to work double as hard because she was a woman; this also meant she couldn’t make any mistakes because that would just prove the people right who felt that a woman wasn’t cut out for this sort of job. That was why it was so hard for her to delegate work. She would then be held responsible for other people’s mistakes – it was easier to just do it herself and make sure it was perfect.
Increasing self awareness
Shweta realized that most of the stress and pressure she was under came from her own fears and expectations. The feedback she got from her superior, peers and reports made her aware that she was, in fact, highly professional and possessed great expertise.
Understanding and accepting the challenges
Shweta understood that delegation was something she really needed to work on for two reasons: she simply didn’t have time to do everything herself and – more importantly – she was depriving her team members of some valuable growth opportunities. Since she genuinely cared about her reports and wanted them to succeed, the latter was a strong motivator for her to learn how to delegate.
Falling back on strengths
The strengths revealed in Shweta’s 360 – aside from her technical expertise – were that she was helpful, articulate and trustworthy as well as showing high integrity. All of these strengths could be leveraged in building her unique leadership persona.