I read an interesting article about the building of the Echo, the little talking speaker made by Amazon. I was struck how everyone was afraid of Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. At one point in the article they said:
We spent so much time trying to anticipate what Jeff would do or say, and read into little words he would say in meetings. … It would lead to so much additional work.
I have been caught in that trap many times myself. I have worked for people who were so intimidating, that all my energy and focus was being spent on trying to please them, prevent an outburst, or interpret what they were going to say next. So, it really caught me off-guard to discover that people I work with felt that way about me. I’m an easy going guy…why would they be intimidated by me?
It is because there is a true power gap between a supervisor and subordinate. The authority of a leader (matter how lightly it is carried by the person in charge) is felt and sometimes feared by the person who is in the lower position. While I used to believe all the responsibility to fix this rested on the shoulders of the leader, I am starting to realize that it is not. Responsibility for the relationship is shared by both of us.
If you are intimidated by your leader, here are some things to remember.
- Our leaders are imperfect human beings, just as we are. They will make mistakes. We have to forgive them and move on. We can’t expect perfection. We can’t expect to win every difference of opinion.
- Our leaders really want us to speak up and add value to the conversation. We fail to serve them well if we only nod our heads in agreement and never speak up with our concerns.
- Our leaders may speak to us with intensity, but it is more likely a reflection of their passion for the project than emotions directed at us. I love to engage the debate with my team about the pros and cons of various options…but I never want my intensity to harm them or stifle their participation.
The next time you feel the fear of your leader rising…acknowledge the fear while boldly moving forward and saying what needs to be said (or doing what needs to be done). If you are wrong, you will find that out and learn from it. That is the nature of personal growth!
Thanks for listening.