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  • Writer's pictureAdil Malia

'Dominating Presence' - The Killer of Leaders

'Dominating Presence' is the hubris of many a good leaders. However smart they are, the over dominance of such leaders ultimately destroys them.

Leadership failure when analyzed is often times not an outcome of deficiency of intelligence as much as it is a cumulative outcome of deeply ingrained 'dominant' personality traits which went unchecked in its growing phases.

One may be a leader...a protagonist of the story and very crucial to the themeunweaving the intricacies of the plot. Yet in the narrative, your presence does not have to be 'dominant' in all the scenes of the story throughout the plot.

This is the folly of quite a few leaders in contemporary times . They erroneously believe that being a leader means showing their head up in every scene and frame, reaffirming at all times and to everybody that they are the leader !Despite being intelligent, their impeding failure due to their dominating behavior seems to blind-sight them.

An effective leader in his work role is expected to show confidence without arrogance and display charisma without melodrama. But such mature behavior does not come naturally when one is in a state of absolute control and power. Such astute behaviour is an outcome only of systematic coaching that such a power-holder experiences thru his coach, over the growing phase of his career.

While leadership charisma and presence is very necessary for success ( one can never imagine a subdued leader in an age dominated by brand marketing), leadership has to be displayed like the smooth fragrance of flowers...smoothly kissing the breeze but not dominating the air ! It is only then that a leader is able to develop other leaders under him.

Whilst divine ubiquity is a blessing, mindless imitation of this principle by corporate leaders, is destructive. Continuously such attention snatching leadership behaviour unfortunately assumes the shape of overbearance and thus becomes the nemesis of leadership. Such theatrical display of dominance alienates the leader from the other team members who all the time feel pale and insignificant compared to their leader. It not only detracts the team members from their performance but also impairs the leader from knowing what exactly is going on in the team.

A dominating leader displays his 'feudalistic' Dominating presence in multiple ways and there is nothing subtle about it :

  • He reaffirms his superiority by continuously flaunting his branded power artifacts ....he travels by his Jaguar, writes with Mont Blanc writing instruments, wears Thomas Pink shirts monogrammed with his initials. This is different from being sartorial. At times, he is actually gaudy. But heavens befall if you as his subordinate dress better than him or copy his style. Your increment for the next year will certainly be impacted if you do.

  • Uses Operating Symbolisms in display of power.. sits at the helm of the table, his furniture is Italian, no one can have a chair bigger than his (or dare use his chair in his absence). His box in the org chart is highlighted differently. He is mindful of the order in which his name appears on the mailing list of messages. Dare any name of his sub-ordinates, precede his name. That would only be at your cost and consequences.

  • Power Dominance in Process.. despite lengthening the process without any meaningful value-adds, all processes and procedures need his final approvalto feed his megalomania. You dare not directly write to your super boss and all external departmental communications can happen only in his name. All vouchers need his sign-off before payment.

  • Unsolicited Ideological the drop of the hat such a leader marking dominant presence, lectures as if he was waiting for an error to be made so that he can say his sermon. Needless to say that the purpose is the sermon. It often takes shape of constantly drawing on the same experiences, narrating the same story and mentioning the same best practices over and over from his previous organisation etc., ad nauseum.

  • Maximized Air-time Grabs. Irrespective of need or situational subject knowledge, he grabs the maximum common air time. He may share time with you if whilst saying your piece you make references to the idea being his, that he has permitted you to do the needful and how you picked up this innovative idea observing his style !!! You will have to make a statutory announcement all the time that you will go ahead with the idea only if he approves it !!!

  • Publicly Chastising for errors made. Such a leader thus creates fear factor in the system. Being scared no one will challenge him. But members of the team under such a dominating leader, will always be on their tenterhooks, feel duly traumatized and scared. The team morale is low and attrition is high.

  • You rather put up everything for approval before proceeding , however insignificant you may believe that to be, if you do not want it withdrawn subsequently !

I bet, we all thinking and can recall from first-hand experience, someone else as the leader with such dominating presence. You would however be shocked out of your wits if you were to eaves drop the office pantry chatter which may make references to you as such a leader with dominating presence. If you are wise, I would suggest you seek immediate coaching help before the sword strikes.

Coaching your mentee with an Over-Dominating presence :

My coaching experiences at the leadership C-Suite levels have taught me that your mentee may have such a Dominating style as his real problem . A 360 feedback from his role configuration may reflect that to you. You need to help your mentee introspect and identify his behavioral signals and their influencing triggers.

The fact is that ' overwhelming dominance' as the bedrock cause of his failure may be lying buried beneath the surface. This is his vulnerability. As his Coach, get him to dispassionately appreciate this fact. Under stressful situations, your mentee's vulnerabilities actually get triggered. He needs to recognize the stresses that trigger-off his vulnerabilities. Help him to spot his spoilers early in time and block his triggers. You could as his coach help him to save his otherwise bright career from impeding failure.

People spontaneously love a naturally smart leader. But no one loves to work under a Dominating leader who does not give space to them for their learning, engagement, gaining of experiences and growth.

'Executive Presence' is critical to success. It is about bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges. That is one end of the spectrum where success happens. 'Leadership Dominance' is the prime contributor to your failure. It is about making your dominating presence unbearable in each and every shot of the frame and story. This other hand of the spectrum.

You choose between humility and hubris !

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