Showing Fitness for Leadership

Showing Fitness for Leadership

“Abusing yourself is a way of demonstrating your fitness.”

~ Professor Drew Dawson.

The above quote was a wry observation (certainly not a recommendation or an endorsement!) made by Professor Dawson during the Q & A after a recent keynote – ‘Positively Managing Workplace Fatigue’ – he gave at the Victorian Workplace Mental Wellbeing Collaboration’s Business Leaders Breakfast on 1 March 2019.

Professor Drew made the above statement while he was talking about the tendency of too many people to brag about the ruinously long hours they work. He recommended instead that we (and especially workplace leaders) should be modelling healthier behaviours around getting enough sleep and rest, important given the negative impacts that fatigue has on wellbeing and productivity.

But I think this quote could be applied to other unhelpful behaviours we see, especially at management level – things that have been valorised instead of being decried as counterproductive, pointless, or sometimes just downright nasty.

The Lost World (1925) - Bessie Love menaced by dinosaur
From ‘The Lost World’ (1925)

How many of these things have you seen backfire? And I’m going to broaden this to abusing others, as well as ourselves, as a demonstration of supposed fitness for leadership. Because each abuse of leadership does carry some karma with it: instant in that you stand to immediately run down the levels of trust and respect your team might have for you even while you are setting up future bad habits for yourself. Long term in that, down the track, there may be health problems or legal implications of repeated instances of these actions. Here are a few leadership sins:

  • Giving feedback that is frank to the point of rudeness and denigration. If you choose words carefully and put some thought into how you structure your conversation, you can be completely honest with someone with mounting a psychological attack.
  • Having workplace conversations in front of others that should be had in private.
  • Not planning properly, not managing your time properly. Running around like a headless chook will not only burn you out, it will send the wrong messages to your team.
  • Not taking time off if you’re sick but choosing instead to carry on. If you come to work and cough and splutter through your day, no-one else is impressed by your stoicism. We’re just scared of catching your lurgy. And the same goes for mental health issues – I have seen some incredibly awkward situations where workers were conflicted by feelings of sympathy for an obviously depressed or stressed manager and also frustrated by the problems caused by that manager’s inevitable lapses in concentration, focus, and motivation. If you’re unwell, take the time off, seek professional help. *
  • Sticking with a job you hate just for the money. Acknowledged: a lot of workers are pushed into the situation where they have to take any job they can get to keep themselves off the dole queue, support their families, and keep a roof over their heads. Changing jobs – upgrading to a job you enjoy – can take a long time (especially for workers with low or limited skillsets) so workers can be trapped in a job they hate for a long time. But managers, who can point to high level skills and plenty of experience, have less excuse. There is nothing worse than working for a manager who clearly couldn’t give a toss about their work.

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment below.

I created a Wakelet collection of tweets and notes from Professor Dawson’s keynote ‘Positively Managing Workplace Fatigue’ which you can check out here.

*Seriously, depression is a very serious health problem but, with the right treatment, it can be effectively treated. Don’t ignore it. Get help.

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