One of the responses from my article titled diversity beyond diversity was a call from a C-level executive of a company. I was shocked with his confession on how he had anathematised five promising staff due to his unconscious bias and lack of knowledge of the diversity in the personality of people. In his words, I had taken wrong positions by tagging my former staff as over ambitious and expressive unnecessarily and in the process frustrated them out of the company.
He was particularly impressed with how my article exposed the need for leaders to know and take diversity in the personality of their employees with the same level of importance given to the difference in race, religion and ethnicity. He thereafter requested me to write another article on the two broad personality-types in the workplace- the extroverts and the introverts.
One major flaw of the introverts is the inability to communicate in a way expected in many circumstances. The introverts are accused of lacking leadership skills for this and most often perceived as weak, and not social to lead a strategic team or be in a strategic position. Though communication skill is an essential ingredient of a leader’s influence, it can be horned especially where there are compensating strengths in the introverts. It takes a leader who understands the personality traits of people to discern the value of the introverts. It takes one with an understanding heart to nurture and navigate an introvert into an effective communicator and a leader with influence.
As a business leader, don’t allow your bias to determine the future of your staff without effort to test the correctness of your perception. Leaders need to know their direct reports, identify strengths the introverts bring to the table and decide to improve the introverts’ capacity to communicate, respond and adapt to circumstances as part of the leadership development process. I have noted in most cases, that the introverts have the depository of ideas and creativity if well understood and maximised. They need to be mined like the oil wells since they have the power to be their best within them.
The extroverts are easily anathematised in the workplace for their ‘gunslinger’ attitude to work and situations. They are often the castrated employees who are tagged as excessively ambitious, outspoken and wanting to be noticed or recognized. One thing you cannot take away from most of the extroverts is the commitment, the value they can put on the table and the ability to be a ‘go-to’ asset for the organisation. A leader must know how to extract value from his or her people irrespective of their traits, sex or race. The understanding of your employees’ traits is a panacea to the effective use of their strengths and reduction in the emotional and mental disengagement in the workplace.
Bashir Muhammad is a staff of a medium-size property company that was retained after his mandatory youth service year. He is outstanding among his peers. Bashir is the first to speak, act and embraced his roles. He always acted like magnets that attract his colleagues who are willing to work and repel those who will only do what is required. He has the fire in him and within a short space of time; he could act and take a decision like the owner of the business. His boss, Olalekan Okewoye understood his sanguine and choleric temperament and sees the good in him whenever he makes mistakes in his decision or adds creativity to instructions leading to an undesired outcome. Rather than anathematised Bashir, Olalekan is seeing the brilliant side of him and consciously mentoring him. Olalekan is with a profound understanding that leadership without mentorship is like a relationship without partnership.
Employees who are extroverts are often castrated by leaders with underdeveloped people management skills. These leaders see the staff as showing visibility, lousy, independent and not vulnerable. Many excellent employees have been marked as anathema and showed the exit doors whenever the opportunity presents itself due to the leaders’ unconscious bias for toward their personality traits. The anathemas in the workplace are staff noted and marked for exit or stagnation due to wrong perceptions contrary to their loyalty, uprightness, and because they appeared not to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is a virtue some leaders want in their followers as security in their position.
The common cause of staff being anathematized could be racial or religious consideration where no matter how the staff is, he or she cannot rise above a certain grade or given some opportunity. It could be undeserving hatred for the use of latent talents in the work place where the staff is castrated for daring to express his passion outside his job role even where no conflict of interest can be traced and when the organization could benefit from such talent. Another major cause of castration is gut. A staff that is a conformist to the caprices and dictates of the leaders are loved and treated better than those with the courage to speak against or stand for what is ideal for his team or the organization at large.
Leaders have responsibilities towards their followers irrespective of their personality traits in the workplace. An example of a perfect management of an extrovert is seen in the relationship between the ultimate leader, Jesus and Peter, one of his disciples. Peter wants to walk on the sea like Jesus. He is the first to speak and act. He always wants to achieve the objective of the team. Rather than perceiving Peter as a threat, Jesus sees beyond his nature, nurtured him and at a time named him as the rock.
For leaders to be fair and avoid regrets of action taken against people during their stewardship, they should adopt the influence model as a gauge against unguided comments or decision on the perceived anathemas. The leadership influence as made popular by Dr John C. Maxwell wants leaders to exude integrity, nurturing and faith in people, listening with care and act with understanding heart. Other virtues of the influence model are emotional intelligence, navigate people through problems, communicate effectively and be exemplary.
With influence, leaders will achieve the result through their people. The bridge between leadership influence and result is the behaivour of the leaders to the people and the situation at hand. Leaders must stop, pause and ask questions on the bias against the anathemas in the workplace. A simple pause for reflection could be the stitch in time that saves nine.
Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Limited and Founder, the Positive Growth Africa. He can be reach on firstname.lastname@example.org or 08025489396.
*Babs Olugbemi is the author of Take the Lead (How to live, energise, activate and develop your strength), an empowerment book for employees, talent entrepreneurs and business owners