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What keeps leaders awake at night?

Stand a chance to win one hardcover copy of Nicole Lipkin's book, "What Keeps Leaders Up At Night". See bottom for more information...

Dr. Nicole Lipkin is an experienced clinical and business psychologist who hired a young woman named Hope to manage routine tasks in a group psychology practice. Soon, the doctor realised that her new employee’s work was not up to scratch. Hope’s failings cost the doctor and her practice both heartburn and money. Despite her experience, Lipkin found she could neither fire Hope nor resolve the various issues. She recognised that it was her personal failings that caused sleepless nights and this impelled her to examine the human psyche to help leaders understand and manage their emotions and their organization. This resulted in her book, What Keeps Leaders Up At Night. Far from being earth-shattering in its conclusions, this nonetheless uncovers common leadership blindspots, including poor communication, fractious group dynamics and even stress. She found that these keep leaders awake at night:

1. I'm a good boss, so why do I act like a bad one?

2. Why don't people heed my sage advice?

3. Why do I lose my cool in hot situations?

4. Why does a good fight sometimes turn bad?

5. Why can ambition sabotage success?

6. Why do people resist change?

7. Why do good teams go bad?

8. What causes a star to fade?

Let's dive a little deeper into each of these...

I am a good boss, so why do I act like a bad one?

Assuming for a moment that you know you are indeed a good leader, then what would make you act like a bad one? According to Lipkin, there are three reasons why we may act like a bad one: (1) we may be too busy to care, either because we are swamped by our own work or issues, or we are just too tired to bother; or (2) we may be too proud to see other ways, believing that we know it all and our way is the best - and only - way; or (3) we may be too afraid to lose (Singapore's favourite), not wanting to accept that we are wrong, and trying to force others to capitulate. So basically, when you fail to look at different perspectives, and you fail to understand your people's points of view, and you fail to listen to what others are saying, you become this tyrant, despite your best intentions.

Why don't people heed my sage advice?

When someone refuses to heed your advice, ask yourself two things: (1) "Do I really understand what is happening?" and (2) "Am I helping more than hindering?" Many a times, a leader might jump in and offer a solution without listening to all the facts, or by layering his own false assumptions on the situation. And sometimes, there is already a plan to get things going, and your advice may hinder more than help. So when you find people ignoring your suggestions, or advice, take a step back and understand where that is coming from. And know this - if your people are ignoring EVERYTHING you are saying, it means that you have already lost their respect. This should keep you awake at night, because if you don't do anything to change this, you not only lose your people, but you lose your right to lead.

Why do I lose my cool in hot situations?

Okay, this one's quite common, and I am not sure that many people will lose sleep over this. But it can be quite acrimonious if someone loses his/her cool in public. That is not okay! So why do we lose our cool? Many a times, we lose our cool over situations where the other party should not have done whatever was done - either by mistake, by dereliction or even by stupidity. But two wrongs never - ever - made a right, and losing your cool only shows how little you can control your emotion. So, whenever you feel that you are about to lose your cool, take a deep breath and keep your mouth shut. And when the feeling to pulverise the person has ebbed, then say something intelligent. Now the next best thing - and this is really a very distant next - is when you lose your cool, to apologise sincerely, and promise not to do it again. We do lose our cool sometimes, but how we recover from it is as important as not losing it in the first place!