Yes, Captain!

Writing my recent post on strategy and leadership reminded me of a piece I read in ‘Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion‘ by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini.  An interesting book full of insights and good humour founded on solid ethical research.

In it there is a section on captainitis

“…the sometimes perilous behaviour people exhibit when they defer blindly to whoever they see as being the most experienced person in the room…”

The book uses the example of the cockpit of an aircraft and there are many situations where this might occur in our own working lives.

Here are some possible scenarios…

  • business leaders whose decisions aren’t challenged because ‘they’re the boss’
  • new managers who are a little drunk on their new-found power
  • disengaged teams who don’t care any more because no-one listens to their views
  • family businesses where there is excessive deference to the founder
  • subject experts who can’t possibly ever be wrong

I hadn’t heard of captainitis before reading the book but I have seen the behaviour in action at different levels in different organisations.

Luckily there are many ways to keep captainitis at bay.  We can…

Create an open, honest environment where ideas, thoughts and insights can be shared

Develop team practices which enable people to contribute and express their thoughts and opinions

Support  individuals and teams with the tools and techniques which enable them to handle constructive challenge and fresh perspectives

When we find ourselves under the leadership spotlight (thought, team, project or business or…) it’s important we don’t let it go to our heads.

Success in our dynamic, connected, often complex world, is much more likely when we invite and accept challenge and ideas from others.

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