Leaders and Alpha Male Behaviors…

Being a boss is much like being a high-status primate in a jungle environment. The others in the troupe watch the alpha male closely. Studies of baboon troupes, for example show that a typical member glances at the alpha male every 20-30 seconds. But the leader doesn’t return their interest.

The same is true in offices the world over. Followers know a lot more about the boss than he knows about them. Attention is directed up the hierarchy. Of course, this is to be expected since people pay attention to those who control what’s happening to them in their environments.

Anyone who’s been in authority knows what it feels like to get up from your desk and know that people are watching your every move. It can be unnerving in the beginning, and then one comes to expect it. But can you use it to your advantage and for the good of the organization? I work with a lot of executives coaching them to not ignore this leadership tool. It’s surprising how many smart leaders forget they are being watched…

In Bob Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss book, he makes the point that some leaders get so used to being scrutinized they become oblivious to it. This is a trap: it leads to being perceived as self-centered and unconcerned with what followers need, do, and say.

The thing to remember is this: it’s important to know your moves will be observed and repeated. This means you can’t afford to be sloppy or inconsiderate or lazy or rude… ever.

How’s that for walking a tight rope? Not that you’d be rude or sloppy, but who isn’t prone being human? Some leaders get oblivious and hard-shelled to what others say or think of them as a means of protection from sensitive cores.

That’s the quick-sand, isn’t it? In order to “rise above” the fact that you can’t please all the folks all the time, you put on your rain coat and ignore things. But too much of that can bite you back.

The solution is to continue to ask and listen to others’ ideas and opinions. You can choose what to ignore and what to pay attention to. But you can never neglect the others who depend on you to lead them. Your followers will observe you as much as any chimpanzee, and as the alpha male your behaviors count.

And you thought you were so sophisticated… If I can help coach you to improve your executive presence, let me know.

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