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Topics: Leadership
Does Assertiveness represent a Failure in Leadership?
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Assertiveness signifies a failure in leadership.

OK I guess if you are a project manager the above will have likely triggered a strong response, but please bear with me…

Leadership operates from the ‘inside-out’ – we are motivated by the leader to ‘want’ to do what is required – ‘assertiveness:, is redundant.

The effective leader has authority without domination.

Because assertiveness is largely antithetical to good leadership; which evokes and inspires commitment from the ‘inside-out’: we are motivated by the leader to ‘want’ to do what is required.

No deployment of coercion or domination from the ‘outside-in’, in any form; masquerading as, never mind seeking to justify itself as ‘assertiveness’, is required: it is redundant.

Assertiveness dominates: imposes from the outside-in: it is the fertile ground where ‘tyranny’ grows. This is not leadership. I would also argue that ‘passive assertiveness’ is an oxymoron: ‘Assert’ is a verb.

Cast in this enlightened perspective, it is apparent theories and practice advocating ‘assertiveness’ in leadership if not at it’s very core, are often presented in such a way as to co-opt a pretended, though, in my view, wholly un-supported ‘authority’. This is no more than a disingenuous attempt to camouflage and justify a more or less explicit form of psychological violence.

I promote a more ’transparent’ form of leadership; one where coercive exercise of power is neither needed, mandated, nor sanctioned, by the leader’s ‘position’.

Whilst initially counter-intuitive, given our conditioned expectation that leaders exhibit testosterone driven ‘assertive’ behaviours, I argue the harm and cost to both business and individuals, resulting from the attraction to positions of ‘assertive leadership’, of over-compensating, insecure and narcissistic individuals, is immense.

I believe this challenge should be given a broader platform to encourage conversations giving greater exposure to what is one of the greatest challenges of our time; as clearly evidenced in the politics of our day; their effect on us all, along with questionable media portrayals of leadership.
GM LinkedIn Post 18/2/18

Assertiveness kicks in when leadership fails. Leadership is more conferred by the follower than imposed by ‘position’. The leader evokes alignment and buy in to common goals: inspires.

By contrast assertive leadership is aggressive and antagonistic in tone and prosody. It is, in reality, counter-productive. For it inhibits and suppresses individual and team growth.

An effective leader pre-empts conflict, and the trap of becoming 'Persecutor' over 'Victim', in the 'Karpman Drama Triangle' where pre-emptive assertiveness all too often progresses on the backs of ‘losers’.
Emotional intelligence and maturity anticipates and avoids conflicts, and hence this whole culture of testosterone fuelled, amygdala-addling narcissist and psychopath attracting, assertiveness. Assertiveness is part of Carl Sagans 'evolutionary baggage' the evolution of modern business and technology is selecting against.

To realise the emergent synergies of teams necessitates the avoidance of antagonism which asserted authority inevitably incurs (Elias Canetti's 'sting).

My own definition of ‘what good looks like’ in leadership, looks askance: with deep distrust, at one exercising assertiveness behaviours, while claiming ‘Leadership’. To me, such behaviours are evident when one moves beyond personal self-assurance, and expressed personal decisiveness, to the assertion and imposition on another, or others, of ‘position power’: directing, over-riding, dictating; coercing. This is outside-in domination. To a greater or lesser extent the team member is diminished or humiliated.* For me this corresponding ‘bite’ taken out of the team member also represents the collateral damage to the team members ‘self-expression and performance-ability. Domination handicaps team and individual performance, and smothers emergent synergies.

* “Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.” Dag Hammarskjold: ex Sec Gen of the U.N.
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I read all of this and forgot the question. Oh yes, well, leadership attributes are very situational. An inexperienced team would require a leader/manager to be more assertive. Some cultures such as collectivist societies actually perform better under an assertive leader, while some individualistic societies do not.
Network:1936



Time and place for ... ; and situational awareness.
Network:21

Hi Sante. An inexperienced team in Agile receives coaching and mentoring in advance of delegation. The Scrum Leader facilitates this and assertiveness is unnecessary and counter productive. It is the distinction between someone showing how it is done and directing/telling. The latter is an exertion and assertion of power while the former is a respectful empowerment: an encouragement rather than a shove, a nurturing to full realisation of potential rather than a bonsai diminution and strait jacketing into a box. In short helping to grow wings rather than fitting rails. I have seen it done. Done it. The experience is so different....
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Mar 28, 2018 6:31 PM
Sante Vergini
...
Agreed, and the question was "Does Assertiveness represent a Failure in Leadership?". Inexperienced teams even in Scrum (usually denoted at the Forming stage) need direction (assertiveness). Empowerment and delegation comes later in team formation. Outside of Agile, where I have demonstrated in some situations (ie. forming stage of a team) where assertiveness is not a failure in leadership, these leadership attributes have their place in sectors such as the Military.
Network:13416



Mar 28, 2018 4:00 PM
Replying to Gordon MacKay
...
Hi Sante. An inexperienced team in Agile receives coaching and mentoring in advance of delegation. The Scrum Leader facilitates this and assertiveness is unnecessary and counter productive. It is the distinction between someone showing how it is done and directing/telling. The latter is an exertion and assertion of power while the former is a respectful empowerment: an encouragement rather than a shove, a nurturing to full realisation of potential rather than a bonsai diminution and strait jacketing into a box. In short helping to grow wings rather than fitting rails. I have seen it done. Done it. The experience is so different....
Agreed, and the question was "Does Assertiveness represent a Failure in Leadership?". Inexperienced teams even in Scrum (usually denoted at the Forming stage) need direction (assertiveness). Empowerment and delegation comes later in team formation. Outside of Agile, where I have demonstrated in some situations (ie. forming stage of a team) where assertiveness is not a failure in leadership, these leadership attributes have their place in sectors such as the Military.
Network:21

Direction is not synonymous with assertion, as implied, I think.
Enabling another to see and understand what is to be done, and how, is a different thing altogether from telling someone what to do.
The former inspires self motivated action.
The latter does not
The former is leadership
The latter is tyranny.

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