Now, that sentence on the cricket field sounds perfectly alright. But when you take that context out of a game and bring it into a corporate context, it pretty much makes for a challenging and complicated environment to work in.
Let us understand what the term is for starters:
Defence: the action of defending from or resisting attack.
We have seen many examples of taking offence or being offensive and of being defensive wither about what is being said or received.
Leadership styles often fall under defensive leadership or offensive leadership or both. Ideally, any extreme can hamper both the persons involved and the organisation.
Defensive leadership is leading from a space of defence and this approach is often not an open way to manage and is often a result of being close minded. This leads to constantly protecting yourself and your team without rationale. This is detrimental because everything gets side-lined when defence is at play. People who use defence and protection as a response are often not open or miss feedback entirely. This can also lead to circumstances where the person refuses to be challenged and ends up blaming people and situations for what happens in their purview as a leader.
If a leader can steer clear of being defensive, they can imbibe more, learn, and improve by being open to failure and mistakes. Leaders who are not defensive also manage to drive more accountable and responsible teams. Relationships by people who are not defensive can also get stronger and being open minded, lets you see the world as a spectrum and not as binary.
Being a defensive leader harms the team in many ways too. This allows for them to fall into the same rut and not be open and agile. This hampers their own growth trajectory and that of the team members as they tend to get complacent and comfortable and often find it easy to flout rules and take the easy way out. Leaders who empower teams do not need to protect them.
When we as leaders do not empower our teams and hide behind our own insecurities and play to only the gallery but do not go deeper into the mechanics and let things slide and find excuses, we fail.
Let us try and identify some indicative behaviours that showcase defensive leadership:
When you judge, evaluate, and criticise others but do not apply the same terms of measurement to yourself.
Not being open to and hence not hearing other views and opinions.
There is a tendency to find excuses and reasons and justification for their actions.
They do not focus on the issue at hand and tend to digress.
There is a desire to establish a superiority equation.
How can we fix this and work on it so that defensive leadership does not hold back teams and leaders themselves from achieving full potential?
Keep clear lines of communication open and be open to ideas and opinions.
Give space to teams and people to be themselves and focus on their strengths and growing them.
Negative reactions to difficult circumstances are not ideal.
Do not let emotions decide or define outcomes
Balance is key and everything should have a balanced view.
This reminds me of a quote which talks about what we can do as leaders to empower and enrich…
“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That is when you can get more creative in solving problems.” Stephen Covey
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