Sunglass leaders – the filter effect that casts everything in one colour

This week – our focus is on what we call, for purposes of this blog, the ‘sunglass’ leader. A leader whose manners demand of those they lead, to see the world through one lens and colour – their lens. It’s akin to wearing sunglasses, that we know place a filter between the eye and what you see. Moreover, that filter only shows the colour of the sunglass lens. It could be deep blue, green, etc. but it’s one colour.

Now, truth be told to all of us leaders – we approach the business of governing the led, in ‘tailored’ ways. In other words, each one of us has leadership manners peculiar to ourselves. As expected, there is a myriad of approaches to leading.

Interestingly, even with all its multiple manifestations, leadership is a microcosm of two broad approaches — the ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ leader. Inward leaders, consciously or not, walk away from the outside towards the inside. They manifest an intense liking for doing things in only the manner they know and believe is right. Nothing else, other than what they know, is right or acceptable. This type of leader exhibits characteristics like being a control freak, insecure and an assassin of cerebral-independence

On the other hand, outward-looking leaders look to, borrow and learn from the outside. They oscillate from the known to the unknown. They espouse empowering and accommodating leadership manners. They celebrate and foster cerebral-independence and disdain cerebral-dependence. Generally speaking, this type of leader is comfortable and accommodating of new and uncertain domains. They believe that those that work for them have ‘viable’ cerebral bandwidth and don’t need to be controlled to remain productive.

Why the sunglass leader?

So, why do we get plus have to deal with leadership like the sunglass type? Well, let’s start our answer with a question – ‘are leaders born or made?’

Any leader, whether manifesting inward or outward tendencies, is likely not consciously to recognise their individual leadership orientation. They usually need reminding what they are made of. These things are innate and a DNA matter.

Yes, one can learn certain leadership traits, but the foundation of one’s leadership architecture are innate mannerisms that form the core of a leader type.

It’s the above that separates leaders from managers. Managers are technocrats that can learn their trade at college and from other technocrats. In manufacturing industry terms – the managers are the mechanists on the factory floor and leaders are the owners or representatives of the owners, observing the factory floor from the balcony. Leadership is soft and innate, and management is mechanical.

How do we deal with the sunglass leader?

How many of you choose your bosses directly? Not many have that opportunity. Commonly, our leaders are selected by people two or so tiers above us. So – are we condemned to dealing with the hand God deals us when it comes to leadership type?

Yes and no. Yes, because the ultimate choice of your leader is made by those above you; and no, because you can influence and push to get what you want to see in a leader or vote with your feet and walk away.

We spend more than 70% of our day time, Monday to Friday, on the same turf with our leaders. Having to deal with sunglass type leaders, for the majority of the day, is daunting.

It even gets worse when you can’t move the needle to change the character of such leaders – after all, not all organisations provide the space, system, culture and tools to feedback and influence individual leader-style change.  

Those in formal employment have three choices when it comes to leadership type situations:

  • follower-ship that brings yourself and those that demand it of you, a feeling of safety be it authentic or not
  • cerebral independence in an environment that lets you have your real head on your body; with you making the decisions, and as expected, carrying all the accompanying risks and rewards
  • a hybrid of the two, but which can also be frustrating depending on which of the above two archetypes is more dominant

The choice of where to work and with who is really yours, but we appreciate it’s not always a straight decision



Categories: You, the Leader!

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