Do you remember the iconic battles between Superman and Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch nemesis and the consummate evil genius? As a young boy I put on the superman underoos, the red “S” on my chest and the red cape and fought against Lex Luthor to save the world and the damsel in distress, my own personal Lois Lane. Superman was a symbol of strength and in my battles always came out victorious. But, there was one thing that rendered Superman ineffective and had the potential to lead to his demise.
That one thing for Superman was Kryptonite. Kryptonite was the ore form of a radioactive element from Superman’s home planet of Krypton. Whenever Superman came into contact with this radioactive element it left him powerless. Lex Luthor knew this was his weakness and went to great lengths to use it in attempt to destroy superman.
For Superman it was Kryptonite but what is it for you as an organizational leader?
Abstraction the kryptonite for a leader.
Abstraction can render you ineffective as leader and deteriorate your leadership influence. It’s a possible weakness for leaders that you need to be aware of an have a plan of attack to minimize.
As your team or organization gets bigger, abstraction can become a real challenge. When you have 10 people on your team, you can have a personal connection with each person. You can stay close. You can get unfiltered information about what’s really going on. You can have clarity on the downstream impacts of decisions you make because you’re closer to the people impacted.
It becomes more challenging to have a personal connection with everyone when your team gets to 30, 70, 100, 500+ people and you become more and more removed from the front line people. As a result, information that makes its way to you can become filtered to a point where you never hear the real news. You can also start to make decisions without consideration of the humans impacted by your decisions. People can be represented by a number in a spreadsheet or on PowerPoint presentation.
Abstraction is this sense is about distance. The distance causes a leader to consider decisions independently of its associations and impacts. We lose sight of the humans on our team and can make decisions that have unintended downstream impacts. It’s the kryptonite for a leader and something that needs to be proactively battled and prevented.
How to drive it to action:
Be present and walk around. I know you’re busy, but take time to interact and be seen. There is no commitment without connection, so spend (5) minutes walking around to simply connect with your fellow humans.
Look for ways to burst the bubble around you that often develops as you progress in leadership. The brutal facts of what’s going on within your team or organization needs a way to make it to you unfiltered. Abstraction often chokes communication channels, so find a way to get raw, unfiltered information so you can make the best informed decisions. Skip level 1:1’s are a great way to dig deeper into your organization in effort to stay connected. Find creative ways to stay connected to front line people so you see a face instead of just another name on a row in a spreadsheet.
Remember, real people are impacted by the decisions you make as a leader. We should humanize all of our decisions and work hard to fight against abstraction and its impacts.