You struck it rich. Lots of cash. Ah, take that vision in.

And then watch “The Lottery Changed My Life.” It’s a sad tale (usually) of overspending, overextending and overexposure. Dysfunctional approaches to instant wealth based upon psychological baggage riddle the show. Lots of “I can’t believe I am broke again” head-shaking along with bankruptcy lawsuits make for 30-60 minutes of entertainment (maybe?).

And as typical viewing Americans, we shake our heads at the screen explaining to our television viewing living room audience how this situation would never happen to me. We explain how we wouldn’t fall into the traps these people did and how we’re much smarter than all of this. We think we know better. That’s what we do. Especially in areas where we have no direct experience. Did you ever notice that?

We build upon the premise of knowing, in general, how far is too far. We take the victories we’ve had in life and paint with a broad and bold brush. And while there are some truths that are universal that our experiences have driven home, projecting every opinion or position as absolute truth will likely cause issues, particularly when it comes to dealing with others.

Welcome to the daily “dilemma” organizations face as they ask for collaboration and expression of ideas while maintaining the boundaries of “this is too far.”

Companies say they are looking for “better” employees. I’ve been in these leadership meetings where idealism breaks down into despair about the state of our world. “These kids today” kind of language, pointing out the lack of critical thinking, babied responsiveness and minimum willingness to work hard.  Fractional leadership may be brought in to help, but too often manifests itself in platitudes of what used to work and how life was better then.

Is the basis of leadership in our organizations merely pointing out how far is too far?

We’ve likely read the research that top-down leadership desiring to affect organizational cultural change fails most times. In an effort to fix what is wrong with process and/or product, the personnel attached to these areas are discussed. Behaviors, work ethic and viable knowledge sharing are areas of discussion. And then leadership decides to “crack the whip” “make an example of a few” “introduce a new sheriff in town” or some such tone-deaf, if not offensive, phraseology of yesteryear.

To think inspiration will come from that kind of approach is more laughable today than even ten years ago, thankfully. But as with many human responses, we can swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Leaders want to push transparency and humility as company values in fostering creative, inventive staff contributions. Recent research shows that these organizations are running a higher risk of “too much humility” through self-deprecation leading to employee concern over a lack of leadership competencies. Terms like weak, unsure and incompetent creep into employee survey responses when asked about leadership’s ability to lead people and/or process.

And the shocking answer to much of this is a positional commitment to balance. How might I demonstrate clear organizational direction while maintaining an expressed desire for collaborative input? Think about how that question might be received and answered by the leaders in your own company.

One final reality is the too-oft used personality crutch. The belief is that to balance such an approach is dependent upon a leader with a certain type of personality. True, certain natural leanings will make this balanced approach easier to cultivate; however, that is not the same as saying it’s not possible for leaders of varying personalities to be successful. Extroverts and introverts, whatever your DISC profile or Myers-Briggs alphabet, can achieve a non-punitive, non-authoritarian, innovatively collaborative leadership brand within an organization. Don’t believe the personality excuse.

Is it a good idea for any contributor in the organization to know where the gutters of the bowling lane are? Of course. Is it a good idea for any contributor to understand where the company is going with reasonable transparency? Most definitely.  Can both be done without leadership flexing in extremes? Absolutely. 

Now, let me go get my Quick Picks for MegaMillions…

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