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No More Work face

Posted August 2014

I wrote an article for iCroner that outlined the “Journey of Leadership in the Workplace” and defined the skills a leader would need in 10 years to lead and manage in a more consumer type workplace, as defined by the AECOM workplace research. I argued that leaders would need to be able to redefine and ensure that boundaries and rules are established throughout a social context. They will need to have a high level of emotional intelligence to demonstrate benevolence towards others, the intellectual capability to get the job done, and the ability to communicate messages consistently and frequently so staff are fully aware of what is expected of them, including the requirement to interact with, and be an active member of the organisation in a consumer like manner.

With these ideas fresh in my head, I then went to the ballet to see “Cubania” with Carlos Acosta. You may think what does this have to do with leadership and the workplace, but I interpreted one of the dances as showing the pushing, challenging and working within boundaries. There were some metal bars signifying a box on stage, and each dancer walked on and one by one entered the box to do a dance and then would step out of the box and watch the others. Then eventually they all danced in the box: sometimes in sync with one another, sometimes complementarily, and sometimes dancing their own dance whilst still in the box with the others.

Inspiration struck, and I started to think that like in this dance, in the workplace leaders and teams watch each other, are sometimes in sync, sometimes complimentary and sometimes doing their own task. Then to relate this for the future workplace, I started to think leaders and managers may not only need to look to define boundaries from a task perspective, but also in a behavioural and personality arena.

Typically each leader, manager and staff member have a “work face” that they put on. Then when they go home, they put on their “home face.” In a more cynical arena this is thought of people being two-faced; in a more business arena this is thought of as being professional, or rather showing professionalism at work. If in the future we will need to use a holistic leadership style in order to encompass the whole person, which I argued in the previous article, then as part of that, we will also need to interact with the whole person and that includes not just the “work face”. This includes the “whole face.” So what does that mean?

Our expectations will need to change and we will need to start to accept that we are interacting with people and not just part of a person - but the whole person and that means people will need to lead and manage the whole person. Furthermore, a person is not always professional and this will mean we need to be able to manage emotion. I don’t mean our own emotion in the sense we hide it – exactly the opposite. We will need to learn how to cope when someone is emotional. What will we do when someone cries? Will we pretend it is not happening, which typically happens now? What happens when someone shouts? Will we run away and hide? Bury our head? Or face it head on?

How we deal with emotion in our personal lives now will transpire into the workplace as both places meld into one. Expecting the behaviour of “professional” will need to actually disappear as no one person will always be professional. This in return will create similar results as the dance - sometimes we will be in sync with one another, sometimes we will complement each other and sometimes we will be doing our own dance. Whatever the case may be, we will need to accept, adapt and cope with this emotional boundary.

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