Does the man make the suit or the suit make the man? This is the catch phrase from the upcoming Iron Man movie where the character, Tony Stark, is pitted against an adversary that is seemingly unbeatable. In order to defeat this enemy, Tony has to go beyond the armour and gadgets and find himself in order to understand what true victory is.
This thinking or attitude is not new. Sun Tzu in his writings, noted: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Sun Tzu was on to something. Emotional Intelligence theory has highlighted that knowing and understanding oneself is essential not only for effective leadership but also to become an effective human being.
THE EFFECTIVE LEADER
What exactly does ‘effective’ mean in this context? Lets look at the leader first. There are certainly many ideas regarding what makes a leader effective. Some of the more common ideas include being: –
• Proactive – anticipating and being prepared for all eventualities.
• Adaptable and flexible.
• A good communicator – listening to understand, not to respond
• Humble and respectful.
• Confident and assured but not arrogant.
• Enthusiastic and self-driven.
• Open minded and open to change.
• Resourceful and organised.
• Consistent and authentic.
This may be all great and well but a leader is first and foremost a human being. This means that in order to be effective, a leader has to become intimately self-aware. In other words, the leader must be able to connect with their meaning and purpose in life.
THE EFFECTIVE HUMAN BEING
Victor Frankl, a survivor of the holocaust, proposes a number of key facets for healthy living. Frankl talks about three areas of human existence: the physical, emotional and spiritual. He stresses however that it is the spiritual dimension that empowers healthy living, and in turn, our ability to be effective.
Three characteristics are highlighted:
• The freedom of will;
• Responsible choices; and
• Purposeful and value-driven behaviour.
Freedom of will is an individual’s ability to choose. In other words, things that happen do not have to determine how one reacts. The freedom to choose means that one can control your response to things and in so doing, change your behaviour. This is not only in respect of external influences but also internal ones. For example because you are angry, it does not mean you have to respond aggressively.
Responsible choice means that because you can choose your responses, you are responsible for your choices. Even when you choose not to choose, you are still choosing. You can no longer blame habits, physical and emotional conditions or circumstances. Your choices determine your personal outcomes (what you think, feel and how you see the incident).
Purposeful and value-driven behaviour means that behaviour is not influenced by factors outside of your control. Rather, your behaviour is directed by your personal objectives, goals and values. You take control of your destiny and in everything that you do, you define its meaning.
Frankl goes on to determine that the individual enhances effectiveness by:
• Searching for meaning, which can be found within any circumstance;
• Choosing your attitude to things and circumstances;
• Determining your behaviour in response to things;
• Objectively evaluating yourself and your circumstances;
• Laughing at yourself and your own imperfections;
• Rising to challenges;
• Being proactive – determining your goals and future direction;
• Seeing work as a calling – the opportunity to be involved, purposeful and responsible;
• Respecting and appreciating the uniqueness of others; and
• Finding meaning in suffering.
MEANING IS SELF DISCOVERY
Ultimately, finding the purpose and meaning in your own life will enable you to become firstly an effective person and from there an effective leader. Understanding that you have the freedom to choose, despite hardships and setbacks links back to the words of Sun Tzu, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles…’
For more information on Leadership Training at B&A contact us today.
What do you do when an employee refuses an instruction?
Common law requires employees to carry out the instructions of their employer and in addition to that, most employment contracts include a clause to the effect that:
“The Employee shall notwithstanding the above job title, be obliged to carry out any lawful instruction given to him / her by the Employer even though this may not be related to his / her position.”
In other words, as long as the instruction is lawful, the employee is contractually bound to carry it out. Failure to do so constitutes insubordination and can result in summary dismissal (i.e. dismissal without notice or notice pay).
It might look straightforward but unfortunately these situations often go awry for employers, especially when managers become angry.
Calling the boss an idiot found not to be grounds for dismissal
For example, a number of years ago in a well reported case, a General Manager was dismissed for insubordination after he had called his new Managing Director an idiot. It transpired that the Managing Director had wanted to retrench employees immediately, without following the required LRA procedure.
The GM had refused to carry out the instruction, calling his boss ‘an idiot’ in a heated discussion. This ultimately led to the GM being dismissed for insubordination and him referring his case to the Industrial Court. The Court found the dismissal to have been unfair and awarded compensation. In its judgement, the Court inferred that the MD’s conduct had indeed been idiotic because the he had expected the GM to carry out an unlawful instruction.
Similarly, a manager may not expect an employee to carry out a task which would expose him or her to danger not normally connected with the performance of his / her duties or which could result in the employee facing disciplinary or criminal charges.
The difference between insubordination and insolence
The Oxford dictionary defines insubordinate as ‘disobedient; rebellious’. Insubordination must be distinguished from insolence which is defined as ‘offensively contemptuous or arrogant; insulting’. While insolence may well result in dismissal, it is not considered as serious as insubordination. This is because insubordination goes to the root of the employment relationship. The employer pays the employee to carry out instructions. If the employee refuses the whole employment relationship breaks down.
‘It’s not my job’ is no excuse but look for the underlying cause
Refusals to carry out instructions because ‘it’s not my job’ usually stem from employees being misinformed or misled by others, especially in the lead up to strikes. Employees may also refuse to carry out instructions if they feel that they are being singled out unfairly or are being overloaded with work. There is usually a lot of underlying emotion involved in these situations and it is advisable therefore to treat these situations sensitively.
Employee’s point of view
From an employee’s point of view, if you feel aggrieved by an instruction, rather than put yourself at risk, comply with the instruction as best you can and then lodge a grievance. DO NOT REFUSE to carry out the instruction, no matter how right you think you are, as it could cost you your job.
From the employer’s or manager’s point of view, these are really ‘no-win’ situations so they need to be handled carefully.
GUIDELINES FOR HANDLING A REFUSAL TO CARRY OUT AN INSTRUCTION:
If a process like this is followed and the instruction is lawful and reasonable, the employee will have only himself to blame for his dismissal. In the event of the employee contesting the dismissal, it can be easily justified by the employer.