It’s difficult to be a successful Chief Executive Officer (CEO) without some presence. Today, many organizations expect their leaders to have charisma and even showmanship. In many cases, the personality of the CEO blends with the brand of the company–creating a dynamic and persuasive image. In an era where image matters, especially with financial analysts, customers, and employees, it is important for the CEO to command a lot of audience

At times, you probably have found it necessary to be overly dramatic to make a point. Like a good actor, you raised your voice in a meeting to communicate to directly report the seriousness of a situation. Or you may have resorted to hyperbole during an important presentation just to make an impression.

Melodrama means exaggerated emotion or action. In theater, the term suggests an over-the-top performance or plot that detracts from the message in the play. In organizations, melodrama is a derailer because it detracts from other people’s performances and impairs a leader’s ability to see what’s going on. Let’s look at how a charismatic and successful leader crosses the line into melodrama.

If you’re a melodramatic leader, you need to pay attention to feedback about your impact on others. The good news is that this particular derailer is highly responsive to feedback. Unlike many of the other derailers, this one is relatively easy to deal with. To avoid failure from melodrama, you usually don’t have to make major changes in terms of how you lead and manage. Instead, it’s more of a matter of reducing the volume. Simply acknowledging and becoming more aware of these derailing behaviours can be all that’s needed. Therefore, put your ears on the ground for feedback about your impact. Here are some other techniques we’ve found to be effective with melodramatic leaders:

Get someone to videotape you in action. Melodramatic behaviour-and its impact is highly visible. Having someone tape you in action can be an eye-opening experience, especially if they capture you in team meetings or addressing other groups when your melodramatic behaviour is evident. As you view the videotape, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I dominating discussions to the point that no one is volunteering fresh information or ideas? Do people seem hesitant to do anything more than add to my points or agree with me?
  • Is my audience really with me? Or are their eyes glazed? Does it seem as if I have sucked all the energy and enthusiasm from the room with my animated style?
  • Do I use my dynamism and eloquence selectively or is it a uniform style? Do I use it to deal effectively with a specific problem or issue or does it seem to be a random style?

Identify the circumstances that cause you to cross the line into melodrama. As you become more aware of your melodramatic behaviour, you’ll be able to track the catalysts of this reflex. Do you resort to being a domineering presence when under stress? Do you do so when trying to motivate direct reports? Are there certain types of meetings or people who bring out the theatrical side of your personality? Noting when you’re more likely to act up or act out allows you to be aware of your specific melodramatic triggers. Being aware of these triggers gives you a way to monitor your behaviours in circumstances where you’re vulnerable.

Make time to reflect and listen. Melodramatic leaders generally aren’t very comfortable with extended periods of quiet and contemplation. Nor are they willing to consistently solicit other people’s input and attempt to understand their needs. If you make a conscious effort to reflect and listen, you’ll naturally tone down your melodramatic instincts. Reflection will help you realize that always wanting to be the center of attention has its down­side.

If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll understand that your strength as a speaker and motivator is also a weakness if it doesn’t allow other people to contribute. Similarly, if you work hard at listening to what your people need from you and from the company (and this means more than perfunctory conversations where your mind is elsewhere or where you dominate the discussion), you’ll find opportunities to let others take the spotlight.

Melodrama has become an especially powerful derailer as companies are now moving away from leaders who are wearing command-and-control personalities to be better listeners and observers. Years ago, before matrix structures and complex business interdependencies were commonplace, melodramatic behaviour was less risky. Today, however, it can deprive a leader of the capacity to develop other leaders and involve a wider range of people in decision making and innovation. The task of following a melodramatic CEO in the job is a difficult one, made more so by the fact that many of these successors have had to labour far outside the lime­light before assuming it. The dramatic leader is still a valuable commodity in a media-driven business environment, but this value is diminished when the showmanship isn’t used wisely and selectively.

About the Author:
Dr. Asare Bediako Adams, FCILG is the Director of Operations for the Chartered Institute of Leadership and Governance and the Executive Director of PMRIG Group of Companies.

Reprint Policy: You may reprint/publish the above article. All we ask is that you keep all links active, make no changes to article and include the author’s bio. Article Resource: CILG Ghana

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