The Hyde Effect in leadership

Cartoon of business man holding up happy / sad face masksRemember Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The mad scientist and his evil alter ego?

A long time ago, I wrote an article on the “Jekyll & Hyde” effect of being promoted into leadership. It was mostly about how a leadership perspective on everything from strategy to budget is different – and rightly so – from the perspective of the individual team member.

There are other aspects of this perspective change, though, that I realized after reading leadership thinker David Lancefield’s recent LinkedIn post about understanding the “needs of the people you serve” and being “connected” with them.

As I said in my comments on his post, as one ascends the leadership ladder there are behavior changes that go beyond the necessary perspective shifts I outlined in my original article.

These aspects of the Hyde Effect aren’t universal. But the tendencies are there: a diminishing ability to remember what it was like before being part of senior leadership, and a dwindling willingness to listen to and acknowledge other options and different opinions. And I’ll add here that the Hyde Effect often includes a growing certainty around one’s own opinions and decisions coupled with an uncertainty (or should I say, insecurity?) about being challenged on those opinions and decisions.

We’re becoming increasingly aware that being a good leader requires a certain amount of humility and vulnerability. But if we don’t address that from the start – from when someone is first promoted out of individual work and into a management role – it can be difficult and costly to change ingrained habits once someone has risen to a senior position.

Or, as I bluntly say, it’s better and easier and cheaper to develop good managers than to repair broken leaders.

Is that too harsh? Maybe. But if a company wants to keep its people, especially its best people, it had better pay attention to what Lancefield is saying: are you understanding the needs of the people you serve, and staying connected with them? And I’ll add, are you starting that from the ground floor of your management and leadership hierarchy?

I have several program options for training and supporting managers in learning these important and foundational skills, from cohort-based to individual, including training and / or coaching. Contact me to learn more.