Ironing The Ironic

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02-09-2013

3 min read

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Photo Source: Karen

A friend once told me how leaders are the loneliest people, because they are assumed to know it all, to be the hero everyone looks up to; hence, must carry the burden of loneliness. Ironically, if you are a leader you are assumed to be surrounded by people, yet it sounds like the loneliest place ever. But at that point in life, I find myself agreeing because people just seem to misunderstand the difficulties that come with shouldering responsibilities.

Though as I move on in life, I realise this could be a myth created by ourselves. It takes time and effort to explain situations to people, to your team. Plus they could disagree with your stand and make things more complicated. But wait a minute, if it is people you want to bring on board to work towards the same goal, it would make sense to invest in helping them understand the situation, no?

Even superheroes find betterment in explaining. Case in point, Tony Stark aka Ironman, well-known with impulsiveness and portrayal of Mr. I-am-always-right. In Ironman 2, he finds himself dying due to the poison of his palladium core (what saved him could kill him, but we will save that for another post). Anyway, he chose not to tell anyone because hey, he’s the genius, if he has no clue what to do, who else will? That is true to certain extent but often in problematic times, the help we get is not what solves the problem; instead it contributes to how we solve the problem.

Tony Stark chose to deal with the problem on his own, keeping his closest people (PA Pepper Potts and best bud Lieutenant James Rhodes) at the sidelines as he deals with his own demise. So now, he not only has to deal with a crazy-swinging-electric-chains nemesis (Ivan Vanko), dying from inside but also misunderstood by people he care for. Necessary?

Well, I thought he could have avoided the being-misunderstood part and reduce burden of facing death, if he had chosen to justify his actions (of course, we wouldn’t have a 2 hour movie in that case, but that is besides the point). We often chose not to justify our actions especially when we are given responsibilities because we think that our responsibility involves dealing alone, but I am pretty sure that is not in the job scope.

In everyday life, being a leader would mean you have a team, and being in a team does kind of qualify a need to share issues related to the common goal we are all trying to achieve. It wasn’t till the end of the movie that Tony decided to speak up and explain, and as with all superhero movies, the happy ending is him being alive, nemesis dead with help of best bud in superhero outfit.

Of course, we will never know how he would have ended up if he still chose not to come clean (the script would never have been that way) and in real life, having to justify all the time could be unnecessarily tiring. But hey, that’s your leadership journey right? To discover how and when sharing and listening helps and when listening to your gut instinct is more helpful. One thing I can say in my own journey though, it is not an easy distinction. Yet, by focusing on common goals, we often are reminded of the people involved in them, and that itself is the best reminder of where our distinction lies.

Recently, my family came over to travel, and I was the tour guide in charge, so I thought I had everything under control. One big mistake i made was to discount discussion with my aunt who had been living in uk for 20+ years when it comes to the travel budget and time simply because i thought it would be easier to plan on my own since i am in charge anyway.

In the end, I almost end up paying double for attractions and not been able to go to all the places we intended. Although my family enjoyed themselves (they better), it was a close call, I could have been misspending, and in pounds! Imagine if I were a leader of a large corporation, my board of directors would not be very happy if I didn’t listen to expert advice and causing people to lose money. Tony stark almost lost his battle, true friends and most importantly his life because he didn’t bother to explain himself and listen to what they may have to say.

At the end of it, leaders or not, explaining does not necessarily compromise your own voice, it just means you are willing to open up to different voices. What matters is you listen to them critically, and decide which to accept. Without even explaining, why would we expect to get anything good to start with?

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