Unleash the Elephants

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The following is a short book preview contributed by the Ohio State University Leadership Center.

Leadership is Half the Story: A Fresh Look at Followership, Leadership, and Collaboration
Marc Hurwitz & Samantha Hurwitz, Toronto, ON, Canada: Rotman-UTP Publishing (2015)

“Perhaps the number one barrier to healthy organizational and leadership communicating is having elephants in the room. The expression ‘the elephant in the room’ refers to an unwritten agreement not to discuss certain issues, often what’s foremost on everybody’s minds. We’ve been at meetings where you felt like a herd of invisible elephants was trampling you to death! Ironically, you often get what you are most afraid of. When organizations and their senior executives purposefully avoid discussing the issues everyone is concerned about, it causes even greater concern. When people can’t confront the elephants openly, the conversation moves behind closed doors into hushed corners and corridors where the unruly beasts get fed an unhealthy diet from rumor mill, and trumpet misleading information.

Healthy, open communication leads to organizational success, greater personal authority, greater credibility, and trust. The more people understand what’s going on, the higher their morale. But when information is concealed and treated as if it doesn’t exist people come to believe that management doesn’t care, are scared of tough conversations, or lack trust in their teams.

Deliberately acknowledging the elephants makes them a whole lot less scary for everyone. For example, people probably already suspect a tightening of the belt is coming if a big client recently departed, sales are down, or a grant wasn’t received. Talk about it! It is the best solution. And it you can’t do so because of serious legal or business reasons, publish the guidelines so people know what can’t be discussed along with the rationale (p. 168-169).”

Leadership is Half the Story is available from the OSU Leadership Center.

Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is inspiring others to take a leadership role that empowers the world at the OSU Leadership Center website.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On May 15, 2017
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