In this episode of Relationships at Work, communications and leadership nerd (and host) Russel Lolacher highlights the last in his seven deadly sins of leadership ecosystems: Cognitive Dissonance Dance
In this seventh in a series of seven, Russel discusses how even though leaders are well intended, they can cause more harm than good doing the cognitive dissonance dance. He provides real-world examples of what this can look like, the impacts of ignoring bad leadership even though we know better, and what we can do as leaders to address this issue.
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Welcome back to relationships at work, the leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love. I'm your host, Russel Lolacher, a communications and leadership nerd with a few decades of experience in both of those areas and a bunch, a whack load, a bushel, there you go, of curiosity on how we can make the workplace a better place.
Now, if you're a leader trying to understand and improve your impact on work culture and the employee experience, you're in the right place. And it's the Thursday mini episode of the show, and it's a special one. Why? Well, it also happens to be the last entry episode of our 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership series.
It's the Cognitive Dissidence Dance. I get to say it for one last time. Bad leadership doesn't worry me. I'm worried about leadership ecosystems that allow and perpetuate it. That's right. As I said throughout all this series, these episodes is that bad leadership is going to happen in every organization.
I don't care how great you are. It's going to happen. It just will. And that's okay. What's the big worry is that that organization does nothing, that they allow it to happen, that they create an environment. Where it can almost flourish, actually not just ignored, but actually grow and model for other leaders coming up and see, well, if that's how they're successful, I guess I got to do the same thing that scares the hell out of me.
We've tackled previous sins of leadership, whether it was being too busy. Fearing conflict, uh, lacking curiosity, no follow up, having a huge gap between the words said and actions taken, uh, lack of accountability. That was number six. And number seven, as I said off the top, it's the cognitive dissidence dance.
We've seen the posters. We've attended the webinars. We've watched the TED Talks. We know all about Ted Lasso. We're huge fans of such things. These examples of great leadership and how we should do things, what it looks like, acts like, feels like. We as leaders wanting to thrive, to bring this energy and knowledge into our own workplace to improve and help those in our charge.
We want them to grow through active listening, empowerment, coaching. It all sounds amazing! And there's nobody, I don't think there's Any leader out there that would think differently. I'm sure they get inspired. Everybody gets inspired by all of these inspirational podcasts, TED Talks, Ted Lasso's. We want these environments.
We've always wanted these environments. We want to work in them ourselves. While we want all this, and we know, we know the benefit it's all gonna bring, we also live and perpetuate a parallel dimension. A world where we also avoid conflict and disciplinary actions for bad leaders. Well, that doesn't align with Ted Lasso.
One where leaders allow bullying to exist because that same person that bullies, well, they provide results. Or they helped us that one time. So it's okay. They're just, they're not bullies to me. So I should allow that, right? This is a world where internal surveys are ignored or never followed up on to address emerging issues, issues that are growing because, well, that survey was just a moment in time.
We won't do anything. We'll wait till the next survey to see if it's a theme or Welcome to the Cognitive Dissidence Dance. We can dance if we want to, and many leaders do, but we need to not be those leaders and to help other leaders. Stop dancing. That's on us. Cognitive dissonance. It's it's knowing that our behavior isn't actually aligning With the beliefs and the values that we say we have organizations do it all the time.
Have we ever worked for a business where the words on the posters or those said in executive emails and town halls don't align with the actions and inactions of the work environment we exist in now add self awareness to that. And that's cognitive dissonance. You know what you do is wrong, but you do it anyway.
Saying one thing, doing another, and knowing it's wrong, and doing it anyway. Good leaders don't want bad leaders to exist and perpetuate. But I get it. We're also all human beings. We have to see and work together all the time, every day. And being a bad leader doesn't mean they're a bad person, right? So we condone that behavior.
If we say a healthy culture is important, if we say those values we put on websites and walls are important, if we really want to create the work environment we've always wanted to work in for ourselves and our teams, We have to walk the talk every day because by not doing so, by having that cognitive dissonance, what are we actually communicating to staff that even if we know it's wrong, it doesn't really matter talking out of both sides of our mouths diminishes the value of those values.
But then we expect our teams to believe us when we talk about culture and employee experience. So what do we do as good leaders wanting to do good things, wanting to not have bad leaders be allowed to be bad leaders trying to stop this cognitive dissonance dance? What do we do? Okay, so let's first embrace some self awareness.
We know it's wrong. There's power in knowing. We need to understand ourselves better. Our own biases and limitations, our strengths. Why are we not acting? How are actions and decisions affecting our team? Having that information helps us address our own weaknesses and then lean into what's working. It's data and data is useless if we don't do something with it, which leads me to number two, continuous learning.
This is where you take the information that you're learning about yourself, your inaction, your impacts and using it to help us grow and improve taking courses that address some of those gaps, reading those books, listening to those podcasts like you are right now. So that's fantastic. And then sharing what you were doing and learning with your team.
It demonstrates that we aren't above the learning process to them, that it's not just held behind closed doors, that we're all learning. We're all responsible for the culture that we're trying to create. Here's another one, foster some truth to power, encourage some feedback, and value it. This is bottom up, top down, side to side.
All around a place where leaders actively listen and empathize showing all perspectives are important. This freedom of expression can actually highlight discrepancies and where cognitive dissonance is really a problem because if we're in an environment where feedback is valued, no matter who it's from, no matter where it's going to.
We will find where the cracks are, and it will be harder to ignore. Here's another, a last one, but an important one. Lead by example. We're talking real leadership. We need to align our actions with our values that we set for ourselves, our teams, and our organization. We need to take responsibility and accountability for those actions, successful or not, but we also need to take accountability for our inactions are bad decisions.
That's accountability. That's leadership. So leading by example is a great way to cap off that list. Cognitive dissonance. Again, is saying one thing, doing another, knowing deep down it's wrong and still doing it. Good leadership is knowing it's wrong and working to close the gap. Now, none of these things that I've shared with you are new concepts.
They're certainly not to you, they're certainly not to me. Especially if you're a regular listener of the show, but they are always worth repeating. To move from good to great leadership, we have to take the actions, as uncomfortable as they may be, that show the organization what leadership really looks like and how tied they are to the values that we claim to support.
Ted Lasso would. That's it. That is all. That is another episode of relationships at work, the leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love. Thanks for enjoying, hopefully enjoying this seven series on the deadly sins of leadership. I loved coming up with it. It broke my heart, but I've talked with many of you and it's resonated.
It's really resonated. It's realistic and it is apparently super relatable, but we can fix it. We as leaders can certainly do better. And I think the first, the first step is acknowledging the problems. The next step is doing something about it and not just, like I said, with cognitive dissonance, knowing it's wrong and then not acting.
We have to act, we have to, or nothing changes again. Thank you so much for listening. You have a great day.