Leadership in the Modern Workspace – A Crisis of Communication

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By Domenic Fraboni, DPT*

The following poem was taken from my personal journal that I had written back in August 2020.

It reflects some self-discovery as I was stepping into a new leadership role for the company that I currently work for. Since this article is aimed to illuminate leadership in the modern workspace, I was going to alter the language of the poem slightly more in that direction but in reality, I think it illustrates the point that I hope to make just perfectly. A vital message to any of those humans out there who communicate with other humans.

“I was once told that words are just a foil to package and to deliver the frequency that we desire to those around us. If this is the case, I want you to listen closely to the frequencies you exude and packaging you are using. The words and vibrations we send out reverberate with everyone at a different intensity and different emotional profile. It would behoove a human to learn their scope is not the only one. Our perception is our own. If we have ignorance to perceptions other than our own, we exhibit the inability to grow within our cumulative knowledge and experience. Please do yourself a favor, make yourself uncomfortable every single day. Find a way to become a minority in the room, whether in color, creed, race, education, experience, craft, religion, or orientation. Listen, do not talk. Ask questions and limit statements. Find it within yourself to continue to dig more into the things you do not understand, disagree with, or the things that scare you. Those are the frequencies that create a juxtaposition with your own. By using this strategy, you will not only become stronger in what you believe but better understand how it fits into the fold of the greater context, the human team. If you are afraid to take the steps down this path, the further you will become from truly being able to understand your own frequencies and beliefs.”

My belief is that the true pillar behind leadership lies within language. Not only how we craft it on pen and paper or how we speak out in front of a large group of people, but also how we receive, process, interpret, integrate, and thoughtfully respond to communication from others. We live in a world right now where people are quickly moving toward the inability to speak with others who may have contrasting beliefs. I see this within the workspace, in day-to-day friendships, family conversations, in online keyboard battles, and of course, politics.

When I was asked to write this article, I reached out to mentors of mine to ask for thoughts on what it means to be an effective leader in a modern workspace. These quotes are from physical therapy veterans all the way down to current students. These are people I continue to learn from through every interaction. What all these messages continue to tell me is that being an effective leader has nothing to do with the specific individual but instead everything to do with how they communicate to whatever group it is that they’re working with.

“[Leadership] is seeing yourself as constantly being able to see, and learn, and grow.”

“Leadership in the modern workplace requires aggressive nimbleness … With things changing at accelerated speeds in the 21st century, the ability to anticipate and adapt to change has become ever more important. Thus, Churchill’s quote becomes more relevant: ‘to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.’”

“To be a successful leader, the most important factor is not how much you know or how much experience you have…”

“I believe that, more than ever, compassion is a necessary ingredient in effective leadership. Compassion for our employees, compassion for our patients, and maybe most of all, compassion for our communities.”

“An effective leader understands the difference between the process and outcomes and emphasizes the former. When the emphasis is on outcomes, corners can be cut, and burnout occurs. When emphasis is placed on the individual, personal growth and passion for the profession flourish.”

The ability to construct our language to effectively communicate with each other and be open to all audiences will cultivate growth. The ultimate strength of the team comes from the cumulative knowledge and the abilities of all its members. It takes a very compassionate, patient, and humble leader to be able to coordinate all those parts into success. As Lolly Daskal conveys in The Leadership Gap, great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are. They are open to learning, changing, and growing as leaders.1

At times I can see “rifts” between generations causing gaps in language and leadership. Broad generalizations can create disconnect and negatively affect relationships. For example, one might say that certain generations seem to want things handed to them, do not want to work hard, and cannot seem to follow rules. We could also say that other generations seem stuck in their ways, less open to individuality or unique skillsets, and more apprehensive to learning new things. Have I upset anyone?

Generalizations and assumptions of other individuals based on our language certainly creates barriers in our ability to interpret and respond. I am fortunate to have had opportunities in leadership throughout schooling and early in my career. I have witnessed leaders showing both effective and ineffective ways to lead. Learning from numerous mentors who have modeled and guided me within my own leadership development have also given clarity to the do’s and don’ts of leadership.

So how is it I still don’t know how to articulate exactly what it means to be an effective leader? Throughout all these experiences, all the education and mentorship, the thing I realize is that every leader brings their own mixed bag of skills and attributes to the table. Everyone is going to use their own unique style to arrive at their final product of leadership. And how about those I have labeled as effective leaders? The ones who I believe do it “right?” Within their mixed bag of skills and attributes is a constant infatuation for, and practice in, how they use their language.

These leaders know who they are communicating with and who their audience is. They are open to questions about their beliefs and why they do things a certain way. These people always show openness to learning new things and developing new skillsets. I believe the greatest attribute of these leaders is the humility, grace, and tact they use to communicate with those that they do not agree with. Their willingness to dive in and challenge themselves and the way they think is admirable. If you are afraid to take the steps down this path, you will become further away from truly being able to understand your own frequencies and beliefs. No matter what type of practice setting you are in or what kind of team you lead please continue to be open to figuring out how your amazing individuality fits into the fold of the greater human team, whether team is within your job, community, country, or world.

Remember, our perception is our own. If we are ignorant to perceptions other than our own, we are unable to grow our cumulative knowledge and experience. Cultivate your leadership abilities by making communication less about you and more about building the language that will influence those you lead. Build effective leadership by appropriately interpreting and responding to communication. Be open to learning, and model the language that you know will bring success to your team, your colleagues, and those you haven’t even yet met who will remember you as an influencer in their leadership journey.

References:

1Daskal L. The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness. New York, NY: Portfolio; 2017.


Dr. Domenic Fraboni is the COO of The Mobility Method LLC, acts as Co-Host of The Optimal Body Podcast with his fiancé, and independently practices in Marina del Rey, California. He can be reached at domenicfraboni@gmail.com and on Instagram and Twitter @drdomdpt.

*The author has a professional affiliation with this topic.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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