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Leaders fighting with their unknown enemies

By G. Balasubramanian

Jones was an official in the corporate sector operating at the second layer of the hierarchy in the organization. Well educated and with a keen acumen and intellect, known for his strategic designs in operation, he was a person who was looked up to as a leadership model. However back home, Jones had indeed a tough time. Sitting in his room alone, he smiled sometimes, and he also talked to his own self. The family was indeed concerned. It appeared to them that he was fighting a war with himself. During a personal discussion with his wife, he explained to her how he had to face many enemies in the organization. Unfortunately, he could not list who they were and when he attempted one could see he was pointing at everyone. Everyone in the organization he looks appears to him ‘the enemy is out there.’

Shradha was a marketing officer in a private company. A smart young lady with exceptional communication skills, she had the unique ability of influencing people with whom she interacted. Despite success stories in the organization which adored her, she always felt that the entire team of colleagues in her department were working to defeat her and put her in a tight spot. She avoided any meaningful interaction with them except for some professional dialogues and looked at many with an eye of suspicion.

I have come across many in a leadership position, who despite all their talents and performance tend to suffer and create an aura of negativity around themselves. In many cases leaders fight a fierce battle with the enemies who they know not. They often create a proxy enemy who is their consciously designed villain and fight a mini war with them. Sometimes, these mental exercises prepare them for an eventuality as they lack some amount of trust in their own self. They look for tools, appliances and resources to defeat them and not finding one for their mental battle, they feel depressed and lost. “A thousand known enemies are better than one unknown enemy” says M. Benzadi

Here are a few types of battle those leaders suffering from ‘defeatist’ syndrome fight.

1. Fighting with an enemy who does not exist.

A few leaders conceptualize an enemy in their mind and start fighting with them. They are aware, oftentimes, that an enemy of that kind does not exist. Yet, they refuse to accept their non-existence. The simple reason is that they feel is worth taking up a battle with one of a giant stature. They always think that someday such an enemy will stand before and strike; they will have no option but to face them. Hence, they do proxy battles with them, Psychologists do explain such a behaviour is a consequence of absence of confidence in their competencies or due to lack of self-worth. In such hidden battles in their mind, they love to play the role of the hero and the victor. This satisfies their ego, and they seek the position they intend to hold. They fail to understand the meaning of the following statement “The greatest win is walking away and choosing not to engage in drama and toxic energy at all” by Lalah Delia

2. Fighting with an enemy who is perceived.

In several organizations some leaders tend to develop a negative attitude to their immediate subordinates for the simple reason that they might have been more qualified, they come with better experience, they display better skills, or they have a better popularity. Hence the leaders perceive an invisible challenge in them as enemies in the offing. With a keen desire to ‘deal with such people with a firm hand, lest their identity may be challenged, the leaders tend to fight with them using their own mental antenna. Every time such a person is in the visible range, these leaders get annoyed, and get ready for their war! They do not understand “Friends ask you questions, and enemies question you."

3. Fighting with an enemy who is projected.

In several organizations enemies are projected, nurtured and grown in the minds of their peers. The possible competition they could provide in the present or the future, the possible opportunities they have because of their connections or their support systems, the possible growth profile they demonstrate through their work, distinctions and excellence make them as enemies. They are projected as futuristic threats though there is no evidence to show such battles in the future. These feelings become the core nucleus of a battle which is fought for several years till either of them exists. Such leaders live with an anticipated defeat!

4. Fighting with an enemy who is unknown.

Many leaders formulate in their minds an enemy who is unknown to them, and this is consequent to the innate fear they have in their heart, because of their own inadequacy, their low self-esteem or their acknowledgement of their irrelevance to their existing position, skillsets and dynamics of the profession. These enemies tend to create a sense of despair and restlessness in the minds of the people. These enemies tend to create a sense of aggression in the minds of the fighters and not knowing who they are and where they are, they tend to fight with themselves and with their immediate neighborhoods for no reason. “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you “says Winston Churchill

"The best way to get out of this psychological trauma is to gain the capacity to forgive enemies". Says Oscar Wilde

"Always forgive your enemies; Nothing annoys them so much.“ A good leader should learn to move ahead of such projected and unproductive feelings so that they can stay focused in their future It is said that "victorious warriors win first and then go to the war, while defeated warriors go the war and then seek to win.”