A Reclusive Boss can Speed up Your Growth as a Leader

Adil Malia

Have you ever worked for a recluse as a boss? The kind who looks through you, expression less, when you greet him or the one who keeps himself locked in his chamber all day long except for times when he visits the washroom? The type whose work instructions to you are only through cut and dried emails, mostly in the nature of forwards, without any emotional connect? Or the type whose work relation with you made you feels that you reported in real time to ‘Phantom-the Ghost Who Walks’? Reclusive bosses could be competent to the hilt, make no mistake. It is only in their social interactions that such managers reflect their deviant behavior.

But before that, a few thoughts on an in-competent recluse manager. This is a recipe for you to drown your talent and career sorrows in a bowl of chilled water, if you were the subordinate. Not only will critical work-related information be not available to you, but if at all it is, it will be erroneous or just wrong. You will also not easily get face t5ime to seek clarifications and will have to rely on your personal relationships with relevant stake holders.
This leads to the creation of splintered team, which will soon be plagued by gossip and games, and its members would be devoid of gumption.

An incompetent recluse is generally avoided by his peers. You will also be subjected to a negative rub-off treatment by references, unless you have high social networking skills. You are doomed. Not actually, though. Look at the brighter side. If you look at your career compass, the needle should such times show your career-boosting planetary stars pointing north to emerging opportunities on the horizon in the near future, if you are competent and have inclusive social skills. Provide the stability and social connect – fill the vacuum. Get into the depth and seize the opportunity to learn your boss job. And may you live in exciting times!
The context and challenge is different when you are working for a competent but recluse boss. He knows his job well and may be acknowledged in your company and at times, even in the industry as a genius. Work does not suffer – in his unique way, the right information and appropriate instructions will come to you. May be at times you find their EAs to be their reporting managers (your superboss), who may have recognized their genius.
Caution: You will only hurt yourself if you are seen in this context as much as even complaining to your superboss or even remotely attempting to upstage him. Your role and recipe for positioning on the team of a competent recluse has to be very different. Don’t attempt to be the ‘shaper and planner’ on this team. Rather, search for domains that are deficient as an outcome of such a leader’s style and show the gumption to fill the gap inclusively.
‘Engagement’ is something that goes for a toss in a team lead by a recluse – competent or incompetent, unless, of course, it is unfortunately a team full of recluses. You need to first win over the confidence of his EA or whoever his alter ego voice on the team is so that your positive initiatives do not get misunderstood as political adventures.

Begin the journey to provide the team its bonding glue. Identify occasions and ‘hot spots’ of events to do energy things as a team. Establish ‘Strawberry Moments’ – predetermined time slots for the rest of the team to come together and share work and other related information. Build a strong network of organizational relationships and encourage other team members to do that. Don’t critique the leader’s reclusive style – rather, have the teams acknowledge his genius and facilitate the shortcomings through self-help teams. Do not make the blunder of mistaking a recluse to be mean, atrocious or a Hari Sandu incarnate. On a one-on-one basis, the recluse manager could give you brilliant insights and feedback. It is unfortunately only by nature that his social interactions and group skills are impaired. It may actually require a different style of handling from you than what may be required with a socially mature leader. People being social by nature, ideally do not wish to work for a recluse manager. One unfortunately ends up reporting to a recluse manager by virtue of one’s corporate destiny. However, maneuvering yourself to succeed through s diverse set of leadership experiences has its upside: it builds you up as a versatile leader for the future.

Seasoned leadership emerges over time through a multitude of real time challenges. Managing to perform under different types of leaders only makes you stronger and emerges as a versatile leader. Seize the opportunity don’t cease it.