“I need them to step up. To take a broader view of the business. I need them to be leaders. Instead they keep their head down and just look after their own little patch.”

The CEOs I work with are savvy. They know the fastest way to advance their business objectives is by lifting up others below. A rising tide lifts all boats. It sounds great in theory. In reality, many of those being lifted stay stuck. It’s turf wars and silos.

Do we expect too much of people? Do they lack emotional intelligence? Do they need more explicit instruction? 

Yes to all of these, with a caveat.

Do we expect too much of people? Is it unreasonable to expect managers to be less protective of their resources, their staff, and to reach out to others?

Yes we expect too much of people… if we expect them to leap into collaboration without the leadership maturity development required to do so. Collaboration means changing how we define ourselves and our roles. We need to drop the safety blanket of role and title and embrace collegiality and co-crafted results where we don’t stand out but stand together. To be a co-creator, a collaborator, requires huge growth in self awareness. It requires the courage to make mistakes. As a leader are you doing this with your team?

Do they lack emotional intelligence? Should they be less reactive when it comes to uncertainty and challenging times?

Yes they probably need more emotional intelligence. We all do. All humans are governed by their limbic (emotional) system. It trumps the rational part of the brain, the cortex, every time. Emotional intelligence skills help us see and monitor when emotions are wanting to drive the show, and help us still the crazy beast. As CEO, how masterful are you with your own emotional intelligence? Where might you improve?

Do they need more explicit instructions? If we tell them more are we undermining their independence?

No one wants to micro-manage. We want to give the benefit of the doubt. With his good intention we sometimes fail to leave a clear enough picture, or coach others to find their own approach. So yes, they probably need more explicit instructions.

We assume people’s behaviour is due to incompetence or poor attitude.

The reality is that there are likely one or more of these dynamics at play:

  • Maturity: They are not ready (yet) for the leadership maturity leap to collaboration. This shift feels threatening.
  • Emotional intelligence: They don’t have the resilience to cope with the emotional burden of uncertainty and status ambiguity in a collaborative setting.
  • Clear expectations: A clear picture of the end outcome, with an offer to coach and mentor them if wanted, can help clean up ambiguity.

Silos are a call for safety. People protect their patch when they feel threatened. 

Our job as leaders is to reduce uncertainty, provide clarity, and close any skills gap.

What opportunities are in here for you? What can you do to encourage the leadership maturity of your team?



  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.