MGR: How to Overcome Leadership Vertigo to Drive Success (Tanveer Naseer)

RoseTanveer Naseer, author and Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, spoke about the concepts in his book, Leadership Vertigo at Management Grand Rounds on September 2, 2015. He opened his talk with the definition of vertigo: a form of dizziness we feel when our brain is telling us we are moving, when in reality we are not. Applied to leadership, Tanveer explained, vertigo is the difference between how we think we are leading and the reality our employees are experiencing. Similar to a disoriented pilot flying toward water, managers can strongly convince themselves that they are on a clear management path, despite the signs from employees around them. In order to mitigate leadership vertigo, Tanveer discussed four interconnected principles managers can implement:

  1. Build community – As a manager, we should create an environment where our employees feel valued. This concept is tied to our psychological need for connectedness. To create a community feel, managers should:
    1. Create opportunities for employees to interact outside of their formal roles. This promotes a partnership among peers, where employees do not feel competitive, but rather have the opportunity to share ideas and be creative.
    2. Remember the journey taken so far. In today’s fast-paced working climate, it is easy to move from one thing to another on our to-do lists. However, it is important to celebrate our achievements so that we remember the reason for our work and why it is worthwhile. It is also essential to learn from our failures.
    3. Promote a sense of shared ownership in the organization’s vision. In order to keep employees invested long-term, they must feel connected during the entire project, not just individual tasks they complete.
  2. Develop competence – Beyond any specific technical skills, great leaders exhibit emotional competence. An employer must be aware of the emotional needs of his employees. To achieve this, a manager should:
    1. Get out of his own head in order to understand the perspectives of others. When a person is too focused on his own achievements, it is difficult to pull away and focus on others.
    2. Connect what employees do with what matters to them. An employee can see work as a job, a career, or a calling. When they believe what they do matters, they are more likely to be dedicated to and creative in their work.
    3. Nurture relationships with employees to promote an engaging and thriving work environment. A practical application to create this relationship is to institute a “50 on Fridays” meeting. This is where, for 50 minutes every Friday, the manager sits with his employees to learn about them. During these meetings he can find out what his employees care about, what they do outside of work, etc. With this information, a manager can give his employees projects in which they are interested.
  3. Earn credibility – To earn credibility, a manager should increase his sense of self-awareness about how he is approaching his role as a leader. To do this, a manager should:
    1. Schedule and protect time for reflection. This is time to connect what you are doing to why you are doing it. If a manager cannot make this connection for himself, it will be difficult to make this connection for others.
    2. Remove all distractions from your surroundings. This includes turning off your phone, closing your office door or booking a conference room, or going outside to a green space.
    3. Have a list of questions to begin the reflection process. These questions should not be easy questions, but open-ended, complicated questions that make you think about your management style. An example of such a question is “Do my employees see the value in their shared effort?”
  4.  Cultivate compassion – Empathy and curiosity drive compassion. When a manager is curious about his employees’ points of view and wants to empathize with them, he can learn a lot about his own management style and how his employees experience it. To cultivate compassion, a manager should:
    1. Learn to see his employees beyond their tasks and roles. If an employer focuses on his employees’ tasks instead of caring about whom they are as individuals, the employees will feel like a means to an end.
    2. Understand your employees’ real strengths. In this case, it is important to distinguish that strengths are what strengthen us, not what we are good at. A manager should understand and give his employees projects that excite them, not just tasks that they do well.
    3. Be open and honest about not knowing all of the answers. This allows employees to contribute their own ideas and be able to improve the process or products in areas where the manager may not observe.

In his presentation, Tanveer established the importance of making employees feel valued and connected to their work environment. He discussed how it is important to be emotionally aware of employees’ needs.  Tanveer explained how managers must increase their self-awareness, and how through empathy and curiosity a manager can understand how his employees experience his management style. By building a community, developing competence, earning credibility and cultivating compassion, managers and employers can avoid leadership vertigo.

For more information on Tanveer, go to

Click this link to view Tanveer’s slides.

Rose A. Hamershock, MA

IRCDA/SCAMPs Biostatistician

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