Humanity is about coexistence and making the best of our circumstances. As a norm, these are never a constant and as such we all have to adopt in one way or the other for which the ideal would be when we are all able to thrive and manifest our ideal potential in such spaces. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen to be the norm. From families, schools, work spaces among others, there will always one person or a set of people who seem to align with dominant majority’s expectations. In such cases, these individuals have the most conducive environment to thrive. In rare cases, this may be abused and the persons get cocky and incorrigible to his/her own detriment. The most common outcome however is that other individuals are gauged from the standards of the dominant personality. This results in the concept of overshadowing in which the other individuals if not self-driven or outspoken may not have the most ideal of circumstances to pursue their passions, realize their aspirations or ambitions. In such cases, there is a higher likelihood that they will always be performing in the shadows of the dominant person.
In a recent conversation I had the chance to deliberate on this at length and realized that it’s of importance to acknowledge human diversity, strive to co-create an enabling environment for each person in accordance with their predispositions. Last year, when Safaricom appointed the current CEO, there were concerns on whether he would lead a seamless transition from the former CEO, Bob Collymore. Being different individuals with different personalities, gauging them on the same standards is unfair considering even in leadership as it is has different styles and ultimately what counts is the performance i.e. the ability to weather storms, streamline processes and realize returns. This is a special scenario considering there’s only one player at a time. In the past, the corporate culture was characterized by cutthroat competition between and within companies with associates focused on individual achievements rather collaborative performance that supports sustainable growth. In such cases, there’s a tendency to pitch individuals against each other and even standardize training on techniques especially around sales & marketing. For some, this became their downfall while in an ideal situation this would be their space to thrive.
Considering these dynamics, I believe there’s a chance to contain the overshadowing effect in all circumstances. This is more critical in order to;
- Embrace diverse perspectives – In a fast-paced world, there’s a higher likelihood that the calm and reserved individuals may never have an opportunity to share their perspectives which may be the gamechangers in certain circumstances. Giving them an opportunity and acknowledging their contribution helps build the team spirit, spur cross-pollination of ideas for improved performance including in social scenarios.
- Support personal growth & development – by embracing diversity and contain the overshadowing effect we give the cool-headed calm individuals an opportunity to thrive and realize their potential which has a place in our common human fabric of existence in the world.
To achieve this envisioned level playing ground for individuals of all personality types, it’s important to;
- Encourage participation of the calm persons in different environments especially where the more vocal and outspoken individuals are present. This gives them a chance to share their perspectives rather than be overtaking by circumstances.
- Contain the hot-headed outspoken individuals by helping them acknowledge their differences in personality and need to let the other personality drive their point home. In so doing, we help build the confidence and capability of the calm personalities while not thwarting growth of the former. This contributes to the realization of a balanced society as envisioned and desired.
- Offer tailored and contextualized nurturing & guidance to each of the different personalities in line with their areas of interest, strength/competence and enable them thrive in these spaces rather than adopting a one size fits all model of capacity building programs.
There’s progress being made on this front however, there still exists work to be done. I’m reminded of a quote by Vaner Myer: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging is feeling free to dance however you want.” We are a part of the human race, we belong and we need to feel like it wherever we are. Let’s work together to make this a reality.
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