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The Untold Story Behind Stakeholder Relationships

When a leader advances to the CXO level, people who were previously their superiors become their peers, and gaining acceptance from these stakeholders is the first major challenge that newly promoted leaders face. If the CXO is new to the organization, then the problem gets even more pronounced. Of course, as a CXO, you are expected to influence these stakeholders and collaborate with them. There are inter-departmental decisions to make, new proposals to be approved, or new initiatives that need collaboration. Leaders often struggle with and sometimes, even avoid, persuading stakeholders. Why is it so difficult to build stakeholder relationships?

One interesting discovery that I have made is about cultural conditioning. We value age, and seniors are widely respected. Many of us would remember childhood lessons of keeping our mouth shut and not being allowed to speak up in front of elders. It's a reality that when people work in organizations, they equate their senior colleagues, who are one or two levels above them, with elders. Thus, we naturally believe that we are less than them in some way. In nutshell, we give away our power. It is quite difficult to influence someone when one has given up one’s power. The fact that a leader considers his seniors superior to him gets transmitted through his vibe as also through the body language and choice of words. It is highly unlikely to create a relationship of equals with peers who were earlier senior to the leader unless he changes his perspective. The same conditioning can also be extrapolated to authority – boss, super boss, etc.