Otherwise formidable and self-confident leaders can sometimes turn into shape-shifting lizards in the presence of powerful and high-status colleagues or clients. The confident style they normally exude turns to jelly. They come across as reticent, junior, passive, and obsequious. The weak style they project erodes their credibility and reduces their influence.
I've seen this before. It wasn't about pleasing the higher-level leader, but avoiding any potential conflict and asking for permission rather than what the person recommended (they were an expert on the issue of what they were discussing). Your advice still holds true. Thanks for posting.
Some of us can’t simply shed these concerns, they are a bit too baked in. I’ll happily follow a recommended behavior, but we can’t start with a recommendation to “stop caring what people think.” I care.