Archive for August, 2013

Seven Sins of Leadership- #7 Passivity

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

We have arrived at the final sin in the Seven Sins of Leadership Series, passivity. Before unpacking this, a quick review is in order.

So far we have discussed six sins of leadership- anger, pride, paranoia, overused ambition, unpredictability and myopia. Leaders who fall victim to these sins all have one element in common, they are behaving dysfunctionally. They are doing something they would be better served not doing. Sin #7 is different. It involves not doing, which makes it insidiously different and lands it on the list.

The passive leader sits back and thinks, “Ah, now I have made it, better not screw it up.” So instead of continuing many of the productive behaviors that enabled them to achieve success, they simply lay back and do nothing. But in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) business environment, passivity is a byword for letting the market pass you by. The passive leader watches as slowly but surely, their competitors outflank and out position them into irrelevance. They hand wring over decisions, fearful of making a fatal mistake. If they can not snap out of it, they will certainly find themselves out of it, their job that is.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. The passive leader makes the mistake of thinking that this law does not apply to them. They believe that they can model passivity and play it safe until exigent circumstances require action. But alas, they are incorrect. By the time the urgent situation arrives, it is too late. Their muscles have atrophied. They are incapable of taking the appropriate actions. Unless an external force causes them to act, they simply continue to do the same thing, no thing.

Ironically, playing it safe as a leader is a surefire way to put yourself and your organization, in harm’s way. But no worries, if you do not change, you will not be in the role for long.



Seven Sins of Leadership- #6 Myopia

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

One of the biggest adjustments that individuals need to make when they are assigned as leaders, especially at the highest levels, is where they are focusing their vision. Each successive leadership role requires a longer horizon, both in terms of distance and time. Unfortunately, too many leaders keep their heads down and their focus narrow, resulting in leadership sin #6, myopia.

Decrying the lack of strategic thinking is to lament the major symptom of myopia. It is simply too difficult to plan for future events in a developing marketplace against an ever-evolving set of competitors when you are in the weed patch or journeying down the rabbit hole. But the unenlightened leader does just that, attending to the knitting, close-in, dotting every i and crossing every t, because that was the formula that led to their success in the past. If they are lucky, they will have someone nearby who will let them know that a longer view is in order.

Whether they can make the adjustment is the difference between effective leadership and a short stint in the big office.

To build well defined distance vision, i.e. strategic muscle, begins with behavior change. I have seen numerous leaders blanch at the feedback that they must become more strategic, based on the fact that they are not naturally gifted with long term vision. But like so many of the skills we acquire in life, developing a longer view takes a plan and disciplined execution. Above all else, it requires intention and begins by lifting up the head and looking at the horizon.

Seven Sins of Leadership- #5 Unpredictability

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

One of the most underrated of leadership attributes is predictability. Smart leaders use repeatable patterns of behavior that enable them to consistently achieve results. This is the secret power of process improvement initiatives, that is, using repeatable process to unlock consistent results. Predictability, then, is a positive byproduct of repeatable processes that produce consistent results. It makes complete sense then, that unpredictability is one of the seven sins of leadership, coming in at #5.

Many leaders, especially first-timers, make the mistake of believing that being unpredictable, erratic or mercurial will “keep their people on their toes.” But the only thing that it keeps them being is confused, concerned, productive and long term employees.

Lets face it, employees are more stressed out than ever before. The great recession was an accelerator for productivity initiatives already well underway by most companies. Firms have figured out how to get more and more out of less and less employees, resulting in longer and harder workweeks than ever before. Add to this the slow-to-recover job market, and employees are stressed out and borderline disengaged. If you are interested in pushing them to the breaking point and ultimately out the door, then by all means be an unpredictable leader.

Think of the best leader that you know. Chances are that they are highly motivational, skilled at alignment and above all, mature grown-ups. What makes them so accomplished is that they can be counted on for a consistent pattern of behavior and conduct. In other words, they are predictable.

Being skilled at anything is no accident. It takes intention, focus and supreme effort. To be a skilled leader, I encourage you to identify the patterns of behavior that will enable you to engage and align your team in order to deliver repeatable results. Then adopt a consistency of conduct that makes your actions predictable to those on your team. Doing so effectively will burnish your leadership credentials and make you an MVP to your organization.