We feed and nurture these dragons through our own behaviors. They are our weaknesses manifesting themselves in actions and approaches that stifle creativity, imprison innovation and subvert initiative on our teams and in our organizations.
4 of Our Most Destructive Leadership Dragons:
1. I Worship and the Ego-This dragon manifests itself in the misinformed view that the universe and everyone in it revolves around the leader. While “I” is a powerful weapon when called upon to make a tough decision, the daily projection of “I” on to the citizenry beats people into submission and subverts opportunities for other personalities and behaviors to emerge. We all have an ego, however, when it grows out of proportion, it slashes at and burns anyone who refuses to acknowledge it.
2. Lack of Moral Courage-This dragon feasts on self-doubt, promotes hesitation and thrives on looking the other way or rationalizing behaviors, when there’s only one clear choice. We see this one in the news all of the time. The executive who crosses ethical boundaries and destroys lives and fortunes or the coach (Paterno) who simply allowed lives to be destroyed rather than risk his “I Worship” dragon.
3. Ignore the Tough Stuff-This dragon rationalizes that it is OK to ignore tough performance and feedback discussions, and critical people and strategy decisions. The mantra is, “think about it long enough and everyone else will forget.” It particularly enjoys feeding on our fears and self doubts about our own ability to deal with the tough issues in front of us.
4. Short-Term at All Costs Thinking and Actions-Sinking ships and failing businesses might require a total focus on the short-term, but everything else merits consideration in multiple time horizons. The “Short-Term at All Costs” dragon thrives on the daily forced march style of leading, where the drums set the pace and the fear of the whip keep heads down. This dragon loves to be worshiped in totality, and the decisions it most enjoys mortgage the future to create certainty in the here and now.
Please Don’t Feed Your Leadership Dragons:
Our own actions or lack thereof provide sustenance for these dragons. Many of us have nurtured them for years, allowing them to grow in degrees, relatively unaware of the impact they have on the people around us and locked in a false comfort that because we’ve been getting away with them, they are OK.
4 Daily Reminders to Help Keep Your Leadership Dragons Locked Away:
1. Remind yourself daily that your preoccupation is the health and welfare of those around you. Remind yourself to constantly ask: What’s working? What’s not? and What can I do to help allow you to do your job more effectively?
2. Recognize that the gray you see when it comes to ethical and moral issues is only in your mind. The issue is black or white at its core, and the smog of ego and the drive to preserve your situation at all costs are what create the gray. You aren’t fit to lead if you can’t face and deal with your ethical dilemmas in the only one acceptable way…the right way.
3. Strive daily to seek out and deal with the toughest issues in front of you. These are your priorities…don’t push them off. The people and performance issues, the strategic choices and the decisions that will allow others to move forward are all at the top of your priority list. Your own comfort in dealing with these issues isn’t a priority.
4. Create time to think and work on the future with your team. The gravitational pull of the urgent is difficult to break away from…difficult but not impossible. Only you can create this time for your team.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
There is little that is easy or comfortable about leading if you take the role seriously. Those who let their leadership dragons roam freely are simply placeholders eventually to be displaced by someone who gets what it takes to truly do this job. Let that someone be you.
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An ideal book for anyone starting our in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.
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