If you’ve been in the workplace for any period of time, you’ve probably encountered someone who fits the description of a Productive Narcissist. In fact, you might have even hired the person yourself, unaware that certain personality traits would turn your star performer into a costly management “black hole.”
Today’s headlines are replete with words like “disruptor” and “reformer” in describing the behavior of high profile leaders.
But how does a leader prevent change from becoming chaos? Or reform from prompting revolt?
She needs to be a High Definition Leader (HD Leader) and surround herself with a top-flight team that also possesses HD Leader qualities and capabilities.
THE PAST AS PROLOGUE
I first discussed High Definition Leadership almost a decade ago when we were in the depths of the Great Recession. Back then most of my CEO and director clients faced unprecedented business and personnel challenges. Uncertainty and fear reigned amidst economic contraction and red ink.
I urged them to lead in “high definition” as a way of keeping their stakeholders engaged and focused during turbulent times.
Electronics giant Samsung has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone overheats and catches fire, creating a safety hazard for owners.
After more than a month of product malfunctions, failed replacement phones, and furious customer complaints, the U.S. Consumer Safety Board effectively forced Samsung’s hand. The Korean-based company announced a total product recall this week and is killing production of the Note 7 altogether. Its strong smartphone brand is badly tarnished. Samsung has also slashed its third quarter profit estimate.
Cases like this remind us that leaders may need to react to any number of crises – man-made or natural – that deal with stakeholder or public safety and well-being.
I addressed common reactions and behaviors to crisis that leaders need to avoid in a previous post, Crisis Leadership: Five Deadly Leader Behaviors.
If you find yourself in a major crisis situation, here’s what you need to do.
The CEOs of Wells Fargo and EpiPen manufacturer Mylan were both recently lambasted at Congressional hearings for unethical business practices.
These high-profile examples are a timely reminder that business crisis situations, whether they’re the result of questionable executive judgment, industrial accidents, violence, or natural disasters, are the ultimate leadership challenge.
Intense public scrutiny and 24/7 media coverage mean that leaders’ actions and – even more importantly – their reactions are both high-stakes and high-visibility.
Indeed, how leaders react to a crisis can make the difference between successfully navigating through turbulent times and crashing on the rocks. Individual and organizational reputations are on the line.
But here’s the rub: When leaders and their board directors are under pressure, they – like all people – are at greater risk of behaving in ways that are defensive and maladaptive. Let’s take a look at the most common ineffective responses to crisis situations.
By Susan Battley
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
With more than half of the year over and the summer zipping by, let’s take a fresh look at why you don’t need to take a break from work:
- You think you’re indispensable. No one can fill your shoes, or hold down the fort in your absence. Even with all the available technologies that can keep you in touch with the office – and them with you – your physical presence is essential to keep disaster and mayhem from occurring.
- Fresh ideas and perspective are immaterial to your ongoing success. Who needs a refresher period to spark creativity when you can bask in the comfort of same-old, stale thinking?
- Others might slack off in your absence. You wouldn’t want to be a role model for anything other than a strong work ethic.
- You have no personal life. Workaholism is a strategy for filling a void or avoiding challenges or dysfunctions in the rest of your life.
I could go on, but I think you get my tongue-in-cheek point.
Just as athletes need to alternate performance with rest periods for optimum results, smart professionals realize that vacations are critical to maintaining their competitive and creative edge at work.
The alternative is a loser’s game, maybe not in the short-term, but definitely in the long run: burnout, subpar decision quality, and decreased innovation and motivation. Don’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise.
A refrain I hear all too often from executives is: “Yes, I really want some down time, but there is simply no end to the incoming demands and issues I have to tackle.”
If this is your day-to-day reality, consider it a red flag that you are spread too thin and your situation is unsustainable.
Corrective action is needed. Often this involves structural changes in roles and responsibilities, delegating to others, or adding personnel.
If you have a history of not taking vacations, canceling planned vacations or scaling back vacation time after the fact, consider these as warning signs that something is amiss with your attitude and/or actual work responsibilities or performance. A compulsive workaholic organizational culture can also be at fault.
If you are a leader or senior decision maker, it’s important that you set the tone for vacation time by your own example. Individual, team and organizational productivity will benefit over the long-term and promote sustainable success.
[See also, Vacation Approved: Five Vacation Action Tips ]
Copyright © Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD. All rights reserved.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James
Effective leaders get results with and through other people – employees, customers, clients, vendors and the general public.
Those with a track record of longevity balance healthy ambition with gratitude. They make Gratitude a core value in building their organizations, their culture, and their professional and business brands. I call them Type-G leaders for short.
Understanding risk is at the core of management and board effectiveness. Every day decision makers consider options and make choices based on their expert judgment and analysis of probable success.
But there is one business risk that can lurk outside leaders’ awareness. In fact, this risk comes from inside their own heads in the form of mental biases. And no one is immune.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou
The realization may come over time, or it can occur as the result of a single critical incident. You have a poor-fit player in a key management or project position.
Consider the many ways poor-fit talent can make their presence known. For example:
• Under-performance due to skill deficits
• Inability or unwillingness to act on performance feedback
• Counterproductive – or toxic – personality traits
• Lack of alignment with the organization’s core strategy or culture
• Increased interpersonal or departmental conflict
Do you want to improve your strategic planning, business development, time utilization, teamwork, communication and execution effectiveness? Granted, this is a rhetorical question.
I want to highlight the Most Powerful Question you can have in your leadership repertoire.
“It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”
– Will Rogers
Certainty is appealing and comforting. It makes us feel confident and powerful, especially in uncertain times. But it also has a dark side that I call “Toxic Certainty.”
Toxic Certainty occurs when a person (or group) develops an unshakeable conviction in his/her interpretation of the facts and decision-making, and is immune to contradictory information.
We see the negative effects of Toxic Certainty in political gridlock. We recognize it in religious extremism. But often Toxic Certainty goes unnoticed when it occurs at headquarters or in the boardroom. Unnoticed, that is, until disaster looms as a result of misguided thinking and actions.