Two realities of leadership are that it can be lonely and it can be stressful. The result of these factors is that it can also be fertile ground for three emotional or psychological conditions that, while perhaps not recognized by professional therapists, as a confidential adviser to C-Suite executives I see on a regular basis.
Go it Alone Syndrome
What is the one thing that all successful people -- athletes, entertainers, business tycoons, and the wealthiest of the wealthy -- have in common? They've all had mentors, coaches, and advisers.
Many people try to figure it out on their own, and fail. A few people manage to reach their goal by following a proven system.
But the most likely to succeed seek out those who have come before them. They look for mentors and coaches to guide them.
Someone with more experience, seniority, age, and diverse wisdom can help you minimize -- if not avoid altogether -- "first-timer" mistakes. Those mistakes result in demoralizing false starts, expensive missteps, and wasting time. Your learning curve is drastically cut. And just having someone to provide inspiration, insight, and encouragement can be tremendous.
Decision Drone Syndrome
Unfortunately, with an appointment to a position of authority comes the incredible sense that you are not only
decision maker but most decisions have to be made by you and quickly.
Let's look at these three scenarios:
Yes, the ultimate. Future decisions are why you get paid the big bucks.
These include strategic, directional, growth, reduction, and capacity-building or sustainability choices.
You have lieutenants who may research and recommend, but you and you alone must make certain decisions.
One of the most disastrous things to see happen with any enterprise is the loss of the CEO and the ensuing floundering, confusion, and disruption -- if not demise -- because there was no succession plan in place.
The best way to ensure succession and the ongoing growth of the organization is to see that other trusted leaders, often in management positions, are enabled, empowered, and encouraged to make decisions. Like many skills, practice is the best way to grow.
Allow others the authority and responsibility to make decisions alongside you and instead of you; it strengthens the bench and off-loads a lot from you.
Speed kills. That was a slogan for promoting reduced speeds on the highways of America in the 1970s. It became a slogan for promoting resistance to using illegal drugs in the 1980ss. Today it can be regarded as a truth in leadership decision-making.
From the president of the United States to a company president, cries for immediate decisions and authorizations, in order to avoid crises, don't work.
Regardless of the emotional, egotistical, or egregious grasp for power, the sense of urgency for any and every decision must be tempered by taking the necessary time to make an intelligent, reasonable, and informed decision. In so doing, you minimize jeopardy to the firm's reputation, profitability, and demoralizing shifts in the staff's focus.
After all, if you can't make a snap decision it shows indecisiveness, insecurity, or lack of confidence. Right? Maybe, or it could mean rather than hurrying up and making a potentially flawed decision, you need more time.
PR Tone Syndrome
The rise to power, let alone any tenure holding a position, always is subject to suffer from "stump speeches." You know those political-campaigning talking points that are thrown out at every audience throughout the day, hour after hour, day after day, and week after week, and well after they're ineffective.
It's easy to get caught up in giving rehearsed messages without considering whether you're connecting with the audience. Connection is critical. Communicating an effective message means crafting the message to reflect three things:
- 1. The issue, problem and sense of urgency.
- 2. Answer "what's in it for me?" from the audience's perspective.
- 3. Deliver a call to action.
If you're uncomfortable, get a speaking coach, prepare, and rehearse. Your presence in front of a stakeholder must be comfortable, authentic, and provide a glimpse into your authentic values and style. When a leader speaks it's not an advertising or publicity campaign, it's an opportunity to hear from the ultimate conductor of the enterprise. It's an opportunity to be energized, reassured, and inspired by direction.
An executive talk is not the time to show off how much you know. It is the time to acknowledge how important you realize the audience is to the success of your firm. It is a time to express the importance of the firm's success to the audience's well-being. It is a time to rally support around the mission of the firm in tackling a situation or launching a special product or service or shifting strategic focus.
Above all, understand the focus of any speech is not you, but the value of what you're delivering to the audience.
If you suffer from any of these syndromes, seek professional help immediately. Quick intervention can stop the spread and in many cases reverse any long-term damage that may have occurred. Prevent the epidemic of impaired leadership from spreading.
While delivered in an amusing context, I trust you are not ignoring the true seriousness of re-evaluating the most common traps that undermine a leader's effectiveness in the strategic growth of his or her firm as well as a reputation for leader excellence.
Vince Crew, is founder of REACH Development Services (www.REACHdevelopment.com). He has more than 30 years of Communications and Ethics experience and holds a master of science degree in marketing and communication, with an emphasis on "Leadership and Ethical Decision Making During the Lifecycle of an Organization." Vince is a national media expert on business innovation, strategic growth and leadership. He has been interviewed by Entrepreneur magazine, Fox Business Network, CNN, CNBC and more. Crew is the author of four books, including his latest, Everyday Ethics, Everlasting Consequences.