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Suffering From Leadership Wilt?

February 29, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 201

No one, no thing is immune to "Leadership Wilt." The 2011-2012 United States Congress suffers from it. The leaders of the once prestigious Wall Street firms Bear Stearns, Salomon Brothers, and J.P. Morgan Chase have suffered/are suffering from it. Even the command level of our military frequently succumb to Leadership Wilt. Every leader or potential leader is exposed. Many will never recover.

Some may be asking; What is Leadership Wilt? It occurs when leaders or potential leaders are asked to step beyond their daily duties and do more. It occurs when heat of the battle requires survival decisions. It is a disease that may lay dormant for months and even years within a leader or potential leader. Its symptoms, often thought to be positive indicators of leadership quality or leadership potential are over-confidence, arrogance, and aggressiveness, and poor performance when it counts the most, to name some of the more obvious.

If the disease is not treated, it will lead to poor decision-making and even personal and/or corporate failure. Leadership Wilt occurs when a leader or potential leader is placed in an environment that requires more and better leadership skills that, on occasion, exceed those needed on a daily basis. It often occurs when circumstances require the individual to draw upon knowledge, talent and skills never before used or at least those used infrequently. The "Wilt" occurs when the environment demands more but the leader's roots are so shallow they cannot deliver the nourishment to fuel the right actions.

Nowhere does Leadership Wilt manifests itself more prominently than in the U.S. Congress, whose approval rating, according to Real Clear Politics, has been riding below the 20 percent mark for months and is currently at 11.3 percent. That is less that 2 in 10 people who elected these fine specimens to represent us in the governmental process believe they are doing a good job. They were once thought to be leaders but when put in a position of having to actually get something done, they cannot. Their roots are too shallow.

An unfortunate example of both individual and group wilt that resulted in the death of four, field grade U.S. Air Force officers occurred in 1994. In maneuvers preparing for an Air Show, Lt Col Arthur "Bud" Holland, chief of the 92d Bomb Wing Standardization and Evaluation branch acted against known practices while operating a B-52 and crashed, killing himself and his crew. Well documented by Tony Kern in his paper titled: Darker Shades of Blue: A case of failed leadership, this example shows a lack of integrity by Holland and his superiors, as well. It exemplifies leaders, when challenged, failing to take the correct action.

These are just a couple of examples of how Leadership Wilt manifests itself. Wilt occurs, in my opinion, everywhere all the time because the roots of leadership were/are not deep enough to sustain quality leadership when things get tough. A tree with shallow roots is easily blown down if the roots are shallow. A flower placed in new ground will wilt quickly, in the hot sun, if the roots are not nourished. Such is the case with leaders in all roles. If the roots are not deep enough to nourish the plant, it will wilt.

We have discovered five essential leadership roots that need to be well established if the leader is to perform at the highest level in the face of real challenges in a previous article: Five Skills Leaders Must Have. Those five roots are: Followership, Optimism, Realism, Empathy and Self-Awareness. If any one of these roots are compromised, weakened or non-existent, the odds of leadership failure rise very quickly. Lets talk about each of these to get a better feel for what we are really talking about.


I have put Followership first because I believe it to be the "tap root," the one competency or skill that leaders cannot be leaders without. First, to be a leader there must be followers and every leader follows someone. Leaders are judged by the quality of their followership, which incidentally is the responsibility of the leader. You can not be a good leader without good followership skills.


Maybe the case for optimism can best be made by asking a question; How many pessimistic leaders do you know? Not many, I suspect. The principal job of a leader is to lead and it is very difficult to lead with no one following. Few of us wish to follow someone with a pessimistic view. Most of us want to move forward, preferably someplace positive and in the light. To lead many you must be an optimist.


Nothing can be worse, for a leader, than having unreachable goals for himself or his team. Seldom is there a more discouraging scenario than when a leader imposes upon his team unrealistic goals. People want and need to be challenged to grow, but they also need the sense of achievement that goes with accomplishing objectives. Leaders need to test goals against reality.


For a leader, understanding through the eyes of his/her people, rather than being influenced solely by his/her own point of view has to be one of the critical success factors of leadership. Being able, not only to see things through your people's viewpoint but to actually feel what they actually feel is the mark of a superior leader.


Self-Awareness is the "Keystone" of the 5 leadership skills. Without Self-Awareness you can not or will not be able to adequately develop the other skills essential to a higher performer. The research is compelling. Most of us are poorly informed when it comes to ourselves. Most us do not know ourselves and those who do stand out in more ways than one. If there was only one of these five skills I could have, it would be this one. Because, it is through our own self-awareness and understanding that all other skills are built. Make a point of having a clear picture of who you are and why you are that way.

Many of you will have recognized that 4 of 5 of these skills are under the umbrella of skills know as Emotional Intelligence. Only Followership is not mentioned as and Emotional skill but obviously depends heavily upon them.

Prevent Leadership Wilt through a strong commitment to growing the "tap roots" of leadership. It all begins with Self-Awareness.

Stephen J. Blakesley, Managing Patner, GMS Talent L P ( ) is a Successful Entrepreneur, Marketeer, Author, Radio Show Host, and Speaker. His two, most recent books, "The Target-The Secret to Superior Performance; ( ) and Strategic Hiring - Tomorrow's Benefits Today are top resources for business owners, mangers and C-Level executives.

Source: EzineArticles
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