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Who’s Got the Time to Lead?

As Barbara Kellerman suggests in her book, Bad Leadership, the vast majority of the literature is decidedly positive. Likewise, as I briefly explored in a recent blog post, so are leadership development experiences. We often create a safe atmosphere, a bubble of positivity when in fact, leadership has a long list of negatives that come along with the role or activity.

Until it becomes second nature (if ever) it can become overwhelming. After all, when you stop and think about it, there are so many options that need to be weighed in any given situation – political ramifications, motivations, personalities, conflict, stressors and so forth. It takes time to pause, adjust and really work with someone or a group of people to develop and grow. At times, it’s easier to simply say “get it done or else.” Another way to look at time is the effort it will take to tackle the tough issues. By uncovering some of the challenges inherent in every organization/group, a leader is opening a pandora’s box of issues that can seem overwhelming and may lead to more meetings, more red tape and additional frustration before things get better. Of course there are any number of people who will be frustrated with YOU because you even brought it up, took a stand or brought forth an opinion that goes against the grain.

So do you have the time for all this? I would suggest that many people who see the opportunity and even believe the need exists, choose “no.” In fact, if you begin to listen closely, you will see this phenomenon all around you. People in positions of authority actively working to avoid some of the difficult work that we know would bring us to a better place. Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky call this “work avoidance” (think congressional hearings over steroids in baseball while the education system is broken).

Long hours, stressful interactions, a hungry media, difficult stands, time away from family/friends, additional meetings, and the list goes on. I believe we need to do our best to prepare our leaders for the inherent downsides of this important role/activity.

Who has time for all this?

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Scott J. Allen Ph.D.

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Posted in General Leadership.

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