Leadership Trajectories to Nowhere

By |2013-11-13T20:02:39-07:00November 13th, 2013|Tags: , , , , , |


A colleague, Gene Morton, has been writing lately about leader blind spots, which got me to thinking about leaders I’ve seen and worked with who just didn’t recognize their limits.  The leaders I’ve seen most hamstrung by their own blindspots are those that have never failed. Many men, in particular, move up steadily, even meteorically, in organizations because they have just the right stuff at a particular time– the perfect look, bright and personable, enough technical expertise to shine in their early days and then an aura of golden boy as they are pulled higher and higher. Then, one day, they find that they need skills of accurate self-assessment, including honest recognition of their weaknesses, and the ability to listen to the people around them who know what they don’t, about their impact, their effectiveness, and the organization/environment. Sadly, too many distinguish themselves at this point by progressively underperforming into flat career trajectories or, as you point out, Gene, spectacularly delusional flaming crashes. It doesn’t have to be this way, but the “good young/old boy” network– an unconscious framework shared across the organization — both militates against the hard work of self-reflection and elevates the myth of perfect managerial traits in a mutually reinforcing spin. These guys are not actively stupid, they are probably more dizzy from their ride to the top.