I’ve often expressed concerns about “wimp” leaders. Those who are afraid to take on the tough, sometimes dirty jobs that come with leading an organization.
But I’m equally concerned about the other end of the spectrum: Leaders who are so strong that they make their organizations weak.
Consider the recent travails of the US Republican Party. GOP leadership, particularly Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, engineered a legislative showdown with President Barack Obama and Democrats in a bid to derail the implementation of Obamacare.
With freshman senator Cruz taking the lead, the Republicans offered the president and Democrats a poison pill proposition: delay Obamacare or face an indefinite delay in the passage of the federal budget bill. This bill was needed to keep the government fully operational.
President Obama and the Democrats would not blink. The result was a 16-day shutdown that hurt millions of Americans, both federal civil servants who had to go without paychecks and those who were denied important government services.
More importantly for Republicans, the shutdown revealed a crisis in leadership within the GOP. Senior Republicans accused Cruz of forging ahead with his bid to defund Obamacare without listening to other veteran leaders in his party.
In other words, Cruz was so strong in his leadership style; he didn’t stop to listen to others in his party.
The fallout of Cruz’s failed leadership has been profound. Approval ratings for the Republicans in general and Cruz in particular, have fallen significantly, while the President and the Democrats escaped unscathed.
The GOP predicament is instructive for many organizations. While weak leadership can obviously have negative impacts, being too strong a leader – ignoring input and advice, acting without all of the information necessary to make good decisions, and forcing people to do things they believe are wrong – can be equally as destructive.
Weak leadership is often the result of leaders who are simply afraid to take on tough or awkward tasks. Leaders who are too strong are just as afraid to do the hard work. It’s just that rather than cowering from those difficult tasks, overly strong leaders dismiss them out of hand. In both instances, the hard work of leadership never gets done.
Effective leadership is not just about being able and willing to make tough decisions. It’s about including others in the decision making process. It’s about delegating responsibility to build leadership capacity. And it’s about being willing to change course based on the best advice from others in your organization.
Leadership is a job where wimps and power-hungry egomaniacs need not apply.
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro