Raising the level of your leadership




Leaders With Their Heads In The Sand


Jim Collins has hit the nail on the head again. In How The Mighty Fall, he identifies five stages of decline that falling organizations go through as they disappear altogether or become irrelevant.

Collins defines Stage 3 as Denial of Risk and Peril. He says:

“In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether.”

Basically, he is saying that the leader(s) are hiding from at least four fundamental tasks and principles of leadership:

1.  Facts (real facts, not opinions) are your friends;
2.  Defining reality is a key task of leadership;
3.  Examine self first — no organization ever rises above the level of its leadership;
4.  Get input and perspective from as many sources as possible (restricted access and input is a certain mark of Stage 3).

It is interesting that organizations get to Stage 3 by way of Stages 1 and 2: Hubris (organizational and personal) and Lack of Discipline (organizational and personal). Why does Stage 3 happen so easily in organizations? Leaders put self-interests and pride ahead of the organization. How many times have you heard a leader say: “This is my fault”?

As a leader, I’ve had my head in the sand a few times (maybe more than a few times). Where’s your head these days?

2 responses to “Leaders With Their Heads In The Sand”

  1. Ken says:

    I think I am learning to be a leader, but it would not be proper for me to post a picture of where my head has been on some occasions. I really like your posts.

  2. Mike Kipp says:

    when I was CEO of a start-up that hit a bit of a wall my head was in the clouds as I promised the board that this was just “a flesh wound”…we’d pull out of this. A director and mentor of mine asked if that was my best hope or my best thinking. I’ve never forgotten the distinction

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