Beware the Overbearing Leader!

(The Three Types of Leaders, Part 2)

Our Arctic explorers stagger to a halt in the ice once again. A new captain is at the helm of the ship. Without a second thought or consultation, this captain orders the crew into action.

A third of the crew is sent onto the ice floes to hack away at the ice by hand. Another third is sent off to search for alternate routes. The rest of the crew remains on deck and bellows obscenities into the wind at the top of their lungs, just in case.

The weather worsens and snow falls, separating the crew from one other. The ice continues to mount in spite of the crew’s efforts. Separated, they have become ineffectual. With crew members scattered to the four winds, the mission is lost.

This second captain runs into the pitfall of overconfidence, riding the wave of momentum created by their ascendency. This type of overbearing leader dominates their organization and requires employees to follow them blindly, even when they are on a path to ruin.

Overbearing leaders mistake activity for productivity. Because they prioritize activity over quality, their visions often do not align with organizational goals. An overly bold, but erroneous, vision can be as harmful as the lack of vision from a timid leader. Unlike timid leaders who stick to the past for fear of failure, overbearing leaders believe that activity will insulate them from being perceived as underqualified or underprepared.

To quote philosopher Sun Tzu once again, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory.” Mistaking grandiosity for productivity is a sure path to irrelevance.

The behaviors of the timid leader and the overbearing leader have a similar root cause: personal insecurity and lack of maturity. Both types exhibit polar opposite ways of compensating for those feelings. In both extremes, the impact on the organization is negative.

Feelings of insecurity are not only the domain of ineffective leaders. Even the most secure person will occasionally feel apprehensive and anxious.

Being human means experiencing moments of personal discomfort, especially when confronted with new and unfamiliar challenges.

The question is not whether leaders will feel bouts of insecurity, but rather how they will react when they do. What distinguishes leaders who are effective at creating a vision from those who are not is how they deal with these bouts of uncertainty and self-doubt.

In our next blog, we will discuss the happy medium: the goldilocks leader. Stay tuned.

THE TAKEAWAY: Overbearing leaders demand progress. But, progress without purpose leads in the wrong direction.

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