26 Feb Solo Leadership Syndrome
Solo Leadership Syndrome
I work with leaders almost every day from every background, organizational culture style, gifts, abilities, and strategies. I read much on the subyect – books, articles and research exposing me to fresh ideas, theories and practices. My work as a consultant, leader, coach and trainer places me in many leadership environments and conversations.
Sadly, I hear too many frustrating stories about leaders who just don’t get it.
The leaders who do not get it think leadership is all about them — all about their competency, Vision, calling, decisions, insights, character, and communication.
I believe it’s a disorder..,Sl§ – Solo Leadership Syndrome.
Symptoms of SL5
SIS symptoms are easy to spot and painful to experience — except for the SIS leader.
Lack of Selfrawareness. They might talk about it, write about it, and send people to conferences to learn it, and even preach/teach about it—but rarely practice it. That’s the irony. They have no idea how toxic they are or deny it when confronted. Try giving honest 360-degree feedback to an 5L5 leader and they will be shocked, angry (watch out they shoot messengers) and potentially vengeful.
Arrogance. Try confronting a fault or challenge the ideas of an Sis leader and they power up and shame you into oblivion. A prominent church leader is challenged by an elder about a mayor character flaw that needs attention. He responds by saying, “Have you ever built a multi-mllllon dollar organization?” In other words, you do not have the right to talk about my character until you have performed at my level.
Defensiveness. There is a need for self—protection, seeing everyone as “against” them, especially those who disagree. When confronted by other senior leaders or their board they withdraw or get pouty.
Running ahead of the team. “Speed of the leader, speed of the team” is the oft-abused mantra here. It has validity if a team is young, new, inexperienced, yust starting out, etc. But soon this needs to shift to a collaborative, engaged, developmental culture. When it’s all about “the speed of the leader” it suggests the team has no “speed” of its own—no ideas, no vision, no right to push forward without the top dog. If you are a board member, send such an 5L5 leader
on a vacation, or to a humility conference or if needed yust let them go. You really do not want their style of “leadership” that badly.
Perfectionism. In the name of “excellence” a culture of perfectionism runs rampant. People are corrected but not developed. A leader I spoke with lamented how he was disciplined for the slightest mistake but never coached how to learn from it, try again and grow. This culture of “zero-tolerance for failure” is not excellence — it is a warped, abusive, control-freak culture of perfectionism designed only to give SL5 leaders power and control (prized and essential assets
forthis leaderships Style). Note they rarely play by the rules they enforce so rigidly for others.
The Negative impact of SLS
SLS is Dangerous to the Organization and the Mission
A person who thinks he or she is the repository ofall that is needed for the success of an organization, church, team or venture is going to compromise the mission, squandervaluable resources and hurt a lot of people. When Ron Johnson took over JC Penney he virtually destroyed the company. For the autopsy reportyust skim through this article and learn from the 5 mistakes he made while flying solo.
SLS Breeds Hubris throughout the Organization
Blg-ego leaders reproduce big—ego leaders who ignore personal flaws, make toxic choices and alienate others. Shame and humiliation are used to demean staff and keep a leader feeling “big” and “indispensible.” 5L5 leaders are defensive and often passive aggressive. challenge a big—ego leaderto rethink the vision or look at other options and you’ll find yourself uninVited to future meetings, ignored in conversations and suddenly lacking in resources to do youryob well.
SLS Demoralizes and Stiﬂes Rising Leaders
Sis leaders fear developing other leaders. They will manage them, delegate to them, intimidate them, challenge them, correct them..,but never really develop them. As tough as they talk, 5L5 leaders are actually very insecure leaders, using position and power to keep people at a distance. Because other strong leaders will soon challenge this self-centeredness, SIS leaders surround themselves with lmplementers and managers, but never strong leaders. Liz Wiseman calls such leaders “Diminishers” versus “Maximizers” who actually empower and release (not control) people. See
Sadly, 5L5 leaders cannot see this.
1. You need a strong Board willing to sideline, confront, correct, or remove an SIS leader. Most organizations do not have this, especially when “Founding Leader Syndrome” is combined with 5L5. churches and other non—profits can struggle here. Board members rotate so often (or are “chosen” by the SL5 leader) that few have the real or perceived “clout” to make hard choices and challenge such leaders.
2. Enlist a courageous messenger who is a peer and has the ear and respect of an 5L5 leader who is willing to confront the leader with truth and who does not care about the possible consequences. Direct reports and other staff members cannot do this — paychecks and promotions hang in the balance.
3. Experiment with a truly shared (not necessarily “equal”) leadership approach where real ownership and real leadership are given (and not taken back) to competent, experienced others.
4. Finally, ifyou are the SIS leader it is time to do something risky (and this is going to sound religious, but it is the best word to use.) You need to repent, a word that means “to turn back.” Do a bold 180i Share genuine leadership, notyust pure delegation and implementation opportunities. Let others fail. Acknowledge your own failures. Invite feedback. Become…
here it comes..,vulnerable (listen to Brene Brown’s 20-minute TED talk on this topic) http //www,ted,com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en
Vulnerability and humility will impact you, the culture and the mission dramatically. Your vision — and the vision of many —Wlll become all you hoped it would be. You will finally release others to fly—and yes some may fly right past you. Fear not. You will get so much more done, personally and for your cause. You can be free—you do not have to be fastest, best, first, greatest, biggest and strongest in order to lead well (in reality you are not anyway, so stop lying to yourself).
it is time for a new breed of leaders. Time to put the post—wwn heavy hierarchy 5L5 model of leadership aside and move into a new era. It will happen with or without the cooperation of 5L5 leaders (who Will likely remain in some areas).
How do you want to be remembered? “Yeah, when I worked there it was always all about him/her.” Or, “That leader invested in me to make me what I am today and I Will neverforget how they let me soar!”
Your choice — but first you have to admit you have 5L5. Are you courageous enough to do that’!