Curated Leadership for Today's World

chicken little leadership

Posted on 05 March 2013

0923_chickenlittle_new_ufsgrayTrue leaders love a crisis. It gives them the chance to go through the fires and be molded into something stronger and more powerful. The masses love to rally around a leader who lays out a clear vision of how to tackle the problem at hand. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I’ve worked for some leaders who do just the opposite. They wring their hands and bemoan the challenges and problems they’ve inherited. I remember thinking, “Dear God, why’d you take this job then?” and “Isn’t that why you’re getting paid so much?”

There will always be problems and seemingly unsolvable crises. Welcome to life and being in charge! But Hell holds a special place for “leaders” who “lead” by manufactured crisis. Paralysis justified by fear mongering gets old; make a decision already! When you keep raising the issue again and again and again with no concrete actions to address the problem, it’s insanity. We want action plans from our leaders at the top. Everyone knows that when mid-level managers try to solve an issue NOTHING happens without the commitment and leadership of the person at the very top.

I’ve addressed this very phenomenon in several organizations. When I was a Commander in the Air Force I had a fellow Commander who wanted to utilize our limited resources from a tactical approach whereas I had to consider the overall strategic implications. We tried to work this out, but were coming at the solution from two very different perspectives. The impasse went on for months and the wing leadership did nothing to resolve the conflict.

I did everything I could within my authority and the regulations to deal with the problem but because I was not the one running the show, the ultimate direction of resources was not up to me. But there does come a time when going off the cliff is the only way to draw attention to an issue and a decision. In fact, several of the organizations I left had the wheels fall off their train before any action was taken. I, like most people, don’t deal well with people in ultimate positions of authority who won’t make decisions.

Leaders are supposed to turn crises into opportunities, not run around screaming “the sky is falling” or crying wolf. Working to gain consensus is okay but, in the end, the leader has to make the decision, make it theirs, and then live and die by it. 

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2 comments

  • Mark Armstrong: February 20, 2016

    “…Hell holds a special place for “leaders” who “lead” by manufactured crisis. Paralysis justified by fear mongering gets old… "

    The first sentence above makes me hopeful; the second sums up current political leadership in the United States. Well said, Ms. Tracey C. Jones!!! : )

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    You know where our hope is Mark:-) And yes, our country’s leadership is in serious disarray. The eagles are silent and the parrotts are chattering, as Winston Churchill would say!

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