I talked with a friend yesterday who recently left a job. I was shocked and concerned to hear how the company and its culture had changed within a very short period of time. Over the course of 5 months communication went from full-disclosure to hidden agendas, from mission-minded to money-centered, from exciting to discouraging, and from encouraging to fearful and intimidating. What could bring on this hideous transformation in such a short time? This is the result of leadership insecurity. This leadership principle goes something like this: If things are dysfunctional at the top, it trickles down through the entire organization but, if things are healthy at the top, it too permeates the entire enterprise.
When a leader is insecure in his/her knowledge, capabilities, experience, relationship with stockholders and Board of Directors, or with other peers, disaster is headed their way. They are going to do whatever it takes to “prove” they are the boss and that they are in control — anything to bolster their self-esteem. Unknowingly, this spells death for the leader and, quite possibly, the organization.
3 Things Insecure Leaders “Kill“
- They kill Community
- They kill Culture
- They kill the Company
What’s the Answer?
If you’re the insecure leader – Congratulations! At least you have recognized the fact that you are insecure. The leader who is not in touch with his/her self will be doomed to repeat the process. Take some time to reflect and pinpoint the area(s) of insecurity.
- Can knowledge or experience be gained in order to combat the particular area? Take an educational course; read a book; dig in and get your hands dirty.
- Do you feel like you’re trying to measure up to someone you are not? Don’t try to be anyone else. Face the reality–you never will be able to meet the perceived standard. Be yourself and if you do not like yourself, find out what you don’t like and change it. Seek professional help if you need to. There is no shame in asking for help. Admitting a weakness is certainly better than continuing down a destructive path of pride.
If you report to the insecure leader – Evaluate the kind of working relationship you have with him/her.
- Can you confront them about their behavior? If you’re fortunate to have an open and honest relationship with your boss, let them know what you have observed or been on the receiving end of. Let them know how it is impacting the department, division, or company. It does the leader no good if they blindly go about business from day-to-day and have no feedback regarding the trail of bodies they’re leaving behind.
- Should you leave? In some cases it may be that you have to get out of the environment. “Save yourself,” so to speak. This is by no means a simple decision and should not be a knee-jerk reaction either. Consider your options carefully and if there is no way out other than to remove yourself, do so accordingly.
If you manage the insecure leader – If you recognize this harmful trait within your direct report, you need to be upfront and let them know it needs changing. Be proactive and brainstorm or recommend solutions to get the leader back on a healthy track. It might be that the person is not cut out for leadership and should be removed. Be careful here and don’t just fire the individual. Once again, be upfront and let them know the severity of the situation. Work through it together for their good and yours.
If you’re about to hire a leader – Do your homework. Just because the candidate is a nice person and has a good sense of humor does not make them a leader. As the saying goes: “Measure twice and cut once” (see the second article on Common Sense Management). Do not let the need for a position dictate getting the right person for the job. Better to pass by a good candidate in order to find the best candidate.
Insecurity has been described as a war in an unhealthy mind. We all want healthy, thriving companies — who doesn’t? Those who lead must have a healthy balanced attitude and outlook. Take time to be introspective. Play to your strengths and be secure in who you are.