Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Leadership and Fear

Last weekend it was pouring with rain in Sydney. My son and his mates decided to go on their usual 4WD adventure and, as was to be expected, managed to get at least one of the 4WD's bogged. While they were pulling it out (they always have at least 4 vehicles in their party for safety reasons) another vehicle came up and the guys in it ridiculed them for getting stuck. Noticing that they had no support vehicles, my son and his mates warned the newcomers to be very careful as the conditions were quite dangerous - especially if you had little or no experience and/or were on your own. The newcomers jeered and sped off - this was a new vehicle and they were having fun.

A few minutes later when my son and his mates were restarting their bogged vehicle there was an urgent scream for help over the VHF radio. The newcomers had gone into water and the vehicle was filling rapidly. They were totally bogged, helpless and panicking. When my son's mates reached the accident they found that the doors were locked shut and water inside the car was at the point where possible drowning was a reality. In addition, the driver hadn't known enough to immediately shut off his engine when it went under water and, because there was no snorkel, the turbo charger had ensured there was water throughout the engine. Rescuing the vehicle and occupants was reasonably easy compared with getting the vehicle sufficiently mobile for it to make its way back to the nearest workshop where major repairs could be done. Of course, they had totally voided the vehicle's new car warranty so repairs are going to be very expensive.

I think there's a metaphor here for what sometimes happens in organisations.

There are times when some managers and leaders seem to follow a "crash through or crash" philosophy in relation to achieving results and/or introducing change. When this happens it is not uncommon for those in a hurry to ridicule those who are a little more experienced and/or cautious. The impact on everyone can be extremely traumatic in the event of things going wrong.

Good leaders know that fear can be a positive emotion. It can tell you that things need a bit of consideration before embarking on action. It can enable you to consider alternative ways of attaining your goal. It can lead you to new learning in a very positive way. That's why good leaders generally listen carefully to advice and suggestions from those with more experience.

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