Are you fighting too many fires?


Stop lighting them…

Many conversations I have are about leadership culture and how to develop more agile and inspiring leaders when the pace of change, and life, is so fast.

Over the past five years – driven by a relentless desire to keep up with “disruptive” entrants into the market, technological change, and the need to increase speed and efficiency but drive down cost, the “heroic leader” is a character that develops and thrives.

The “heroic leader” – a dynamic individual admired for their ruthless efficiency,  pragmatism and assertiveness. An experienced, intelligent subject matter expert who has the ability to solve problems quickly. He or she has high levels of confidence, energy, resilience and assertiveness.

A problem emerges…. it’s fixed. Another quickly appears. Everyone turns to the heroic leader and he or she comes to the rescue again. Everyone is so caught up in this cycle that no one has a chance to stop and think what caused the fire, consider the emotional impact, examine the long term consequences or share any of the lessons. Silos are created and reinforced. Purpose is ignored or forgotten. Stress starts to dominate the workplace.

If this sounds familiar, have you ever stopped to work out who’s lighting these fires or why they are starting? Have you ever wondered whether the same fires have also been started, or are about to start, in lots of other places within the organisation?

Step back. Pause and reflect. Do you realise that no one is sharing or collaborating, no one is really innovating and the people who potentially have the long term solutions are not being encouraged to contribute? Do you realise that no one is really looking strategically at the changing nature of your business and your customers?

The time to change is now. Companies need to make a fundamental behavioural change at senior management level in order to shift away from a culture of “Heroic Leadership”. The future generation will not accept being led this way, and you will lose your most talented people.

Fires don’t start by themselves. The first step on the road to change is to stop the leadership behaviour that causes them.

It starts with a PAUSE.