Every leader has a ‘weird’ gene

‘Weird’ leaders see things differently.

When working with my teams I created a game called ‘The Motley Crew’. The aim of the game was for participants to select 8 people from a list of weird; strange and crazy people to re-start the human race on another planet. They also had to choose the leader. The 5 characters which caused the most interesting and conflicting discussions when choosing the leader were:

1. A 26 year old female black American Civil Rights activist (seen as ‘trouble’ by some and just what would be needed by others)

2. A 40 year old male Minister (seen as God by some and the devil by others)

3. A 60 year old midwife. (seen as too old by some and the matriarch by others)

4. A 30 year old Indian female who works as a Nurse Aide at a local Hospice. She had been struck off the medical register in India for performing abortions. (People would get caught up in the ‘abortion’ discussion and forget that she is actually a trained doctor)

5. A 27 year old male prison escapee in jail for Social Welfare fraud.(some saw him as smart others saw him as a crook)

The purpose of the 8 people was of course, to restart the human race. I created people with much needed skills coupled with character flaws. Because we all have character flaws. 

And if we think about a real life leader who had incredible skills coupled with pretty dark character traits – Steve Jobs comes instantly to mind. Who could forget his pronouncement:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Yet he was known to be verbally abusive to staff; to fire people without notice; to keep people waiting outside his office for hours. He refused to donate to charity despite a wealth of US$7 billion; refused to give stock options to his longest serving staff members and had no shame about using sweat-shop labour. I guess he is an extreme (though you will see Donald Trump in those dark qualities).

So as leaders, we need to be aware of our own dark side. We need to have the courage to employ people who will stand up to us; to make sure that we don’t over-step the mark in the way we treat people.  As employers we need to have ways to evaluate the people we put into leadership roles because there will be signs that you have unleashed a monster:

  1. You will notice high turnover in their team or department
  2. You will notice high absenteeism
  3. You will start finding yourself on the receiving end of personal grievances.

Leaders of poor leaders need to coach; mentor and hold these people accountable when any of those three things occur; and if they occur too often, leaders need to have the courage to remove poor leaders. People don’t leave organisations they leave poor managers. And a repetition of the 3 signs above will damage your company’s reputation and ensure that attracting people will be a nightmare. No matter an organisations’ product or service, a company is only as good as the people it employs.

My final thought comes from Bianca Frazier: ‘When people show you who they are believe them.’

Ann Andrews CSP – Speaker, Author, Profiler, Life Member NSANZ 

Author: Lessons in Leadership: 50 ways to avoid falling into the ‘Trump’ trap

Author: Leaders Behaving Badly: What happens when ordinary people show up, stand up and speak up

You can also take a really simple ‘Leadership Test’ right here

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