We Just Need a Strong Leader

Working with teams is great.  But, I have noticed a pattern.  When there is difficulty, conflict or lack of communication an interesting pattern emerges during the various sessions.  What I hear during these sessions is consistent.

Sometimes these statements are a muttering in the back of the room, other times they are directly proclaimed for the group.

“We just need a strong leader.”

“If the [insert bosses title here] did more of [whatever topic we are discussing] we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

My personal favorite – “This is all well and good, but when will our leader apply some of these principles?”

In most cases I am there because the leader has identified the issue and wants to inspire collective solutions and buy in from the group.  Admittedly these leaders have not always lead deliberately, but the demands of their time and energy has increased, and they assumed that these teams would self-manage or self-lead through the routine of the day.

Then something interesting occurs.  The leader begins to lead, and in a strong and deliberate way.  The leader provides clear direction, communicates a larger vision, and begins to hold everyone accountable for results.  This newfound accountability eventually finds its way to those vocal critical few.  According to their earlier statements, what follows would logically be a happy embrace of this new leadership model.  Tragically, it doesn’t.

“Who does [insert leader’s name here] think they are messing with the way we have done things?”

“Can you believe that they want us to report on our activities, why don’t they just leave us alone like before?”

“Why do they keep making us go to meetings?  Why are they in our space so often?  Why are they asking so many questions?”

As the leader becomes stronger and tackles the various issues they find that the people who so clearly demanded strong leadership, are the ones who fight the hardest against it when it arrives.  Often, those vocal few are no longer there in a few years because when they said “We Just Need a Strong Leader” what they really meant was “I need someone to complain about to deflect attention from my own lack of personal leadership.”

Maybe that vocal person was right.  The organization did need stronger leadership, but you should be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.