Friday, October 10, 2008

Whack-a-Mole Leadership

Are you familiar with this game? You try to hit the little critter when he pops his head up from the hole with a large mallet. The pattern is random and the moles keep coming -- sometimes one at a time, sometimes several at once. They pop up -- you WHACK 'em! It's fun!

Are you familiar with this brand of leadership? You race from crisis to crisis. You go from one initiative to another. You dabble in the management flavor of the day (empowerment, strategic planning, communication, lean six sigma, outsourcing, metrics) but never really make any progress. Something pops up, you put a lot of energy into whacking it. Sometimes you hit it...sometimes you don't. It's not fun!

Whack-a-mole leadership is very frustrating to teammates who can never understand where they are being led, nor gain a sense of strategic priorities and organizational vision. They never seem to accomplish anything nor see any meaningful progress. As soon as they accomplish something (whack the mole)...something else that is seemingly just as important pops up -- and they race to whack it.

Trust me. Whack-a-mole is no way to run a team. The moles will keep coming and no one wins. Morale suffers and the team will not produce.

There is a different approach, a style that avoids the pitfalls of whack-a-mole leadership. You see it exhibited by mature, strategic thinkers and executive leaders in all walks of life who know the following:

-- Set priorities and stay on them.
-- Identify what is important and stay focused. Don't be distracted by every little mole that pops up if it does not contribute to the strategic success of the team.
-- Be consistent and be yourself. Don't follow every flavor of the day.
-- Think ahead. Think strategically. Know where the next mole will pop up and be in position to whack it. Be proactive instead of reactive.
-- Be a calm and steady presence for the team. Protect them from the "urgent" distractor-moles sent down from HQ and keep them headed in the right path.

Whack-a-mole leadership is no way to run a business, lead a team, or govern in politics. Mature leaders understand the importance of picking up the mallet every day and consistently hitting the critters that matter. They set a winning vision and stay with it! Morale soars and the team wins. That makes it Leader Business.

1 comment:

Dan McCarthy said...

Tom –
Great post and advice. I’ve seen many leaders actually create this kind of environment, because they thrive on the adrenaline rush. It can, however, lead to burn-out, turnover, and low productivity.