Jack believed he was a responsible leader. He felt deeply the responsibility that rested on his shoulders. He wanted to make sure that no matter what happened on his shift, he would be there to make it right. When the economy tanked, he went into top gear. He increased his control over projects and his people. He attempted to double and triple check everything to make sure no one “fell down on the job.” He began spending more time at the office and taking more work home.
Increasingly of late though, Jack seemed to become more irritable. Co-workers who had labored so well with him in the past, now became distant, almost curt. As things went from bad to worse in the industry, his response was to attempt to gain more control of how things were going, requiring more reports and longer hours from everyone. In turn, people became more frustrated with “the new Jack” and his increasingly autocratic ways. He grew shorter and shorter with others, especially family. After a while it was clear that the effectiveness and productivity of his department were eroding and miscommunication happened more and more often.
Jack’s understanding of a leader’s role was sadly deficient. His problem was not so much that he didn’t know the values of delegating authority or getting along with others. What was happening was that his own insecurities were driving him to steal responsibility from his people.
It is natural for leaders to respond to crisis by attempting more control. After all, in times of crisis people look to leaders for answers. However, true leadership mobilizes people to meet the challenges of a situation, drawing forth the necessary answers from followers.
The greater the number of people trying to fix the problem, albeit in an organized manner, the greater the likelihood of someone coming up with the right answers. Leadership is always about a collaboration of leader and follower. Thus crises are best met by the group, not the leader alone.