Retail Observer

November 2016

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 43 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM NOVEMBER 2016 44 I n literature and drama, the fatal (or tragic) flaw is the element that foreshadows a character's downfall. Shakespeare plays investigated many examples of hamartia, but perhaps none so famous as Hamlet's inability to act, to make a decision, which led eventually to almost everyone's downfall and death. If you don't remember the story, the short version is that Hamlet is the young prince of Denmark who is off roaming the countryside to find out that his father, the king, has died. After returning home to his mother Gertrude and navigating his grief, he realizes that indeed something is rotten in Denmark when he finds out that his uncle Claudius has not only caused the death of his father, but he's married his mother. He searches for proof, drives his girlfriend crazy and suicidal, contemplates his own demise with being and not being, and even when he has a clear shot at confronting and taking his revenge on his uncle, he does nothing. There's a proper King's Landing type death scene at the end as the tragedy closes. Organizational life is often Shakespeare writ large : the mayhem and intrigue, the comings and goings in the middle of the night, betrayal, blood on the floor at the end of an epoch . . . the dramas play themselves out over and over. Just take a look at a recent example of the banking industry with Senator Elizabeth Warren's hearing to investigate the Wells Fargo scandal and her interrogation of CEO John Strumpf. His fatal flaws seemed to stack up as the conversation progressed. Real life as good as Shakespeare. Leaders are particularly susceptible to fatal flaws—these blind spots which are much more risky than an odd personality style or quirk. These are high risk because we often don't realize that this behavior or belief has the serious impact that it has—we deny or downplay its significance. I think these are the top three most insidious and potentially lethal to a leader and the organization: 1. Arrogance. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and I've seen many leaders walk right on top of it or regularly cross over. Confidence in a leader is essential, and we want to follow confident people. We want to feel like we are following someone in whom we can trust and in whose competence we can invest ourselves. Confidence is magnetizing and galvanizing. In relationship, the confident person says, "I know what I know, and I'm confident about that . . . and yet, I'm always willing to learn, develop and grow." We can be in relationship with this person; we have some chance of the back-and-forth of conversation and of collaboration, even with the power dynamic. Arrogance, on the other hand, is repellent and dangerous, and the arrogant person says, "Yeah, I know all this and more . . . and you've got nothing for me." Arrogance is dangerous in leadership because it's likely to create blind spots and people are less likely to speak truth to the top if they are routinely cut down, discouraged or devalued, which often happens when they interact with an arrogant leader. 2. Inconsistency. Although flexibility and resilience can be important leadership traits, inconsistency can be another fatal flaw. It's not just distracting to show up one day to a leader who's engaged, inspiring and clear, while on the next is demanding, confusing and on a rampage—it's inefficient. If people are spending all their time trying to decipher the boss, hold on for dear life, or step back and readjust, this can be highly disruptive to meeting a mission or goal. High performing teams or individuals might be able to deal with this and succeed in spite of this fatal flaw, but research suggests that even a leader being consistently terrible or ineffective is better than the see-saw effect. At least if the leader is somewhat predictable, they can envision and come up with creative work-arounds. 3. Indecision and lack of action. Leadership, by nature, is risky. You won't always do the right thing. You can make mistakes. But sometimes, you just have to act, you have to go, and you need to take prudent risks to do so. This leadership fatal flaw is tricky and one of the ones that can erode leadership trust and faith fairly quickly. Like with Hamlet, a leader's indecision or paralysis to act has significant consequences: missed opportunities and a disengaged/under-performing organization are just two of the most costly. Is there any way to prevent or manage these potentially fatal flaws? Ask your trusted advisors and those closest to you to be willing to have a courageous conversation, to share your potential blind spots, and listen openly. Begin a conversation with, "I am interested in constantly improving as a leader: do I have any blind spots that I need to consider or investigate?" It might initially be challenging to listen, but it's definitely worth it. Libby Wagner Culture Coach Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain Profit Cultures RO LEADERSHIP FATAL FLAWS: HAMLET'S DILEMMA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Retail Observer - November 2016