Leadership: Reckless, Feckless, Useless

This is a call to action. The recent oil spill underlines that we have let our old, outmoded patterns of behavior forge the way. Leaders in that mess are so busy playing "CYA" that we are all witness to ugly, dirty, toxic pattern spills along with the oil, all the time every day.

"What" you ask "is a pattern spill"???

Pay attention, please pay attention!!!!

It's the "He did it, she did it, they did it" mentality. Finger pointing and blame are the games most frequently played. Even when caught with hands in the cookie jar, accountability is more of the "I'm sorry I got caught" variety than "I was reckless and will make amends" version.

Patterns are behaviors that repeat and repeat and repeat. We all have them. Some help, like learning to brush your teeth. You don't want to have to figure out the process each morning and night. Just pick up the manual or electric device, add the toothpaste and scrub away. Once learned, it's a good pattern to remember.

On the other hand, it's best to have alternate routes to get to work, just in case. One way may be quicker, until there is road work. If we are so married to that route, so locked in that same old, same old, way of reacting, it could be a bummer with lots of stops and starts and being late for meetings; so, better to break the pattern and find a new way.

Then it gets more complex; like patterns surrounding behaviors that have us constantly searching for safety and security. Take hoarding, for example: a pattern of saying "If I share with you there is not enough for me". That fear of not having, of starving is deeply embedded in the older parts of the brain that want us to protect what we have at any cost.

An iteration of hoarding, one that has become a way of life in our world, is greed. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself "How much is enough"? How many pair of shoes is enough? How much food is enough? How many cars make us secure and happy?

If we are to learn from our leaders we are presently in a sorry state. Some of the leaders in the headlines these days can be labeled as reckless. Reckless, is all about unthinking disregard for consequences; like, drilling for oil without much thought to back-up plans if something goes amok.

Others are feckless, as in feeble or ineffective in assuming responsibility; weak and meek responses, hand wringing and deer in the headlight ambiguous, non -answers to tough questions.

Okay, so what is missing?

We have been looking for answers to leadership in all the wrong places! Even though billions of dollars have been spent on leadership development programs, there has been little to no emphasis on how we connect as a system. This is critical work for twenty-first-century leaders.

Advanced emotional and social intelligence requires a strong comprehension of the workings of the interactive world of relationships and systems thinking. Being "pattern aware" is an important component of mature leadership.

In "Don't Bring It to Work" there is a call to action to look at where our patterns started. The three areas that need our personal and professional attention include:

*Family: Original organization we all joined

*Culture: Place that determines the acceptable norms

*Crises: Sudden situations that cause 'hardening of the emotions'

Leaders who do not have a strong understanding of patterns nor grasp the ways the world is connected are useless. They are stuck in the immature world of likes and dislikes, hurts and disappointments that all have to do with "me" and "not me". It's time we all get out of the sandbox of childish responses of blame and shame and face the powerful fact that we are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.

That does not mean we stand around, singing "Kumbaya" and patting each other on the back. It means we begin to take real ownership of our actions and the interface of the reactions of others.

It is time to look at the patterns we keep repeating, the questions we don't bother asking, the need to cut corners to save a buck, the pressure to keep stockholders happy at all costs, the fear that keeps us from speaking out when we know there is a better way.

When we learn to break the cycle of pattern repetition, we can discard the burdensome baggage of past family, culture, and crises situations that have kept us frozen.

It is time to make systems thinking the foundation for leadership education. There is a need for all of us to begin to connect the dots of how our actions, our interactions, create long term consequences and think through what we are doing with more emphasis on how what is up river impacts what is down river, otherwise leadership training simply brings more useless leaders to the front.

It's about you, it's about me, and it's about time.

Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Author, Leadership Educator, Executive Coach for over 30 years is an authority on leadership and workplace relationships. She is President of Creative Energy Options, Inc. Visit www.ceoptions.com and www.sylvialafair.com .

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