Strong Authentic Leaders were at one time committed followers. Many of them still are, at least sometimes.
If you have always struggled to follow someone else then you will most likely always struggle to earn the right to have someone else follow you. Leading someone requires their commitment. Weak leaders have no idea what is required to earn that commitment. Thus the best they can do is create more weak leaders. It is very uncommon for a weak leader to develop someone into a strong leader.
I could write for days on what causes a lack of commitment but I can sum up it’s result in one word…insubordination. The act of insubordination can take many forms. It could be completely ignoring the requests of the leader. It might be doing the opposite or nearly the opposite, of what is needed for the organization to succeed. Often it is simply talking poorly about the leader behind their back.
Talking behind a leaders back results in one of the most productivity killing activities an insubordinate follower can undertake. That activity is known as circular communication. Let’s say the leader directs follower number one to perform a particular task. Follower number one thinks it’s a ridiculous request. So follower number one needs to find someone to complain to, we’ll call that person follower number two.
Follower number two is never chosen at random. They are carefully selected because they must possess one singular quality above all others. They must agree with follower number one that the leader is making a ridiculous request.
It’s also likely that follower number one finds a follower 3, 4, and 5 to complain to as well. Followers 2, 3, 4, and 5 may also tell several other people until finally word gets back to the leader that follower number one thinks the leader is making ridiculous requests. Then the messy circle is complete.
So now there are multiple people involved, discussing an issue that only two people have the ability to solve. Only the leader and follower number one. By not going directly to the leader follower number one has impacted the productivity, and likely the morale, of many people in the organization. That’s circular communication.
Follower number one may find themselves in a leadership position one day but they will almost certainly be a weak leader.
If you’re in a middle leadership position today and you’re participating in circular communication then you will be seen as a weak leader. Because you probably are.
Strong Authentic Leaders do not try to communicate to someone through others. They communicate directly with the person who they need to speak with. Indirect, circular communication is a trust killer. When you lose the trust of the people around you then you’ve lost the ability to earn the level of commitment required to lead.
The five characteristics of weak leaders I have written about in this series are fairly common. The good news is that each of them can be overcome. It requires a weak leader to make a commitment to improve their leadership skills.
People who convert themselves from weak leaders to strong leaders often do so with the help of a coach or a mentor. It’s tough to do on your because one of the things that make people a weak leader is their inability to see themselves as they really are.
The eyes and the objectivity of a mentor can make a big difference…if you’re willing to listen to them and act on their recommendations.
Most weak leaders are satisfied with holding a leadership position. Strong Authentic Leaders made the choice to make a difference in the lives of others.
Your position of leadership can make a difference for you or you can make a difference with your leadership position. That choice is completely up to you!
6 thoughts on “Weak Leaders – Part Five”
I think this circular communication goes further than you’ve said. Once unfavourable comment goes beyond followers 3, 4 and 5 and feeds back to the leader, the comment is no longer personalised. Instead, it becomes generalised as “people”. “People think that was a stupid idea.”
This in turn is picked up by people who are not followers, but who may nonetheless have an opinion about the leader; and it skews their perception. Depending on the circumstances (the nature of the organisation, the tasks they are undertaking, and the degree to which those undertakings are publicly visible), these perceptions can snowball until the leader’s position becomes untenable.
You may think that I’m now going beyond management and commerce into areas of politics. As we say here in the UK, “I couldn’t possibly comment.” Nonetheless, I think the arguments apply.
Well with any luck our politicians are also leaders…we don’t seem to have much luck in either of our countries of late…🥴
This is great content, so True, I think I see where I stand as an individual in an organisation, a weak leader I once cause the circular communication, and that didn’t turned out so well indeed it is a trust killer, I seriously have seen so many things weak about me, and I want to change because there’s more in leadership than just a position and the salary, there’s people to groom and grow under your wing.
Well I’d say you’re on the way to being a better leader. Seeing our weaknesses and committing to work on them is the first step to improvement. So good for you! There are few things in life more rewarding than helping the people you lead become leaders themselves. I hope you experience that often.