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Recall the Scenario

In my last article I introduced you to a scenario where two people, Ben and Chris, are very different types of leaders. At the end of the article I asked for feedback about some leadership elements at play. Thank you for all who responded. Much of the feedback was empathetic (“Are you writing about [fill in the name]? Because ‘Ben’ sounds exactly like them?”)

Other feedback was critical (“I would say that neither of them are leaders, they are just control freaks.”) It’s not easy when you are forced to choose between two imperfect options. But, that often is reality, isn’t it? What you can do to keep your sanity and make the best of things is to understand the natural laws of leadership that are at play in the situation that you are facing and adjust accordingly.

As a leader, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you are in charge of someone who is challenging or difficult to lead, as was Chris in the outlined scenario. You will also likely find yourself working for someone who isn’t the strongest leader, as is Ben. In either situation, the question to you as a leader is this: Are you going to allow the inadequacies of another to determine your own success as a leader?

As a leader, you have the responsibility to demonstrate your versatility and adjust to the situation, both up and down the organization, to ensure you are as effective as possible.

This is why it is helpful to understand what I call the Natural Laws of Leadership.

Natural Laws of Leadership: Empowerment Though Inaction

Just as there are laws of nature (objects will fill fall to earth at the same speed, water will follow the path of least resistance to the sea, smoke rises, etc.), there are also natural laws of leadership. Despite our best intentions and desires, we can’t change these laws. They simply exist.

Leadership is an inherently interpersonal endeavor. Because of this, the natural laws of leadership intrinsically deal with people’s behavior. One of the key natural laws of leadership at work in the scenario described above is the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Let me describe it this way. A person looking to get something will find the easiest way possible to get it. They will follow the path of least resistance to reach their goal. It’s human nature. Ask any parent of a child who wants some candy how it works. The child will go to the parent who they feel is most likely to agree to the request. They will even work one against the other to get the answer they want. The same thing is true of people in a professional setting. Look at the way the staff has learned to adjust to Ben’s micro-meddling in the previously described scenario.

The converse of this behavior is also true.

Any behavior, however inappropriate or unacceptable, will be continued until enough pressure is applied to force the behavior to change.

Therefore, as a leader, one of your jobs is to recognize and respond to behavior that shouldn’t be continued. Part of a leader’s job is to put up the appropriate level of resistance (organizationally, interpersonally, within a team, etc.) at the right place to drive the right behavior and outcomes. If a leader fails to do this, the net effect is no different than if they were to officially endorse the undesired behavior.

What is tolerated and accepted is perpetuated and becomes the norm.

This likely explains why Chris, in this scenario, continues to demonstrate unprofessional and dysfunctional behaviors. This also clearly illustrates, in very real terms, the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Stay Tuned for More

I’ll introduce more of the Natural Laws of Leadership in the coming weeks.

This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at

Dave Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectiveness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at

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Natural Laws of Leadership: Motion

Recently I was coaching a senior leader on the topic of operational improvements underway in the organization. There was general frustration that changes and new procedures weren’t being widely adopted by the staff in the department. He asked why people weren’t doing what they were being asked to do. I asked, “What he was doing to motivate a change in their behaviors to ensure people were doing things differently?” He said that he thought that the right solution should be enough to get people to want to adopt it.

While that idealistic thought might work in the fantasy of a Disney movie , it isn’t realistic in real-world leadership.

One reality of leadership is this:

Unless inspired or motivated to do so, people don’t generally possess the desire to do things any differently tomorrow than they did today.

In other words, just because you say something, or present a good idea, or a more efficient way of doing things, it doesn’t mean that people will jump to do it. It requires more than that from the leader. It requires the right amount of force in the right direction.


As a leader, your job is to know what direction you want to take your team/organization (have a vision) and to know those whom you are leading well enough to understand the proper amount and type of force to apply in the right place to change the direction (tension) I wrote about this topic in an earlier article.


This reminds me of the scientific truth of Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion . There is absolutely a Leadership correlation to those laws. I recently read an article by Vivek Mehrotra where he does a good job of identifying some basic correlations between Newton’s first two laws and leadership. I’ll elaborate on those thoughts here and add perspective to Newton’s Third law as it applies to leadership.

Without a doubt the leadership correlation to each of Newton’s laws are as true as the Laws of Motion themselves.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.


First Law of Leadership: An organization in its current state (status quo) is in an organizational “state of motion.” Things won’t change unless you apply force to cause them to change. Without that leadership force, it will continue to operate along its current path.


Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The relationship between an object’s mass (m), its acceleration (a), and the applied force (F) is Force = mass x acceleration.


Second Law of Leadership: The force needed to bring change to an organization depends on the size of the organization and the size of the change. If you want to make big changes fast, then you need to apply lots of force. If you don’t mind changes taking lots of time, then smaller but consistently applied force over time will work. The converse of this law is also true. If you expect big changes to come from the part time efforts of a few people, then get used to disappointment.


Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.


Third Law of Leadership: Even when you provide the right direction and motivation, there will be a force that acts to negate the action you are undertaking. So, don’t be surprised when there seems to be resistance to changes you are trying to implement. Particularly in light of the First Law of Leadership, it means that you must continue to exert the right amount of force to continue to make things move until your goals are achieved.


Understand for yourself:

What kind of force is required to get your organization to achieve the results you have in your vision?
Are you aware of the reactions to your actions? Do you understand how your actions are driving the reactions of your people?

Always remember the natural laws of leadership.

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Posted by on in Tension


The Utopian World?

It seems that we operate in a world where most people expect to go about their business in an ultra-professional, rational, controlled environment. In this utopian environment, people expect their leaders to give them nothing but calm, “let me work at my own pace”, conflict-free interactions in a workplace where nobody is offended or challenged?

Contrary to that perspective, that is not what leadership is about and it is not how leaders should operate.

2 Leadership Imperatives

In any organization, leaders need to do 2 things:

Bring a vision to inspire others and give them a direction to go.

Introduce the right amount of tension to get results.

Vision Alone Isn’t Enough

There have been volumes written about the importance of leaders setting a vision and inspiring others to adopt that vision as their own (Good to Great, The Leadership Challenge, etc.). Vision alone is not enough. As an old Samurai saying goes,

Vision without action is dreaming. And action without vision is wasting time.

And, as my father used to say,

If you don’t know where you are going, any old road will take you there.

It takes more than a vision and a strategy to get results. How do leaders get results? In a word: tension.

The Value of Tension

There isn’t much written about the need for leaders to bring tension to the workplace, but if it is results you want, tension is exactly what you will need. To get things done a certain amount of tension is required. A reasonable amount of tension leads people to act. Too little tension or too much tension leads people to inaction or inappropriate action.

Let’s get something clear. Tension is not by itself a bad thing. Tension is simply a condition that exists and that can be managed. This fact may surprise those of you who have always seen tension as something that happens to you rather than something that you can manage.

There are 2 kinds of tension: task tension and relationship tension.

Task tension is a focus on a particular assignment or something that needs to be done. This is generally accompanied with a deadline.

Relationship tension shifts the focus from the task or the assignment to the people doing or supporting the task. When tension shifts to the people who are involved, rather than the work that needs to be done, that tends to make things less productive.

3 Possible Outcomes based on tension

The right kind of tension brings a team of people together, focusing on a common outcome. The wrong kind of tension can destroy a team. Understanding and managing tension is a component of the Social Style workshops that I teach. In those workshops, we emphasize that there are three possible productivity outcomes from the level of tension in any interpersonal interaction. Here they are:

1. Low Tension/Low Productivity:

I call this the vacation mode. You don’t have anyone telling you where you need to be or what needs to be done. And there certainly aren’t any deadlines. Without something specific to do or a time to do it, not much progress is made. Ever have a project to work on like this?

2. Moderate Tension/High Productivity:

This is the optimum environment. Stress levels are manageable, tasks are clear and defined, objectives and priorities are agreed upon, and deadlines are realistic.

3. High Tension/Low Productivity

In this environment, people are working under high stress. Timelines are unrealistic, objectives are not clear, priorities compete with each other, and relationships are strained. This is the most unhealthy environment in which to work.

As a leader, one of your jobs is to create the environment in which your team can operate at the optimum level.


As a leader, you have to understand how to read the amount of tension among team members in any given situation. Then you need to adjust their behavior to influence their team members to increase the right kind of tension and decrease the wrong kind of tension.


Once you have managed the tension, then you will be more successful achieving your vision.

How about it, leader? Are you looking for better results? Bring the right kind of tension to your world and you’ll be surprised by the results you get.

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Words matter.

Mark Twain once said,

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

This truth is as important to leaders as it is to writers.

Leaders must appreciate the fact that the words they use will influence the words that their team uses.

And the words that are used by anyone will influence behaviors and actions.

Inclusive words

can form a bond and bring people together. These are words like: we, team, together, support, empower. At the same time, divisive words can separate, segregate, and build barriers between individuals and teams.


Leaders set the example for what is expected and tolerated, in both words and behaviors.

Sam Walton, founder of the Wal-Mart department store chain, said,

It takes employees about two weeks to start treating customers the way they are being treated.

The same can be said about the kind of words that leaders use. But it probably takes less than 2 weeks to impact behaviors.

Anyone who has been in any kind of leadership role can probably testify to the barriers that often form between people and teams. These barriers get in the way of effectively completing the team’s objective. And it is these barriers that often take up much of the leader’s time and effort.

The Nasty Four-Letter Word

Thinking of these barriers brings to light a nasty, four-letter word that can describe, and is often the source of, most problems with any team barrier: T-H-E-Y.

How often have you heard team members say “THEY don’t understand our needs?”

How often have professionals in your organization say, “THEY don’t know how to communicate?”

THEY is one of the most divisive words that can be used by any member of a team, particularly by a leader. It creates a mysterious, nameless, faceless enemy that is somehow controlling your world. More divisively, it creates an antagonistic environment in which you and your teams have to work. Once anyone starts to use the term THEY, of course there must be someone THEY are competing against. And that someone is, of course, US. There can’t be one without the other, whether it is implied or explicitly stated. And as soon as the competition between US and THEM is introduced, you will be spending more of your leadership time addressing relationship tension than you will be actually delivering results.

The message to all Leaders out there is, yes, words matter.

You can do something about it!

Fortunately, you can do something about the mysterious “THEY” and prevent this issue from thwarting your valiant efforts as a change agent. The first step is to understand that YOU are part of “they.” You have more control over what is happening around you than anyone else. You can break down the barriers, starting with those which are right next to you. To do this you need to do four things:

Alignment: Make sure everyone who works for you and around you is focused on working towards the same goal. There can be no tolerance for hidden agendas. That simply wastes resources and energy. Did you know the only difference between a laser and an incandescent light is FOCUS? And with the right amount of focus, that laser can cut through almost anything.

Know yourself: Be honest with yourself and understand your strengths and limitations and your preferred method of operating. Just as important, understand those things you aren’t particularly good at or don’t like to do. It takes real self awareness but this is essential.

Know your partners: Just as with knowing yourself, understand the strengths, preferences, and limitations of those with whom you are working.

Take the first step: Do something bold. Do something for others. “THEY” starts with you. If you don’t like them then start by looking in the mirror. If “THEY” don’t understand something, make sure you do (See #2). Then make sure that you are explaining it to your team in ways that they will get it (See #3). If “THEY” aren’t partnering well, then make sure you rise above the conflict and become the best partner imaginable.

Do yourself and those you lead a favor and ban that four-letter word. You’ll be amazed what a difference that will make.

Do these four things and you will be prepared for greater success.

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Several years ago, during the dot com boom, I worked for an internet startup company. During the company’s prime there was a desire to have the Account Managers understand what it takes to be a good Project Manager (PM). There was lots of talk about doing training to develop these PM skills. Despite the talk, there was never the time or the budget to get the Account Managers trained. After one particularly disastrous software implementation, the Account Manager admitted that he made promises about dates that were completely unrealistic, but he was hopeful the team would be able to “pick up the slack.” Even after this situation, there continued to be lots of talk but little action. Sadly, this startup company didn’t actually start-up (are you surprised?). Today I affectionately refer to it as “”.

Is It Really Important?

This scenario is not reserved for young, startup companies; nor is it reserved for inexperienced staff. It highlights what happens in the most elite of organizations and in your personal life on a daily basis. It highlights the foolishness of hoping for one outcome while demonstrating behaviors that do little to ensure it will happen. The result is frustration, counter productivity, and unintended consequences. And it is something that we can all relate to.


The Checkbook and the Calendar

This scenario highlights a truth called the Checkbook and the Calendar. I learned this model from a good friend and leadership coach, Croft Edwards. The Checkbook and the Calendar model is a simple and effective way to do two things. First, it is a way to validate what is really important to you. Second, it is a way to see what is really important to those around you (staff, peers, or superiors).

Here is how it works.

If you want to know what is truly important to someone, all you have to do is look at their checkbook and their calendar. People spend their time on those things that are important to them. Conversely, the things that people spend time on show what is really important to them. Similarly, people will invest (spend their money) in those things that are important to them and the things they invest in are what is really valuable. This is true whether it be a conscious or subconscious decision.

It is a cruel and brutally honest reflection of what is important to you. It is universally true and accurate. You can’t deny it.

Let me give you two examples to which most of you will be able to relate. Thinking of my college days, no matter how “broke” my buddies and I were, when the weekend came around we were somehow always able to come up with enough money for beer. It was fine if that meant we had to eat Raman noodles for a month. What was important was getting the beer. You could see that by where our money went.

Another example is a bit more current. I know that it is good for my overall health to exercise at least 4 times per week. My doctor has even confirmed that this is an important thing for me to do. Despite the validation from a medical professional and the logical argument purporting the benefits of this activity, it is relatively easy to see if I concur with the importance of acting on this. Just look at my calendar. How many days in a week do I set aside an hour to exercise at some point in the day? If it is really important you will see it on the calendar.


If you still have doubts about the truth of the Checkbook and the Calendar, then think about yourself. What’s happening with that unfinished project in your garage or the box of pictures that you are going to scrapbook when you got a chance? How much did you spend on that leadership development class you were looking at?


The beauty of the Checkbook and the Calendar model is in its simplicity.

It always tells the truth.
You can use it to look at yourself.
You can use it to look at others.
And others can use it to see what’s important to you/

The Checkbook and the Calendar model is a way to prove something that Stephen Covey says,

You can’t talk your way out of something that you behave your way into.

So, what is really important to you?

Do you pay lip service to developing the leadership skills of your staff or even yourself? Where are you demonstrating that on your calendar and with your checkbook?

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Nobody likes to give bad news. But sometimes, that is exactly what is needed, as long as it is honest feedback.

A true leader has the courage to say what is needed, even when that may be the last thing you want to do.

Who are you serving?

While leaders may think that they are being a “nice guy” by not giving someone who isn’t performing well the bad news, in reality they are only making things worse.

Unless you address the problem with the individuals in question, you are doing a disservice to the individual, to yourself, and to the overall organization.

The Pink Elephant Syndrome

A real world scenario

The cascading impact of Leaders who don’t address performance issues is something that I call the Pink Elephant syndrome. While this may sound like an unbelievable story, it is a very real set of circumstances that took place several years ago.

Steve (not his real name) was a Vice President of Marketing at a mid-sized company. Steve was a nice guy who enjoyed his VP title, which he had specifically negotiated to get. Steve was someone who thought more of his abilities than perhaps his track record would merit. His marketing campaigns frequently didn’t generate the kind of increased returns that they were expected to produce. Most of them managed to just keep the current customer base while the competition was making inroads into the market space.

In addition, his staff couldn’t stand working for him. They worked long hours and repeatedly had to make last-minute changes to marketing campaigns. Rarely did those last minute changes result in additional customer orders. Of course, Steve didn’t work late when his staff did. He would give the direction and either go home, or go back to his office, where it was common to see him sleeping at his desk.

Steve reported to the owner of the company, who never addressed Steve’s job performance, his poor team morale, or his tendency to sleep at his desk. The owner didn’t want to “be the bad guy.” So, these things just kept going along, year after year, in exactly the same way. Meanwhile, Steve kept getting annual raises and was told “keep up the good work.”

Changes are sometimes harsh

Then the company was sold. New owners came in and immediately gave Steve feedback that he wasn’t cutting it. While he had marketing experience, he wasn’t performing at the level expected of a Vice President of Marketing. They held him accountable for the results of his marketing campaigns. They told him that it would no longer be acceptable to find him asleep at his desk. Before long, he was on a performance plan that demanded results: or else.

I think you can see where this is going. Within a year, Steve was let go. But, the story doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, during his time as a Marketing VP, he had also become quite accustomed to the salary of a Marketing VP. Steve had an extremely difficult time finding another job. When he applied for other Marketing VP jobs, it became clear that he really didn’t have the skills necessary for a job at that level and certainly at that salary. He stayed unemployed for over a year.

As a Leader, It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Admittedly, Steve had a role to play in it because he had very little self awareness and did little to improve himself professionally, which is one of the hallmarks of a good leader. But, I would submit to you that the company owner, who never gave Steve the feedback, is just as responsible.

As a leader, if you see someone isn’t performing well, and you don’t address it with them, then who is really at fault?

You see the problem. You know what needs to change. As a leader, it is your responsibility to fix the problem. Will the feedback make you unpopular? Perhaps. Will the feedback seem harsh? Maybe, depending on how you deliver it. But which is worse, giving someone honest feedback that makes them a better performer for you and your organization, or not giving them any feedback and leave them unemployed and wondering, “How things could have gotten so bad?”

As a leader, it’s not about you

. It’s about people you are leading. You are there to get results from your people and to make them stronger contributors. If, at times that makes you unpopular or seem like the heavy, so be it.


If you want to lead the orchestra, you are going to have to turn your back on the crowd.

Promise yourself and your people, that you won’t let the Pink Elephant Syndrome happen to anyone you work with. There is one way to deal with the Pink Elephant Syndrome: that is to deal with it.

Are you facing the Pink Elephant Syndrome? Is there some difficult feedback that you should be giving? What could happen if this person never hears the feedback you are avoiding? Better yet, how much better could things be if the person you have in mind improves the things you haven’t told them?



Dave Hasenbalg is Chief Operating Officer of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at

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Aren’t the Holidays great?

Like many people, I enjoy this time of year. It’s a time for sharing time with family and friends, a time for reflection, and perhaps most importantly it is a time to do things for others who may be less fortunate than us. In light of the spirit of serving others and the spirit of Christmas that embodies it, I thought I would share a leadership perspective that is applicable this time of year.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, there are many leadership lessons to be found in the Bible and in particular in the life of Jesus. In homage to the person who is the reason we celebrate Christmas, I’d like to share some lessons in leadership that I have taken from the life of Jesus.

Walk the talk. The most effective way to lead is by example. When the echoes of the words have faded, people will remember what you did more than they will ever remember what you said.

Embrace the value of everyone, not just those with position and title.

Work with what you have and make what you have work. Jesus didn’t complain that he only had a dozen people to change the world.

Don’t be misguided by pageantry and formality. Sometimes the most influential people come from the humblest of places.

If you’ve got something to say, say it. Polling the crowds and authorities to get their preferences will only dilute the message.

Speak to people in a way that they will understand. Leave the flowery speeches and language to the politicians.

When people resist you it is likely done because they are afraid of something. Address the fear and the change will come more easily.

They lied and spoke badly about Jesus behind his back. Don’t kid yourself into thinking it won’t happen to you at some point. If what you are saying and doing is meaningful, someone is going to talk bad about you, don’t take it personally.

There is strength in people that is often unseen. Find a way to tap into it.

Be where you are. Be in the moment. Don’t waste time focusing on what you wanted to do or where you would rather be.

May your days be merry, your holidays be happy, and your leadership be as effective as it could possibly be.

Merry Christmas.


Dave Hasenbalg is Chief Operating Officer of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at

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Be Honest

How many people woke up this morning and said to themselves, “I’m going to be completely non-productive today.”? How many people went into work this morning committed to finding a way to make mistakes? The answer is nobody. Nobody goes into something hoping to fail. So, why do some people flourish while others struggle? The answer is leadership. And people deserve good leadership.

Ivy League Stars Can Fall

Let me tell you about James. (I’m not using real names here.) James was a star student at a private prep school. He was awarded the highest honors that the school could give. He was captain of several athletic teams and received top honors there as well. After prep school he was accepted to an Ivy League college where he also excelled both academically and athletically. It seemed like James was destined for greatness no matter what he did. At his first job out of college, James began working for Brad. Brad is a hands-off manager. In fact, his hands are so far off you might think that he is absent. James receives minimal guidance and direction. The only time Brad gets involved with his team is when his boss takes an interest in what is going on in the department. When James is given projects to work on, he does them and does them well. But, on any given workday are as likely to see him surfing the web as you are doing anything for work. So what happened? How did this Ivy League star fall so far?

The answer is leadership.

People genuinely want to do good work and to be recognized for it.

In exchange, they will work hard to do what it takes to get the job done, if only the person in charge can connect with them and will lead them. If someone isn’t doing well at work, 90% of the time it is because they aren’t sure what is expected of them or they don’t possess the competency to do the job at that point in time. In either case, it is the responsibility of the leader to address it by making sure the expectations are clear, the skills and experience of the individual align to the work at hand, and the desired outcome is reached. Ken Blanchard calls this situational leadership and does a good job of illustrating it in his One Minute Manager Series of books. Specifically, in “Leadership and the One Minute Manger” Blanchard says,

Everyone has peak performance potential – you just need to know where they are coming from and meet them there.

So, did James suddenly tell himself that he was just going to coast in his career? Did his new job reveal that James is not capable of mastering the requirements of the job? Not likely.

Servant Leadership

What happened is that James came face-to-face with self-appointed authoritarian royalty. Leaders like Brad are more focused on fitting themselves with the crown of authority than they are working with their people to help them achieve great things. Sadly this is an all too common story. The most effective leaders are those who have realized that they will be far more successful if they find ways to help their people to be successful. This is called servant leadership.

Servant leaders find it hard to work with people while wearing the crown of authority because the crown tends to fall off when you bend down to help somebody.

In what ways are you a servant leader? How are you helping people achieve the performance potential of which they are capable?


This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at

Dave Hasenbalg is President r of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectivness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at

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Posted by on in Ego


A Challenging Leadership Scenario

Below is a profile on leadership that tells of two different types of leaders. Both leaders have definite flaws in their leadership profiles, but I think that one of them can been seen as a more effective leader.

Can you relate to this scenario? Have you experienced something like this before in your organization?

(This situation is real but the names have been changed.)

The Micro-Meddler

Ben is the most senior ranking official at an organization of over 200 people. His preferred method of operating is to keep a fairly non-formal approach with all of the staff. He doesn’t like it when too many rules and procedures are implemented because it gets too “corporate.” When people bring something to his attention, he jumps into the details and quickly works with people until he feels that a resolution has been found. He isn’t a micro-manager, per se. After seeing him in action, I’ve actually coined the term “micro-meddler” to describe him more accurately.

You see, Ben seems to always get in the middle of things in an attempt to help, but he ends up messing things up. And as one might imagine, he then expects others to clean-up the mess that he creates.

The staff has all learned how to take advantage of this approach.

When they want something, they simply become the proverbial “squeaky wheel” until he takes action to come save the day. Although he thinks that he is helping, he is actually undermining a functional system with his various approaches to leadership. To make things worse, Ben tends to avoid confrontation, preferring instead to reward those whom he likes with surprise bonuses and giving little or no feedback to others. The lack of structure in his personal preferences seems to foster a hapless approach to his rigor-less leadership.

The Egregious Ego

Ben has more troubles. One of them is his direct reports, Chris. Chris has been in position for many years in a role that coordinates many of the projects and work efforts across the organization. Because Chris has been around a long time, he has become the subject-matter-expert in many areas. For many things, it seems that if you want something done you’re going to have to talk to Chris. Chris knows it and apparently he likes the power.

I’ve dubbed him the “egregious ego.”

Chris is not easy to work with. Different people throughout the organization have complained that Chris is rude, abrasive, argumentative, and quick to spread rumors. Over the years, the situation seems to have become more pronounced. But people have learned that when they want something from Chris they need to adjust their approach, just catch him on a “good day”, or find others in the organization with whom to collaborate so they can attain the same results without having to work with Chris.

So who is the most effective leader of the two?

Can you relate to either of the people identified in this scenario? Have you worked with anyone who behaved like either of them? It is clear that both people have some challenges as leaders. So, here is the question for you: Who is the more effective leader for this organization?


According to John C. Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence: the ability to influence the behavior of others. With that in mind, I would submit that Chris, the “egregious ego” is the more effective leader. While Chris’ behavior is arguably more dysfunctional to the organization, the end result is still greater influence on others.


There are many factors at play in any leadership situation and each factor impacts another. These are some key leadership elements at play here:

  • Positional power vs. Task Power (Ken Blanchard)
  • Abdicating authority
  • Effective leaders vs. “good” leaders
  • Obtaining results vs. “just doing things”
  • Violating the natural laws of leadership

Stay Tuned

Please let me know your thoughts on this situation, particularly as it relates to the elements listed above. What similar experiences have you had and how did you deal with them? In a future post, I’ll highlight the input received.

In addition, I’ll introduce what I call the “Natural Laws of Leadership.” Specifically as it relates to this scenario, I’ll introduce the first Natural Law of Leadership: Empowerment Through Inaction.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at

Dave Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectiveness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at

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Have you ever had front row seat to watch a good initiative fail? It can be breathtaking. Literally.

Several years ago I was given the challenge of driving a major initiative in a Fortune 500 company. Our goal: find ways to significantly increase revenue and to reduce expenses in one of the company’s business units.

Several of subject matter experts were taken out of their “day jobs” and gathered to form a team. We took the charge and ran with it. After about 4 months of intense research, analysis, and voice of the customer assessment the team had identified half a dozen opportunities that had the potential to generate tens of millions of dollars of either savings or additional revenue.

About that time there was a change in leadership in the sponsoring organization. Uh oh…

The new leader wasn’t convinced that new initiatives stemming from detailed customer research was the right direction, and preferred to make smaller, more incremental changes in another part of the business unit. Of course, the decision wasn’t made as clearly as that. It really occurred slowly over the next two months and came in the form of multiple, smaller course adjustments, like redeploying key team members and delaying important go/no-go decisions.

It essentially died a slow, painful, and dreadful death. It took our breath away.

Eventually a skeleton crew was all that was left of the once proud team and the only remnants of the savings were the two simplest initiatives that were the easiest to execute and least politically risky. The team was sent back to their “day jobs” exhausted, disillusioned, and cynical. Leadership lesson here: Don’t do this. It’s really short-sighted and the “soft costs” cost way more than you can ever know.

Stick and the Streamer

Does this sound like an initiative you have experienced? What happened? Among other things, this illustrates the fact that many leaders fail to acknowledge the reality that any decision they make takes time to execute. In fact, it takes an exponentially larger amount of time and effort to execute than it took to come up with the plan in the first place. And the larger the scale of the initiative, the longer it may take to execute. I call this the “stick and streamer” effect.

Picture if you will a stick and to the end of that stick is fastened a streamer. If it helps, imagine the ribbon that is used in rhythmic gymnastics. Use this tool to represent the stick and streamer model for leadership.

The stick represents the leader. The streamer represents those being led.

Notice how the smallest flick of the wrist (a leader’s decision) has a much larger proportional impact on the streamer (the led). The same thing happens in every organization. It takes time for each action to make it to the end of the streamer. The more severe the shift in direction, the longer it takes to ripple to the end and get the rest of the team in line with the new direction. The impact to those at the end of the streamer is also more significant. Paradoxically, the smoother and more subtle the action, the more alignment there is between the stick (the leader) and the streamer (the led).

As a former U.S. Army Officer, there is a helpful rule of thumb that each new lieutenant learns that might also help in using this model. It’s the one-third/two-thirds rule. In short the rule says that the leader should take 1/3 of the available time to plan for a mission and then allow his unit 2/3 of the time to prepare and execute the mission. Stated another way, it is going to take your team at least twice as long to execute your initiative as it took you to plan it.


So, when it comes to making your own leadership decisions, remember the lesson from stick and the streamer. You can make decisions, but allow your team the time to execute and make that decision successful.


In your leadership role, do you really give enough time and patience in allowing ideas to blossom and grow to their desired potential? Do you build correct expectations into your plans so that that you are communicating realistic time lines to your superiors? Do they gives ideas enough time to grow and mature? Or are you or your leaders cutting  ideas time lines down and not providing that needed time frame to engage and fulfill the dream? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please share!

This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at

He can be reached at

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