I was talking with a leader recently. She’s an incredibly kind and gentle person. She’s smart, hard-working, and loyal. She’s a relational leader and usually brings out the best in people, so she’s had success in leadership. She is currently experiencing problems in a new position and asked for my help. In talking through the specific situation, it quickly became obvious that she has one weakness and it is currently effecting her entire team. Her weakness? She is being too nice as a leader! It has made her well-liked in the organization, but it also has made her team less successful than it could be. A few team members are taking advantage of her niceness by underperforming in their role. She hasn’t challenged the problems, even though she knows she should. She’s losing sleep over it, but doesn’t know what to do. The relational leadership she has used in the past is not working with these team members.
Perhaps you’ve seen this before in an organization. Maybe you’ve been on either side of this issue. If this is your situation, you have probably even thought or said things such as, “I gave them an inch and they took a mile.” I am not suggesting one become a mean leader. I am suggesting one become a wise leader. Wisdom learns to guide people in the direction that’s best for them, the leader, and the entire team or organization. In the situation above, I advised my friend to take off her “nice hat”, at least temporarily, to address the few people causing the majority of the problems that are impacting the entire team. As hard as it will seem at first, in the end it will be a blessing for the entire team.
Here are three problems with being too nice as a leader:
It’s bad for the leader – The leader ends up stressing over the wrong things. Instead of worrying about the big picture, the leader is focussed on a few problems with usually only a few people. The leader feels unsuccessful, even like a failure at times as the team achieves less than desired results.
It’s bad for the organization – The team suffers because a few people mess up the system and progress for everyone else. Those on the team who wish to do the right thing lose respect for the leader. Others will follow the example of those taking advantage of the leader and lower their performance standards.
It’s bad for the person – Enabling bad behavior is never good for the underperforming team member. It keeps him or her from identifying their full potential and from realizing personal success. They may be a superstar if they are given structure and held accountable to complete their work.
Leader, have you become too nice as a leader? Are you allowing problems to continue out of a fear of not being liked? If you are not careful you can become everyone’s friend, but nobody’s leader. The sooner you handle the problem (and the problem people), the sooner things will begin to improve on your team for everyone….and the sooner you can get a good night’s rest.