Seduction is defined as: enticing someone astray from right behavior; to lure or entice away from duties, principles or proper conduct. Other people, emergencies and conditions of all sorts arise as daily seducers that drain a leader’s focus, energy and productivity. Being aware of these seducers is the first stop to identifying them, overcoming them, or avoiding them altogether; allowing you to maximize your daily performance.
Leadership seductions are subtle. They normally lull you, rather than knock you, off course. They inflict on a daily basis what the poet wrote long ago, “I turned my head for a moment and it became my life.” As a result, leadership seductions cause you to work longer and harder to get things done, because you spend a lot of time doing the wrong things. Sadly, you may not even notice this has happened until it’s too late. It’s beneficial to study leadership seductions because they are facts of life; all leaders are challenged by them always.
While the following list is nowhere complete, the five seductions I present are devastating in their ability to prevent you from leading to your highest potential.
Seduction 1: Leaders are seduced by motion.
This seduction has two applications. The first concerns your approach to daily job duties. When seduced by motion you can find yourself immersed in such a frantic swirl of daily motion that you routinely confuse activity with accomplishment, put second things first, do the wrong things often and well, and achieve little meaningful results by days-end.
The following are questions to help diagnose your proneness to being seduced by motion:
- Do you schedule priorities and work the rest of the day around them, or do you try to cram your priorities into a haphazard day?
- Do you feel a false sense of accomplishment because you’ve been busy and in motion all day, or do you rate your effectiveness by whether or not you spend enough time on the right things?
- When you get off track and begin to major in minor things, how quickly do you catch yourself and correct your course?
The second application of seduction by motion concerns your team’s daily activities. Consider these questions:
- As you survey your department are you at ease because everyone appears busy, or do you dig deeper to determine if they are actually doing what is productive and will lead to results? In other words, do you sometimes confuse their doing a lot with doing what matters?
- Is each team member’s day planned in advance, and do you review their plan to help them determine daily priorities?
Remedy: Measure your personal and team’s effectiveness by what you put into the hours, instead of the number of hours you put in. Resolve not to confuse motion with progress.
Seduction #2: Leaders are seduced by tradition.
This seduction includes the tendency to bond with, and become desensitized to, the mediocrity of some tenured employees, your old ways of doing things, and key elements of the status quo. Frankly, it’s far easier to defend the status quo, “how we’ve always done things,” and non-performing employees when things are going well. But to ward off the complacency that will break your momentum you must continue to challenge and attack the status quo, before the bottom falls out and you fall into a rut. Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis to shake an organization out of its immersion in and addiction to tradition.
Remedy: Practice the discipline of changing before you have to and renewing yourself in the absence of a crisis. Teach and expect your people to do likewise.
Seduction #3: Leaders are seduced by tolerance.
Hollywood, the media and political correctness will wrongly convince you that you should tolerate just about anything today; and that not doing so makes you hateful or harsh.
However, both your culture and personal leadership is largely defined by the presence of absolutes, and by what you refuse to tolerate. In a strong culture there still is right and wrong; winning and losing; success and failure, as well as consequences that accompany bad behavior and poor performance.
Remedy: Find and eliminate gray areas for performance and behavior shortfalls with clearer expectations and consequences for failure. Be specific and follow through.
Seduction #4: Leaders are seduced by stupidity.
Ignorance means you don’t know better. To be stupid means you know better but do the wrong thing anyway. Moronic means that stupidity becomes a lifestyle; thus, it’s best to stop at stupid! The problem is that stupidity is often masked and leaders are seduced by it when they are successful in spite of themselves.
It’s essential to face reality and understand that if you do stupid things and are successful, your success isn’t because you do stupid things, but in spite of the fact you do stupid things. You can rest assured that eventually stupid will catch up with you.
Remedy: Look at areas where you know personal and team behaviors fall short of excellent, but where you feel no urgency to correct them because poor results haven’t reached crisis levels yet. Then shake off the seduction of stupidity by deciding to do what you know is beneficial in the long-term. The shelf-life for getting away with stupidity in the short-term may be nearing its expiration date.
Seduction #5: Leaders are seduced by success.
Success is an intoxicant, and intoxicated people don’t behave rationally. Because of this, success lies at the core of the other four seductions. Success can make one so arrogant, prideful, and blind to reality that they keep skipping right down the yellow-brick road until they smack right into a wall of irrelevance.
Remedy: Understand Jim Collin’s principle, “The enemy of great is good.” This simply means that the number one reason so many reading this message are unlikely to become great is because they’ve gotten good; as a result they’ve stopped stretching, changing, risking, holding others accountable, narrowing their focus and have lost their killer instinct. This doesn’t have to happen on your leadership watch, and it won’t if you are aware of, and work to overcome the five leadership seductions. They are very real and they aren’t going away. But they can be overcome.