The Dark Side of Leadership

The Dark LeaderI think that leadership is a great thing.  I wouldn’t be working on this blog, otherwise.  Leadership can be a lot of great fun, but there is a dark side to it.  If you fail to check yourself periodically, you will be going to the dark side without realizing it.  The dark side is the corrupting influence of power.  What do I mean by that?

Many times our leaders have other peoples’ lives in their hands.  Sometimes it is their livelihoods, in the case of a manager.  In other cases, it’s their health, as in the case of a doctor.  I think that it’s super important to retain humility, and realize that we are but fragile humans, and none of us is God.  None of us is flawless, or perfect.

In the case of a doctor, it’s important to realize that they don’t know everything.  It’s impossible to know everything.  It’s even impossible to know all that there is to know about a single condition or topic.  It also means that when a patient is asking questions, it isn’t because they are stupid, or because they are trying to question the doctor’s authority.  It can mean that they are trying to put as much data together as possible to build a picture in their minds of just what is going on, and what the appropriate course of treatment is for them, and their situation.

Similarly for people in management positions, they hold people’s livelihoods in their hands.  With one stroke of the pen, or a poorly chosen comment, they can negatively impact someone’s career for a very long time, if not close to forever.  When I manage people, I try to keep that very close to the surface of my mind.  I also try to keep that close at hand when I am discussing performance of members of my team with other teams.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t see where people are strong and where they are weak, but rather that for many cases, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to highlight people’s every single weak point, and every mistake they’ve made.  Rather, I tend to focus on the things that they do well, and the progress that they’ve made, because after all, we’ve all made plenty of mistakes.  And we all have weaknesses.

I think that the dark side of leadership is failing to take into account our impact as leaders, and how we can so negatively impact those around us, and leave a swath of destruction trailing behind in our wake.

What do you think?  Does Leadership have a dark side?


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