When you are faced with a problem, it feels quite normal to focus on whatever it takes to resolve that problem. The strangest things have happened all for the sake of seeking out a solution to some irritant that has found the audacity to present itself in your world. Problem #1. Next, we have become so accustomed to things happening so quickly, we have been groomed (however inadvertently it may have happened) to expect quick results. We seemed to have lost the ability – as well as desire – to appreciate the wait and that some things should and need to take time. Problem #2.

short term leadershipWhen these two problems collide, which is quite frequently, the end result is what I call Short Term Leadership. Keep in mind there is positive leadership and negative leadership, so please don’t think I’m supporting this idea. Short Term Leadership comes from the need for instant gratification in the context of sniffing out a solution – any solution – to the problem with the biggest lungs in our world at that moment. Yeah…THAT kind of leadership. We’ve all been subjected to it and some of us has probably subjected others to it…I know I’m guilty.

It is toxic to the culture and limits productivity levels. Engagement suffers and you’re faced with needing to solve more problems. Enter more Short Term Leadership. So what’s a well-meaning, above average-looking leader to do with such a conundrum?

Here are a few tips to kill Short Term Leadership once and for all.

  • Be aware – Sounds simple, but in the face of adversity, awareness is usually the last thing that comes to mind. Understanding the possible collision of the 2 problems mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post is a great first step to handling the situation well.
  • Learn where reverse is – If you have already begun the process of leading with Short Term Leadership, pause, back up and have another go at it. If an apology is needed, then pony it up and get on with sorting things out. It’s a great way to show your people that perfection isn’t the standard, but excellence is.
  • Develop it out of your team – I used the word “develop” on purpose. Don’t scold or punish people when they are acting under the influence of Short Term Leadership. Give them an alternative and help them develop into that alternative. You’re the leader and leadership is about developing others…so hop to it!
  • Give it a name – Short Term Leadership is such a common occurrence, so give it a name. Let your team come up with the name. Make it fun. It’s a way to point it out when it happens and your team can hold one another accountable, instead of just hating each other when it happens. If you define what it is well, the symptoms become easier to see and you can work together to figure out a healthier solution and way of getting there.

What are some other ways you think Short Term Leadership can be brought to extinction?

  • Excellent point about the impact of short term leadership on corporate culture. I’d venture to say that it’s corporate culture that creates short term leadership situations.

  • I would have to at least partly agree with you regarding corporate culture, Sam. The wrong culture will definitely perpetuate short term leadership, for sure. A poorly developed leader, or unaware leader, can be also to blame. Even the best cultures have their cracks. It could be as much a professional development issue as it could be a cultural one. Thanks for your contribution!!