Subscribe to Inc. magazine
LEAD

Tough Times? Why 'Doubling Down' Doesn't Work

When a crisis hits, doubling down on the personal strengths that got you here in the first place won't fix the problem.

Ever wonder why every month brings another tale of a badly-handled corporate disaster (just some of this year's haul: Nokia, Siemens, RIM, Zynga, JP Morgan), yet you have to go back to 1982 for the last example of truly outstanding corporate leadership in the face of disaster?

Well, one reason, of course, is the nature of reporting: good stories don't sell newspaper inches (or screen pixels), so the icky stuff gets featured much more heavily. But there is a deeper issue. The glorification of the leader as hero personified.

We live in a 24-hour news cycle which must, in order to not seem like simply a random collection of talking heads, impose a narrative on events. At the time of writing, we see it most clearly in the reporting of the current election campaign. Nothing is simply an event, a fact or a statement, instead everything must be parsed as part of an over-arching narrative--who's up, who's down, who's next, who's out?

The same thing happens in financial reporting. Everything needs to play out as a Greek tragedy, with heroes, villains, victims and innocent bystanders.

As a result, when a crisis strikes, some unlucky so-and-so gets pushed to the top of the news cycle, and his or her leadership style is placed under the microscope.

And guess what happens? The besieged leader finds their every move under scrutiny, and, as a direct result, they double up on their instinctive leadership style as a Visionary, Operator or Processor. Time and again we see Visionary leaders under pressure who take even more risks, resort to even more hyperbole, swing even further for the fences than before. Or an Operator-leader who becomes more aggressive, more stubborn, more ferocious than previously. Or a Processor-leader who retreats behind more spreadsheets, more planning, more so-called risk control, and more second-guessing than before the crisis hit.

The answer? Behind any well-managed crisis you'll find either a natural Synergist (very rare), self-taught Synergist or, more commonly, a Synergistic team--one which knows that the answer to a crisis is not V-ing, O-ing or P-ing your way through it, but in using the team's natural VOP strengths in harmony, and with the proper choreography.

The lesson for the rest of us? When a crisis hits, doubling down on the personal strengths that got you here in the first place won't fix the problem. Instead, focus your efforts on building a world-class team - specifically, one that transcends the limitations of any one individual.

Ensure that your team is prepared for whatever comes next. Download a free chapter from the author's book, "The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success" which provides a comprehensive model for developing yourself or others as an exceptional, world-class leader.

More:
IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Oct 8, 2013

LES MCKEOWN | Columnist

Les McKeown is the president and CEO of Predictable Success, a leading adviser on accelerated business growth. He has started more than 40 companies and was the founding partner of an incubation consulting company.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: