Leader Trends: Are we too Sensitive?

By | December 13, 2018

[December 13, 2018]  For anyone not living under a rock, you certainly will agree that many folks today are just too sensitive.  As I see it, the problem is that leaders are, as well, too sensitive.  We are quick to be insulted; believing others have disrespected, snubbed, or neglected us.   And this leader trend is worsening compared to even a few years ago.

“Do not give too much to feelings.  An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and statesman

Over the past few years here on my website, I’ve laid out 106 characteristics of leadership.  Nowhere in this list is “sensitivity” among them and it never will be.  Many of my friends have suggested that perhaps we look at human interaction differently.  I disagree – for example, it’s one thing to care about the welfare of others (outward looking) and another to be sensitive (inward looking).

Psychologists, as well as my observations, have led me to believe that women are more sensitive than men.  That, of course, is not a bad trait nor one that would put us at any specific disadvantage.  At issue, is whether sensitivity becomes a trait that stands above others.  Risks accumulate when people subordinate all other ways of being a good person and where little else matters except how they see themselves treated by others.

In my time in the U.S. military, I never met a senior officer who was overly sensitive.  These experiences are not that different from others in my position, and I have come to believe this to be true elsewhere.  To reach the pinnacle of senior leadership requires the stripping away of an over-idealized image of self and one becomes thick-skinned in the leadership baptism of fire.

What many have proposed is how to reverse this unfortunate trend of hypersensitivity.  The first step is to rebuke those who are overly sensitive.  Don’t allow the overly sensitive to change the behavior of experienced, down-to-earth leaders.  Let them know that their overly sensitive behavior is counterproductive and will backfire.  I also recommend caution because overly sensitive people always have hidden agendas.  For a less bold approach read this article (link here and here).

The first step in making any change is to recognize a problem exists.  Leaders are too sensitive.  It is our responsibility to do those things necessary to get beyond it and not allow any overly-sensitive leader to create or exacerbate a leader issue.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Leader Trends: Are we too Sensitive?

  1. Terri Issa

    Well, if I’m meeting a lamb out in a field, frolicking along, I’m going to be very sensitive to it. If I see a wolf licking its chops on the trail of said lamb, I’m going to want a very aggressive bad a** backing me up! In re military leadership and certain other industries, I don’t want them training a bunch of powder puffs. There’s a reason we need warriors!

  2. Georgie M.

    Coaching, giving advice, mentoring, and delivering feedback are all routine aspects to management, but more and more direct managers need to take responsibility for solving problems, taking bold steps to action, and managing their own careers.

  3. Jerome Smith

    Because we are so ‘inwardly focused’ the PC ideology now says that understanding diversity, especially generations, culture, and gender will be a top priority in 2018. It may be but that is not what leadership is about.

  4. Ed Berkmeister

    Corporations, globally, are desperate for educated, solidly skilled and well-trained employees. The problem is not all talent comes prepared with all the necessary skills to be successful. This is why leadership is so important. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for identifying leadership trends that appear to detract from our ability to be great leaders.

  5. Kenny Foster

    The more we change, the more we stay the same. All this talk about leadership changing is a bunch of PC BS.

  6. Nick Lighthouse

    With the rise in freelancers and remote work, companies will be moving more towards the implementation of policies and procedures to work with agile talent. Organizations will need to train their managers to effectively onboard and utilize the agile talent to complete projects more efficiently while maintaining a strong organizational culture. – Manpreet Dhillon, Veza

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Yes, a great quote that points toward a fundamental change in future management.

  7. Drew Dill

    Many young people believe leadership principles will change and change radically in the future. The fact that they have not changed since the beginning of humans walked the earth is, well, another issue. I don’t think there is much change for the future but that technology and more learning about the human psych will have some marginal impacts.

  8. Len Jakosky

    Despite the fact that the last decade saw considerable investment made in executive training, a poll conducted by researchers from Harvard University showed that 70% of Americans consider leadership crisis a significant factor in the national economic decline.

  9. Lady Hawk

    Your entire series on ‘leader trends’ is great so please keep it going for us.

  10. Tony B. Custer

    Great topic today. I see this phenonenon across the world and not just in the USA. Unfortunate.

  11. Army Captain

    I am seeing this for myself. Very unfortunate. It used to be that we looked up to leaders who were tough skinned.

  12. Janna Faulkner

    Wow, is this article an understatement. It seems like all our leaders are hyper sensitive these days.

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