Leader Trends: Do We Encourage Overreacting?

By | November 21, 2017

[November 21, 2017]  As an army Platoon Leader, I had a lazy commander who did almost nothing to train or motivate his unit’s soldiers (mentioned many times here).  But the untold story was when his replacement came in to “take names, clean house, and kick people to the curb.”  Or so he said.  This new commander was overreacting to what he thought was poor leadership and something that needed immediate, hardnosed corrective action.

We see the same type of behavior in dealing with the latest national-level problem of sexual harassment (in particular, powerful men harassing women).  The welcome news is that leaders now appear to be taking it more seriously; behavior that was once excused or minimized is now viewed as intolerable.  Yet, we must ask what about the affirmation that someone factually sexually harassed another person?  What about the punishment?  What about the rule of law where someone is considered innocent until proven guilty?

Do we now, as leaders, encourage overreacting to the problem?  The general consensus is that leaders in very visible positions are much more likely to react excessively to problems.  Yes, the latest trend in the day-to-day carrying-out of leadership duties is overreacting to high visibility problems.  We know that when we eliminate emotion from our professional behavior that is when leaders are more likely to be viewed as fair and unbiased.  So, why are we overreacting?

On the national stage at the political level, we are beginning to see a new trend where senior leaders overreact to issues that could be handled in a more even-handed manner.  This is true anywhere regardless of position or authority of a leader.  We see it and read about it.  We have probably experienced it in the workplace, at the shopping market, or while driving a car.  The reason why we see so much of it is that those very leaders will be subject to serious abuse if they do not react quickly (often without the facts in hand) and harshly.

There are substantial risks to this type of behavior.  Despite this fact, leaders seem to be on a trend where the only method to get things done is to overdo their reaction.  The risks are straightforward; violations of the law, ruining the lives of the innocent, encouraging mob justice, and irresponsible group behavior.  The rule of law is sacrificed in the name of “fairness and justice.”

Every day is the time for moral courage; some of us simply refer to it as having a “backbone.”  Sexual harassment has been in the news lately and is now finally coming into the open.  Only now are the victims and enablers showing moral courage; much overdue moral courage.  Too few came forward to publically accuse the abusers.  Maureen O’Hara was an exception and I wrote about her moral courage a few days ago on this very topic.

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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.