In case you’re not familiar with the show’s premise, like all “great” TV theses days, The Bachelor is a reality TV show where one man “dates” 30 women over 6-8 weeks, eliminating a few women at a time, until the final episode when he asks one woman to marry him, and simultaneously crushes the heart of the runner-up, in a momentous made-for-TV cry fest.
Although, I don’t think I’m quite ready to recall all that I’ve learned from such quality television, one observation I’ve made about this program is that we love to hate. Or put another way, haters gonna hate. In the case of The Bachelor, we see this almost immediately as many of the contestants talk badly about one another and cheer each other’s failures. However, I’m sure the same could be said about me and many other viewers as we cast our judgments about whether this person would be right or wrong for the bachelor. Of course, this is pretty low stakes and meant for entertainment purposes.
However, do you find the way you treat others, especially the leaders in your life, to be much differently? I hope so. Actually, I hope there are no similarities. Yet, at times in my career I’ve been struck at how quickly I count the mistakes of those with whom I work, and especially the leaders tasked with the terrifically difficult duty of leading myself and others.
“…a leader’s mistakes are often magnified to the degree that others choose to allow the mistakes to interfere with progress.”
I was reminded of this a few weeks back as I overheard a person speaking to a friend at a local coffee shop. This person, like me, worked in education, and was candidly sharing with a friend all the ways one of the current leaders in her school was missing the mark. If I’m being honest, I’ve found myself doing the same thing, and my guess is all of us have been guilty of doing this to some extent. Still, this person’s distain had moved past ordinary frustration that comes with working with others, to a soul-sucking disposition that her leader’s mistake was her gain or put another way their success had become her loss. This continued to the point where I pondered a powerful question that you might consider asking yourself, are you rooting for your leaders (or those around you) to fail?
I think to most of us confronted with this question, we’d prefer to say, “of course not.” However, in my experience I think it can be, like the women of the bachelor, easy to cheer the failures of those around us, if not just to feel a little vindicated that we’d never be so careless to make the same mistake if we were in charge.
This point reminds me of the wise words written by author and Mars Hill Graduate School President Dr. Dan Allendar, in his book Leading with a Limp, when he writes;
“we require our leaders to be perfect–or at least much more perfect than we are–and then we reserve the right to pick them clean like vultures that have patiently waited for the wounded beast to stop twitching.” (Click here for other Allendar inspired thoughts)
This isn’t to say that we aren’t allow to criticize those who lead us, in fact, it’s our duty as followers to help refine our leader’s call. Yet, if we drift too far past the point of critical feedback to unfair judgement’s we run to risk of jeopardizing the effectiveness of that leader to help advance our shared goals. Simply put, in addition to the harm that may come when a leader makes a mistake, a leader’s mistakes are often magnified to the degree that others choose to allow the mistake to interfere with progress.
That’s a mouthful, but what I think I’m trying to say is it’s not just a leaders mistake that can cause harm. Instead harm is magnified when we allow resentment to stop us from championing shared goals or outcomes. If we’re not careful we can allow our emotions and resentment to move us to a place where we may even find ourselves harming ourselves as we root against our leaders.
So what do you think? Have you ever worked with someone like this? Have you ever been the hater? Did you know you were adding to the harm caused by your “failed leader?” Who do you think Bachelor Chris should choose?
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