Leadership Sabotage: Intentional or Not?

There are countless ways every day whereby leaders engage in sabotage. While it can be argued that much of this is unintentional, the proliferation of such acts begs otherwise. But, you may ask, what is sabotage? This is a good question and the simple answer is

Sabotage is a deliberate act of destruction or work stoppage intended to undermine the activities of a larger entity, whether it is a business, government, or some other organization

But the more comprehensive answer and the one that impacts our ability as leaders can be explained in terms of personal leadership, team leadership, and organizational leadership.

Sabotage as Personal Leadership

In the article, 5 Ways to Sabotage your Leadership Ability, the author suggests five common reasons leaders fail. The five reasons are avoiding and discouraging conflict, refusing to get involved in employees’ personal lives, intervening too early in people’s struggles, being too charismatic, and being too moody.

Sabotage as Team Leadership

Catherine L. Moreton explains sabotage as five dysfunctions that can interfere with the leadership of a team. The five dysfunctions are absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Each of these dysfunctions, when allowed to occur within an organization, can certainly sabotage even the best leaders.

Sabotage as Organizational Leadership

Michael McKinney suggests in his blog that sabotage is something all leaders should be aware of and expect. He says “an effective leader should expect to be attacked as a result of their leadership”. He argues that sabotage must occur, and be overcome, for the leader to truly be successful.

The sabotage discussed above can be found in leaders and organizations, but the sabotage I want to conclude with is much less obvious, and much more prevalent in all organizations. While we get caught up in the sabotage of others as described above, the real issue is in how we, as leaders, seek to create sabotage in our organizations. In the words of the Beastie Boys

You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage I’m trying to tell you now its sabotage

I suggest that sabotage is intentional manipulation – a means of interfering in the actions and outcomes of the organization. Sabotage is such a powerful tool, that the United States Government created a Simple Sabotage Field Manual describing interference with organizations. A few of the suggested means of sabotage, and how we are influenced by them today, are discussed below:

Insist on doing everything through “channels”. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

As leaders, do we create unnecessary bureaucracies or hierarchies that slow down the decision making process? Consider flattening your organization so that decisions can flow horizontally among the various work units instead of vertically through layers of management.

Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

As leaders, do we allow others to get off topic and dominate the meeting? Consider a carefully planned agenda and inviting only those who have a legitimate need to be at the table to the meeting and then managing to the agenda.

Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

As leaders, do we participate in office gossip? Consider removing yourself from these situations. As a leader, others expect you to “manage up” the organization and all those in it. If you are participating in gossip, you are not acting like a leader.

Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.

As leaders, do we seek qualified employees to hire and train or do we keep our skills and knowledge to ourselves? Consider seeking the most qualified employees you can find and teach them what you know. Then, when they advance in the organization, support and encourage their growth.

Be as irritable and quarrelsome as possible without getting yourself into trouble.

As leaders, do we find ways to disagree just for the sake of the argument? Consider finding ways to collaborate with others for the good of the organization.

How does sabotage influence leadership in your organization? Are you the saboteur in your organization?

Bookmark Leadership Sabotage: Intentional or Not?

Dr. Hampton Hopkins is President of Hopkins Associates
He consults, writes, and speaks about leadership and organizational development
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Web

image Sources: agora21.files.wordpress.com

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2 responses to “Leadership Sabotage: Intentional or Not?

  1. Pingback: Leadership & the Hierarchy of Organizational Needs (1 of 3) « Linked 2 Leadership·

  2. Pingback: The Portability of Knowledge | learnandgrow.tv·

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