Leaders: Avoiding “Tornado Leadership”

Tornado Personality

As a leader do you ever feel as though you are moving at astronomical speeds and getting absolutely nowhere?

Well, STOP!

This type of hectic behavior is what I call “tornado leadership.”  It is where leaders tend to spin out of control leaving disaster behind.

Fortunately, this type of behavior is short-lived and so are the leaders who perform in this manner.

But unfortunately, just like a tornado, this leadership style appears all over the place and comes out of nowhere. It is brought about primarily when people do not communicate effectively and when they are not in control of their business. It wreaks havoc wherever it appears and it causes nothing but pain, damage, and a pile of debris.

On Leadership and Listening

I speak to the topics of communication and its effectiveness very often since proper communication is not all too common, everyone wants to have their say and no one wants to listen.

I have had the rebuttal “I listen” brought up to me from leaders that I have worked with so my response is “in your own words what did I communicate” and there is a rare case of understanding.

As a leader you must sit back, observe, and listen in order to have control.

Communication effectiveness is the key to eliminating what causes the tornado effect to spin a team out of control.

Be Wise, Organize!

Tornadoes destroy a path through debris around. Debris with leadership tornadoes is disorganization that leads to high turnover, poor performance, and arguments that destroy business dynamics. Many leaders today can and are ineffective today because they have a limited understanding of followership.

Everyone in a leadership team wants to take charge and no one wants to go along for the ride, which is important to do when you have multiple leaders working together. No leadership team intends to clash with one another, but it easily occurs without warning.

Awareness of everyone in a leadership team and a strong united front can create clear skies for a long time.

Listening Your Way to Prosperity

Within the leadership team everyone should have the chance to take lead in unique situations, but never can a leadership team have every individual lead at the same time as it increased the debris due to mixed signals to those your team is leading.

This path of destruction can be very costly to an organization, but can be easily avoided by communicating with one another. I cannot emphasize this enough “communication is 95% listening and understanding and 5% speaking.”

Watch out for the stop and go patterns of leadership tornadoes; they may seem to disappear, but may resurface any time the leadership team dynamics shift. This is something I have observed quite frequently in my career; unlike weather pattern tornadoes, leadership tornadoes can be prevented and stopped.

Leaders must be aware of the how their team can spin out of control and take preventive measures.

Even though every team is unique in their own way and the dynamics of the team will be different in every case there is one way to effectively prevent leadership team tornadoes; the way to do this is effective communication: communication is 95%listening and understanding and 5% speaking.

Avoid becoming that leadership team that is stuck in “tornado alley.”  Listen to each other, truly understand one another (don’t just hear, understand): Communicate effectively!

Have you as a leader every experienced the “tornado leadership effect”, what was done to control it? Under-performing leaders can be a major cause to “tornado leadership”, do you think strong leaders can avoid disaster when a poor performer is doomed to never improve? Why or why not? What is the main cause for lack of followership by leaders in your opinion?


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Michael R Stanford is Doctoral Learner at UOP
He does occasional motivational speaking for community colleges
Email | LinkedInFacebookWeb

Image Source: blog.hreonline.com

5 responses to “Leaders: Avoiding “Tornado Leadership”

  1. Michael,
    This was excellent! The word picture of the tornado was really good. Thanks!!


  2. Appreciated your insight regarding the requirement for leaders to recognize when they need to step back and let others lead. When meetings and committees are made up of leaders, they can’t all lead. For me, that is when it comes back to remembering that leadership is not about control. When leaders learn to check their ego at the door and recognize that in some cases, their role is to support, leadership teams thrive.


  3. You got me thinking…tornado leadership shares another characteristic in your metaphor – they regularly occur in the same area (tornado alley if you will). This seems to infer that patterns of broken communication (or relational patterns) routinely set up just the right conditions for another storm. Helping leaders identify their relationship patterns and history is essential to changing communication (visible response to invisible internal assessments of reality).


  4. I really like your Tornado analogy. We use to refer to it as “Seagulling” – where the leader is flying around then swoops down and poops on everything and leaves but the Tornado is better at showing the destruction in the wake of the touchdown


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