There was an earthquake in L.A. last week. Did you feel it? It was almost an non-event. I only knew about it because a few of the people I follow on Twitter were making fun of how ‘small’ it was when it happened and cracking earthquake jokes.
It is telling, though, in watching earthquake reaction. The reaction of people in an earthquake is almost verbatim of how a below average leader behaves in almost any organization. Let me ‘drop’ these two facts on you of what happens when there is an earthquake:
1. Everyone looks around to see if anyone else felt it.
The group need for validation is very high in an event like this. “Did you feel that?” You know if you felt it or not, why do you need validation that someone else felt it!? Below average leaders do this. They don’t respect their own ability to make a decision, or move a certain direction, so they look for constant validation from the group. “Mary isn’t doing very well, is she? What do you think? Maybe we, I mean I, should let her go. Do you think that is the right thing to do?”
2. Organizations evacuate the building you are in.
Science, and history, have shown us, over a long period of time, that the safest place to be in an earthquake is not running down a stairwell of a building, or in an elevator, and then out into the open street – with pieces of building falling down upon you. But, when an earthquake happens the first thing that organizations do is start evacuating the building. Even though they know it’s not the smartest thing, there is a necessity to do some sort of action. Even a negative action. Below average leaders like to do something. If I’m doing something, I must be leading. If I’m not doing something, I must not be leading. Action, even ineffective action, is something below average leaders do in times of uncertainty.
Earthquake leadership, you definitely know what it is when you ‘feel’ it and see it!