Corporate Chronicles – The Leadership Diminisher

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Leadership is a buzzword that is talked about and practiced in many different ways. Whether you subscribed to servant leadership, charismatic leadership, transformational leadership, etc. the impact leadership styles have on people differs, and sadly, is sometimes anything but empowering and developmental.

Leadership Killing Employee Engagement

During one of my posts at a large organization, I was asked to contribute to a project already in progress for my section of the department. The project was loaded with some richly talented people.

Everywhere I looked… the left of me, to the right of me, in front of me – there was no shortage of talent and a willingness to meaningfully contribute to the project.

As the weekly meetings progressed, though, I noticed the flow of the meetings became less and less participatory and more and more centered on one person – the senior director of the department who was also acting meeting chair.

While there is nothing wrong with a commitment to stay on task and that proviso led by the meeting chair, there is something at odds with talented people reluctant to speak up and share their ideas during a brainstorming session for fear of having their ideas marginalized in public. 

So what started out as a participatory approach in the spirit of team for the good of the company, turned into contempt for the meeting chair and the initiative.

Leadership Diminishers Impact

From Multipliers by Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeown, we know that very few leadership Diminishers are aware of the negative impact they have on their people and / or teams. Hyperbole aside, leadership Diminishers do exactly that – diminish their peoples’ capacity for leadership growth.

Instead of growing the leadership potential around them by contributing to what Wiseman calls the Multiplier Effect, the process whereby leaders are able to grow the leadership of their people, who in turn then grow the leadership of their people, and so on and so forth – they are killing leadership potential.
“Unconsciously” Accidental

The truth is the majority of leaders see themselves or at the very least want to see themselves as Multipliers. However, as you read this, I am sure you can identify leaders in your past or in your present that are Diminisher-like.

And in their defense, imagine for a minute at the start of that person’s day, as they’re eating breakfast or drinking coffee before leaving home for work he / she saying, “I think my goal for the day will be to reduce the leadership capacity of my people,” or “I will go about reversing the talent development process to undercut my team’s performance.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone intentionally setting out to achieve this and yet this happens all too often, but it’s mostly accidental because some leaders are truly unaware of the impact of their actions.

However, to put an end to accidental leadership, leaders must consciously understand and embrace what Stephen Covey called one’s maturation process from Dependence to Independence onto it’s final destination, Interdependence, the ability to engage / work with others from a place of equal strength.  
Leverage Coaching Skills

In coaching, and I reference coaching here because it is a great leadership development platform, coach and coachee work together to build what’s called the coaching relationship.  

And for the coaching relationship to prove fruitful, both coach and coachee must contribute equally to it in order to operate from a place of Interdependence – where leadership growth happens.  

Coaching, contrary to the Southern California “touchy feely” moniker attributed to it, is anything but soft.  In fact, it commands a lot of leaders who choose to practice it namely, courage and vulnerability.

Or as one of my own coach trainers, DeAnna Murphy, termed confident vulnerability.

                                                                                                                                           Source: Strengths Strategy  
Confident Vulnerability Enabling Leadership Multiplication

Should the balance fall “accidentally” short, say high confidence and low vulnerability, or medium confidence and medium vulnerability – the result would remain the stunted growth of leadership. 

Accidental, if it wasn’t already clear, is the hallmark of leadership Diminishers.  

Yet nothing about confident vulnerability is accidental, as it is an entirely self-aware and intentional process.  When confident vulnerability is high, accidental leadership is mitigated and Leadership Multipliers can thrive.

My question for you is – how are you using confident vulnerability to multiply the leadership potential around you? 

                                                                About David

David is a leadership practitioner, who is passionate about creating the conditions for sustainable people development and organizational development success.  His passion for sustainable success is grounded in the belief that all people and organizations can enhance their performance when the right conditions for success are intentionally cultivated at the workplace.


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David Ribott International is a socially conscious coaching and consulting company empowering clients who are committed to a triple-bottom-line approach focused on people, performance, and profit by cultivating leadership effectiveness.

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