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Monday, December 13, 2010

Resonant Leaderhip: Post #2-Sacrifice Syndrome

The Sacrifice Syndrome: You’ve seen this dozens of times in the workplace. The company has a crisis or hits a rough patch. The manager or leader or even CEO begins to bear down, actually sacrificing herself or himself for the cause—works harder, eats poorly, stays longer hours to “fix” the problem. S/he has everyone focused on the problem with what I would call a “do not” focus—do not screw this up, do not let your guard down, do not let things slip. Whatever the “do not” thing is, when a leader approaches this negative stressor (or negative attractor), s/he begins a stress cycle not unlike the early days when we hunted wild game to survive. In the best of circumstances, there is a long period of recovery between stressors. The problem is that today that recovery cycle between stressors is so short as to almost be indiscernible—sending loads of stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and other nasty hormones coursing through our bodies. Such negative stressors can turn an otherwise decent person into a toxic, dissonant victim who can spread the disease at epidemic speeds, especially if that person is a leader. And what’s the worst part of it? Those infected with the Sacrifice Syndrome cannot see their slip into the abyss, instead often seeing others as incompetent, lazy, and useless. Unfortunately, dissonance is the default human setting, to protect us from that which would harm us. While that worked well when we had long recovery periods in our earlier evolutionary stages, it does not work well in today’s high-speed culture. Negative attractors come to us in batches of emails, texts, or tweets that overstimulate and push us into a destructive dissonant downward spiral that’s unfortunately invisible to us. In short, we need relief and renewal or are destined to crash, by default.

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