7 Characteristics of Cowardly Leadership

The Cowardly Lion from 'The Wizard of Oz' (Movieclips YouTube channel)

You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz, don't you? He was supposed to be the king of the jungle, but he had no courage.

I've known some leaders like the cowardly lion. I've written in a previous post about courageous leadership. It seems a counterpost is warranted. And if I'm completely transparent—at times that coward has been me.

Let's face it. Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. Leadership takes courage.

You have no doubt encountered cowardly leaders. Perhaps you'd even admit you've been one too.

Here are seven characteristics of cowardly leadership. They will:

  1. Say what people want to hear. They might say, for example, "I'll think about it" rather than "No"—even no is already the decided answer. I get it. It's easier. But the ease is only temporary and only comes back to haunt you later. These leaders are also notorious for saying one thing to one person and another to someone else. They want everyone to like them.
  2. Avoid conflict. In every relationship there will be conflict. In fact, healthy conflict is a necessary part of keeping relationships strong. When the leader avoids conflict the entire organization avoids it. Hidden or ignored problems are never addressed.
  3. Never be willing to make the hard decisions. Leaders don't have to be the smartest person in the room. They don't even have to be the one with the most experience. Leaders do have to be able to make the decisions no one else is willing to make.
  4. Pretend everything is OK—even when it's not. When everything is amazing, nothing really is. Cowardly leaders gloss over the real problems in the organization. They refuse to address them either because they fear they don't know how or their pride gets in the way.
  5. Bail on the team when things become difficult. I'll have to admit, this has been me. I've written about it before, but when I was in business and things were difficult, it was easier to disappear than face the issues. The learning experience was, once I checked-out or when I was disappearing, so was my team. Courageous leaders are on the frontline during the most difficult days, leading everyone through the storm.
  6. Refuse to back up team members. No one wants to serve someone who will not protect them or have their back. People need to know that if they make mistakes, there is a leader who still support them and can help them do better the next time.
  7. Cave in to criticism. Make any decision and a leader will receive criticism. Even if it is unfounded, cowardly leaders fall apart when people complain. They take it personally or refuse to see any value in it. These leaders see every criticism as a threat against their leadership rather than another way to learn and grow.

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What would you add to my list?

Let's be leaders of courage. In fact, I believe courage might need to be in our definition of leadership.

Do you find it scary to be a leader sometimes? What's the scariest thing you face as a leader?

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years' business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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