In the first post of this two part series I wrote about my discovery of the phenomenon of the fair weather leader, who is with you all the way when things are going well but is happy to let you swing in the breeze when they are not.
And shared the clue a friend gave me. When news is good, use “we”: when it’s bad, use “I”.
In this post I go into a little more detail, and look at the question of what to do if you think you might be a fair weather leader.
And first, a bit about the downside of taking the responsibility for what goes wrong.
Isn’t it risky to take all the responsibility for the bad bits?
Does the falling on your sword option, using “I” not “we” sound like a bad career move? Could be. So you have to gauge the situation and the personalities of the real life situation you are in.
The tactic is probably going to work more effectively with a leader who is reasonably smart, has a healthy self-esteem and is willing to take responsibility, but just not the way an “all weather” leader will do.
In my own case, and in the situation I was discussing with my friend, as explained in the first post of this series, the advice worked like a charm.
Part of why the process worked was that the chief executive was not totally lacking in courage or self-esteem, and when things got difficult a couple of times and I did the “I have a problem” routine, he backed me up (although, as I discovered later, not always – he was definitely a fair weather leader).
So if you have a fair weather leader, I hope you have one who is smart enough and upright enough to know that it’s their responsibility is to support their team. You just need to let the leader know that he/she is blameless, so to speak.
What if you realize you have been a fair weather leader yourself?
I’ve worked with plenty of people who thought they were great leaders and were not. A few of them were definite contenders for the fair weather label, but thinking about those individuals I doubt they would have been aware of that.
To be fair, not all of us are pre-disposed to leap into action and back up the people who report to us, especially when objectively they have done something stupid or irresponsible or careless. So reacting negatively to the “We have a problem…” languaging of a situation can be quite normal behavior, not a sign of lack of real leadership.
The real test is whether as leaders when the going gets rough we step up and support our team, not just hang around for the bouquets and let someone else worry about the problems.
I wish you all-weather leadership
When you find you have an “all weather” leader, count your lucky stars. As I say, I’ve had the great privilege of working with a handful of people like that and the memory of how they stuck with me through tough times is gold.
And of course when all-weather leaders stick with their team in that way, guess what? It’s a two way street.
So when they have challenges to meet they have more chance of seeing extra-ordinary loyalty and commitment “above and beyond the call of duty” from their teams than do their fair weather leader colleagues.
Have you experienced “fair weather leadership”? How have you handled it? Would the “We/I” approach have worked? I know it worked for me but I can envisage situations where it might not.
Or do you have a good story to share about an all-weather leader?