You Know You’re A Loose Cannon When . . .

. . . everyone’s waiting for you to go off.

In the past few weeks, we’ve covered four of the six leadership mistakes and how to fix them: excuse-making, bad manners, ego problems, and lying; get ready for the loose cannon.

I like to say that this kind of leader is a bullet in search of a target, a very intense personality who wants everyone else to catch up. They behave as if nobody else understands what’s going on.

Of course, a person like this can be very destructive to the culture of a team. The loose cannon is very much a ready-fire-aim sort of person. I’ve seen this trait in a lot of company founders, myself included. Their behavior says, “I am the smartest person in the room! I don’t need your input—get out of the way!” They’ll go ahead and launch without consulting anybody.

Mood swings and angry outbursts can make a loose cannon leader especially hard to trust. An unpredictable boss creates a work environment where the employees spend too much energy trying not to say or do the wrong thing—terrible for productivity. And no matter how many good things you might do, a single angry outburst, particularly if it includes name-calling or threats, can do irreparable damage to your relationships. One angry outburst can not only kill your leadership success, it can also cause you to lose your position in the organization.

To Fix a Loose Cannon

Slow Down When that genius idea hits, the inspiration might be valid, but it’s important to get input from other people. My brilliant insight might be flawed in twenty different ways, but I’m too close to see that. Talking to my team might have saved me from that “original” idea that so many others have tried without success.

Anger Management/Counseling A lot of false beliefs can lead to angry outbursts, but there are some great counseling programs designed for people in business. If loose cannon leaders are willing to really throw themselves into the process, seeing a counselor or psychiatrist can be very effective.

Periodic 360 Assessments This isn’t meant as a ‘gotcha’ for the leader—this is not a way to try to frame a problem so that HR will accept a termination. I mean genuine feedback from peers all around you in an organization. Unfortunately, my experience is that 360s, as effective as they can be, often point out either the unwillingness or the inability of a toxic leader to change the toxic behavior. But in cases where a leader really gets on board with a 360, you can see remarkable improvement.

In some cases, there is a unique, temporary condition going on; for example, divorce, problems with children, substance abuse, or what have you. These are real problems, but they are not necessarily permanent; there are many things that can be done to help a leader who’s willing and able to fully participate in their recovery.

While there are leaders who seem immune to self-improvement, the majority of us can (and should) do whatever we can to get our loose cannon-ness in check. If you’d like a more in depth conversation on solutions for this and other leadership mistakes, send me an email at Scott@doubledareyou.us and we can set up a time to talk.

photo credit: GIALIAT IMG_5048 via photopin (license)