The most common and egregious of all leadership flaws

I’ve seen it more often than I care to remember, and I saw it again last week: A leader complaining about the amount of time required from him or her in order to manage a crisis.

It’s one of the most egregious of all leadership flaws, and yet it is astoundingly common.


Even worse is when the leader’s complaining is directed at the employees who are directly or indirectly responsible for the crisis, because at the moment of complaint, the leader has ceased managing the crisis. Instead, he has placed his own emotional needs ahead of the organization and has made the crisis entirely about himself.

Yes, it’s true. In the time of crisis, vast amounts of time and energy are often directed away from a leader’s day-to-day responsibilities, and his or her workload can increase significantly.

Years ago I found myself at the center of a crisis, and in a time when the leader of the organization should have been strategizing, problem solving, investigating and negotiating, he chose to spend 30 minutes detailing in a less-than-polite fashion how the crisis had impacted his week thus far.

He went so far as to tell me how the quality time with his grandchildren had been impacted.

I left his office with one thought in my mind:

What a spineless, gutless, clueless moron.

One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to manage a crisis. If you’re unwilling to deal with unexpected problems without complaint about the time is requires, don’t become a leader. Complaining about the resources required to manage a crisis is akin to a firefighter yelling at a homeowner for playing with matches while the guy’s house burns down.

Yes, it’s a shame that the fire has started in the first place, and yes, perhaps the homeowner is even to blame, but it’s your job to put the fire out.

This is the burden of leadership.

There are many reasons not to complain about the time it takes to manage a crisis, but I like to think that they can be summed up in four simple sentences:

1. It’s your job.

2. Complaining doesn’t change anything.

3. No one wants to hear it.

4. Complaining makes you sound like a gutless, selfish fool.