“Keep your words short and sweet, for you never know which ones you will have to eat.” – Unknown

Have you ever been watching TV late at night and seen commercials for a new drug that can help you with any problem you have, that you did not know you had, but realized you probably did after watching the commercial? Many times I feel like I do and sometimes it seems that the commercial is “talking” directly to me.


The other night a “drug commercial” came on, and its opening line was, “Do you suffer from indigestion?” As I was trying to keep my food down from supper, limit my acid reflux that turns into heartburn that causes my stomach to cramp which gives me a headache, which leads to my hands shaking, I realized that, WOW, I have indigestion, and did not know it. Not really, but you get the point. What I did understand, however, is that we all have “things” that can give us indigestion and they are not always food.

To take a more serious approach to the topic, let’s ask this question, “What can cause you to have leadership indigestion?” Are there things that you see leaders do that cause your stomach to turn? I am sure the list can become rather lengthy for each of us, but let’s look at a few that I think are the most gut-wrenching and heartburning.


Bottom line, they do not want confrontation. This is not to say that you do not like confrontation, but you know how to deal with it. People who avoid confrontation make excuses for their thought process, such as “I’m a peacemaker,” or “I don’t want to ruffle any feathers.” They never want to be seen as the “bad guy.” However, when their moment comes, they want to be seen front and center. Any other time, they will put on the chameleon suit and do their best to blend in and be part of the crowd. They want everyone to think that they are like everyone else. No, you are not, you are in a leadership role, act like it.


It is just bad leadership. It is the opposite of servant-leadership. It keeps the Leader-Follower model of leadership intact, and no one is ever empowered. Paying attention to detail is ok. Making sure work is done is ok. What is not ok is always breathing down someone’s neck when you hired them to do their job, and you know they do their job. The problem with micromanagers is they question a majority of what you do. This creates a working atmosphere of unwarranted scrutiny. It does more calling out instead of calling up.


Have you ever been around people that you have to carry around with kid-gloves and on a silver platter? You feel as though you have to walk on eggshells because you do not know what kind of mood someone is in. They have to ask others to see if the “leader” is in a good mood and approachable. Moody leaders are inconsistent with their leadership, and when they are inconsistent, they become unpredictable. Everything about a moody leader is terrible, and there is no way to mask it. Inconsistent, unpredictable leadership creates a mood that no one wants to be a part of.


Get the pill bottle and refill it. This might be the worse one of all. We have all been part of an announcement in a meeting or an email where a blanket is thrown over everyone about an issue that only concerns one person. Here is the scene of what is being thought… You hear an announcement about a problem or issue that is not good, and everyone agrees that it should be addressed, but no one believes they are the ones who need to hear the message but they know who needs to hear it. What good does that do? Please quit leading this way to handle problems. Tell whoever it is that needs to hear it. Everyone else will appreciate it. It goes back to bad leadership and wanting not to be seen as the bad guy.

To make sure you are not the leader who is causing leadership indigestion, make sure you are taking the right medicine. Yes, the prescription is to be a servant-leader. Start taking a daily dose. All four of the “symptoms” of leadership indigestion can be healed where you lead. Servant-leadership handles confrontation in the right way without dodging it, not micromanaging or moody, and most of all they directly handle issues without throwing a blanket over everyone.


©2018 J Clay Norton

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