Who remembers, back in the day, Activision’s “Pitfall!?” For those of you who are young and read this blog, “Pitfall!” was played on the original Atari. I remember the day we purchased the cartridge. It was in the fall of 1982, and I was ten. As soon as I got home, we started playing it. I remember two things very vividly about “Pitfall!”. One, after we went to bed on a school night, my dad came into my room, woke me up, and asked if I wanted to play a quick game. The other memory is when I scored over thirty thousand points. The cool thing was to take a picture (with a real camera) of the TV screen showing your score, mail it in, and Activision would send you an official “Pitfall!” patch. Yes, I was pumped.
Not to go into the whole idea of the game, but “Pitfall!” was about a jungle explorer, named Harry, who had to avoid the pitfalls of water, sand, alligators, scorpions, etc. You get the picture. Harry had to run, jump, and swing from vines, to find the treasure. It was a classic.
What made me think of that, you ask? Well, I was just having one of my many memory moments and started thinking about the connection that could be made with pitfalls and leadership. With leadership or anything else for that matter, pitfalls can be those unseen holes of missteps that we fall into sometimes. Not so much on purpose, but pitfalls are there nonetheless.
Staying with the letter “p” of “Pitfall!,” here are a few pitfalls that I believe leaders have problems with…
Is perception reality? I think not, but there are those who believe it to be true. The problem with perception is that it is yours and yours only, and that does not make it right. A majority of the time, we see things only how we want to see them, rose-colored glasses idea. So much of our understanding is tainted by the values we hold dear in our minds and hearts. It is the misconceptions that cause many problems in leadership. Whenever a misconception is made, let’s admit that it could be a wrong conclusion and do everything we can to correct it.
Pride needs no write-up. We see it every day. There will always be that leader who thinks they have all the answers. This might be the deepest pitfall of them all, actually an abyss. The hard part is sometimes we cannot avoid prideful leaders. Pride… it’s like a bad odor that keeps hanging around, and it stinks. My good friend, Allen Marret says, “Pride causes your perception to miss out on what is real.” That’s a pretty good statement. Be humble enough to know that you do not always have it figured out.
This is the one I despise, being passive-aggressive. Leadership positions are not a utopia. The grind and the struggle are sometimes real, but leaders who lead with pouting, moodiness, and manipulation are demoralizing to others. Yes, occasionally passive-aggressive leaders make hard decisions that need to be made, but it is not until they are backed into a corner of their own doing, and someone else is looked for to blame. Be a leader who is willing to address issues head-on, accept healthy conflict, and realize that everyone is not a “yes-person.”
I hope that after reading the above pitfall list, you can appreciate the really good leaders that are leading for the right reasons — those who make it a purpose of avoiding these common pitfalls. Yes, pitfalls do creep up on us, but to be diligently looking out for them can make all the difference. Now, go find that treasure of leadership.
Just in case you wanted to know what the patch I received looked like, here it is:
©2019 J Clay Norton
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Charlotte Walker said:
Wow, J. Clay! You really hit the nail on the head with this one. Such a timely and important reminder to keep ourselves in line and keep a proper perspective on our humanity and the frailty that goes along with it. Thank you for sharing.
Mrs. Walker, thank you so much. Funny thing about great leadership is that it will always transcends time. It is always relevant.