Bad weather leaders are constructive, not positive!

by Didier Marlier on Friday February 5th, 2016

This Monday morning, I knew something bad had happened when, switching on my mobile, it did not stop ringing, announcing all sorts of messages frenetically arriving.

And the news was immensely sad: A client I admired and loved very dearly, had apparently decided to “draw the curtain”, aged only 44, leaving behind a shattered widow, an inconsolable young son and his whole team in shock. None of those who knew him understood… He was on top of his game, had been awarded the title of world’s best in his area, he was full of projects… and he left!

In spite of being a famed artist, having acquired a true “star” status, he had managed to remain extremely modest, always putting the team’s performance first. In a highly traditional industry, management wise, he had courageously supported and integrated the unusual leadership style we had recommended to ensure that his happier employees would make clients even more satisfied.

When the Chairman of the Board was interviewed by the media, I wondered: “How will he be positive under such dramatic circumstances and with the loss of the heart and soul of the business?” Well, simply, he wasn’t positive. The Chairman did far better: He decided to be constructive. In a short interview he managed to speak to the heart and logic of the people. After demonstrating empathy for the situation, he shared how he was personally affected (vulnerability and making it personal). The constructive part came when he explained that “the Chef” had chosen this team and that he wanted and expected the best talents to surround him. Well here they were to prove him right, in memoriam!

Simple, efficient and constructive: In times of storms, people do not need “positive leaders”. A positive leader will:

  • Deny the evidence and persist to depict things in optimistic terms
  • Gradually lose touch with the harshness of the situation their people are in and see their credibility vanish
  • Maintain them dependent of his capacity to be motivational and visionary

And this may suddenly turn against him.

A “constructive leader” will:

  • Acknowledge the evidence and describe it as factually as possible
  • Demonstrate empathy and a personal stake in the game
  • Provide their people with actionable levers, encouraging them, as quickly as possible, to regain control of their destiny

The team of “Le Restaurant de l’HĂ´tel de Ville de Crissier”, unanimously decided to honour their deceased leader’s sense of professionalism and delighted their clients as wonderfully as usual from Tuesday on…

And to us all, on top of our game, on our Leadership Journey, where Fall is just the other side of the Recovery coin, and in a tribute to Benoît, who leaves a strong legacy and will be celebrated for ever as a rare Master and outstanding human being, I would like to dedicate this amazing clip (already commented on this blog) of this graceful and fragile exercise by Miyoko Shida: No matter how hard she works, no matter how amazing her talent is, no matter how fantastic and unique the result of her work, it is so vulnerable that it depends on the weight of a simple feather. This simple feather is called our Deep Intent!

Enjoy your Leadership Journey, even if some days are sadder than others…


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2 Responses to “Bad weather leaders are constructive, not positive!”

  1. We lost a dear colleague last week and so this article is very helpful. Empathy is essential in my view in such difficult circumstances. The people want to see that.

    • My condolences, John…Empathy and levers to take control of our lives back… With you wholeheartedly


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