Strategies: When Leaders Go On A Tear

It happens to you. It happens to me. It happens to all leaders. Think of it as a pressure cooker building up steam until the relief valve lets loose with an ear-piercing whistle and a spew of steam. The same thing happens to leaders when frustration, stress, impatience, boredom, disbelief, being blindsided, broken trust, blown opportunities, missed goals/deadlines, quality issues, staff indifference, senseless waste of time/money/resources, or just about anything else you can think of that can ruin a leader's vision a perfect day. Stuff builds up until the relief valve blows, sending leaders on a tear through every nook and cranny of the company.

No one and nothing are safe when leaders go on a tear. Why? Because all of the leader's brain filters shut down except for that one filter that sees everything that's wrong. And I mean everything - not just the issue or faux pas that triggered the tear. Once a leader officially enters "tear mode," his or her "it's wrong" filter goes so hyper-sensitive that darn near everything appears wrong or broken. People run for cover as the leader does a Godzilla impersonation, stomping and spewing fire on things, people and systems.

In relatively short order, the leader's Godzilla tear usually blows itself out. As brain filters come back online, the leader takes in the devastation and thinks, "What the heck happened here?" Those who ran for cover come out of hiding, while those who took the full brunt stand battle-ridden with hair singed and clothes smoldering. It was fast and furious leaving nothing but a big mess to clean up.


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You've played this scenario out in some fashion during your tenure as a leader. Here are some no-compromise thoughts to keep your inner Godzilla under control:

  • Avoiding the warning signs: Leadership tears are rarely triggered by one occurrence. They're compounded over time - and you watched and tolerated every offending issue pile up. "I don't want to deal with it" thinking always makes you and your company pay a price. Engage respectfully and constructively when you see warning signs. Avoiding obvious problems is a compromise. Going on a Godzilla tear is a major compromise.
  • Own it first: The origin of virtually every problem, misfire and faux pas can be traced back to the company's leader. Before you blow up and charge off on a tear, ask yourself, "What part do I own in this?" If your answer is nothing, you're in denial and should start preparing to clean up the mess and emotional funk you're about to inflict on your company. Owning it is one of the toughest things to do as a leader. Do it.
  • "But we thought…": Without question, the lack of information, direction and defined outcomes is almost always the root cause of issues that eventually send leaders off on tears. A vision without a roadmap, a game plan and an information-flow system is a disaster in the making. If you're great at conjuring up grand visions but horrible at the details, you need to add a strategic thinker to your inner circle - and let that individual do what they do best, so you can do what you do best. Steve Jobs hired Tim Cook. Who's your Tim Cook?
  • Brain farts: Just like leadership tears, we leaders have our brain farts. A "brain fart" is an idea that the leader hits the launch button on before anyone else in the company knows what's going on. A brain fart may be the most extraordinary game-changing idea that's destined for failure because the leader charged off to battle without preparing the troops.
  • The mess: It's the aftermath of leadership tears that's the worst. Repairing the emotional damage, drama and all the good stuff that got blown up is the kind of "destroy from within" compromise that wrecks great companies. Avoid the mess. Recognize the warning signs. Hold yourself accountable to a higher level of leadership thinking and behavior. That's why being a no-compromise leader is hard work - but the right work.

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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO 

About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and award-winning author. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to You can email Neil at [email protected].