Scab Leaders

So who’s with me on being relieved that the real officials are back in the NFL? I’d like to send a thank you shout out to all the “scab officials” who allowed us to start the 2012 football season.

While many sports enthusiasts, coaches, and players were complaining about the officiating of the scab officials, I couldn’t help but think about this unique situation as being something I often see in the business world.

Great performance doesn’t happen when you place inexperienced or weak leaders in positions that require mature wisdom and experience. Are we surprised that the scab officials weren’t as good? I mean, shouldn’t we have expected that?

Yet we make this same mistake in business all the time. When we have turnover we put “who we have” (scab leaders) in positions of leadership and expect them to perform at levels of greatness. However, it isn’t the position or title that makes people perform better. It’s the person that turns the position into a high performing position!

So what happens when scab leaders are in place?

  • Complaining from everyone around them, from teammates to leaders to clients.
  • Confidence starts to decline in the scab leader. This is dangerous because most of these leaders are our future leaders. They are still being groomed for leadership, and too much power too soon can hurt their development and confidence.
  • Complacency will settle in if the scab leader is kept in place too long, with the lower level of performance becoming the new standard.

Yet just like the NFL, sometimes we are forced to put inexperienced leaders in positions of authority. So, what can we do to make sure such moves don’t end up as big failures?

  • Remember that bench strength is important. Where are your emerging and growing leaders? Major League Baseball pulls talent from feeder teams. The NFL pulled officials from the college level. Where do you pull your talent from? Hopefully you are developing leaders at every level within your organization so that you have qualified leaders ready to step up when the time comes.
  • Know that managing expectations is crucial. Let the team know that you have asked a young leader to step up, and it may not be pretty for a little while, so everyone should support and encourage this person when appropriate. If teammates are not for the scab leader, they will look for opportunities to turn mole hills into mountains.

The NFL should have worked to manage our expectations. I’m sure all the coaches and fans would have been more supportive if they would have been reminded of the alternative to the scab officials – simply not starting the NFL season. Think of the repercussions that would have caused!

Are you preparing your young leaders for future leadership positions? If not, it’s not too late to get started.


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