3 Questions to Diagnose a Sick Leader

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Guest Post by Regi Campbell

During flu season when half the country is sick, everyone’s focused on colds and flu and germs. Schools are closed. People are wearing masks. Purell sales are through the roof. “Does he have a fever?” “How long has she had that cough?” “Is the sputum yellow or green?” Everyone’s a doctor these days.

But what about leaders? Are there a few simple questions that can help us figure out what might be wrong in leadership?

lou holtzYears ago, I heard a motivational speech by Lou Holtz, the famous football coach, now an analyst on ESPN. He said there are three questions everyone asks about a leader.

  •  Can I trust him?

  •  Does he know what he’s talking about?

  •  Does he care about me?

If you’re an alliteration guy or you want extra credit, you can make them “character, competency and compassion.”

If you don’t trust your leader, life’s going to be hard. You’re parsing everything they say. Looking for discrepancies. Questioning their motives. Thinking “just how many lies does this guy think he can tell me without me seeing through him?” There are few leaders we trust completely, but it’s awesome to be a part of it when we do. If you can’t trust your leader, start looking for other options.

But even trustworthy leaders have to be able to perform. To hold up their end of the bargain. I may trust my neighbor’s son who just finished medical school, but I’m nervous if he’s my brain surgeon and I’m his first patient. Competency is the easiest of these 3 “C’s” to change. Training and experience will likely make this one better over time.

And no matter how trustworthy or competent, we have to know our leader cares about us. If they don’t care, and if we don’t know they care, we’ll ‘second guess’ their competency or character when something goes wrong. My friend is wrestling with choosing a surgeon for a very specific and important procedure. He’s asking “Do I want a guy who’s done 5000 of these, but who doesn’t know me from Adam? Or do I want a guy who’s done 500, but I know cares about me?”

If you’re struggling with your leader, ask these three questions. They may point you to the reason it’s not working and help you know what you need to talk through with that leader. Yeah, I know…some things just can’t be ‘fixed’, and you’d probably better have your resume’ ready before you go. But at least you’ll know why you’re uneasy and you both can be alert for chances to make it better.

If you want to play in the ‘bonus round’, turn the question on yourself:  When others look at me, do they see someone:

  • Who can be trusted?

  • Who knows what he’s talking about?

  • Who cares about them?

Maybe we ask a few people who know us, follow us and whom we respect. But only ask these questions if you’re ready to truly hear the answers and if you’re serious about acting on what they tell you.

Question: Is there a ‘wobbly’ leader in an important area of your life….one where something’s wrong, but you haven’t figured it out? Let us know if these questions help you here.

regi campbell

Regi Campbell is an experienced investor and entrepreneur who founded Radical Mentoring. He has written and published two books:  Mentor Like Jesus  and  About My Father’s Business and is currently working on his third, “What Radical Husbands Do: How to Win and Keep Your Wife’s Heart”.  You can connect with Regi @ www.radicalmentoring.com 

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