The Five Destructive Behaviors
That Can Ruin Your Business
By Don Schmincke
seven hundred years, samurai warriors sought to discover principles
for extraordinary leadership in a highly competitive environment.
Today’s business leaders are on a similar quest, seeking the
“truths” of leadership that will propel their organizations to the
top. But while many modern leadership teachers focus on structure,
processes, and procedures, the ancient samurais focused on the inner
journey of enlightenment that drove them to achieve. Unfortunately,
today’s business schools, consultants, and books fail to venture
into the human essence so vital for true leadership.
result, many leaders have developed bad habits—or destructive
behaviors—that are slowly eroding their companies. While they may
think they’re acting like true leaders, they’re really undermining
their own leadership efforts and perpetuating the notion of
selfishness, arrogance, and greed.
Interestingly, the same destructive behaviors that ruined many
samurai careers also ruin the modern executive’s business career.
Here are five destructive behaviors to watch out for.
Lack of Bravery: While it may be easy to identify someone of
integrity simply by their ordinary, everyday conduct, it is not so
easy to single out the bold one in stable times. After all, anyone
is a good captain in a calm sea. But the brave leader is most
valuable in times of corporate crisis or when innovation is
essential to keep enemies at bay.
business setting, lack of bravery shows itself as being a “yes”
person—one who tells others only what they want to hear, or
withholds the truth that desperately needs to be told, or fails to
confront violations of accountability. Lack of bravery means not
taking risks, not pursuing professional development, and not staying
true to the company’s principles and values during times of trouble.
Leaders who lack bravery also read the latest management books, use
the hottest lingo, and think they are experts, but they don’t
practice what they preach, and everyone knows it. They boast about
their past skills, their self-importance, their connections, and all
manner of things that can be neither substantiated nor believed.
They cover their cowardice with arrogance, which never fully hides
the truth. As a result, they talk about all the great things they
could do for the organizations, but they take the company nowhere.
Lack of Respect: No matter how brave a leader may be, if he or
she is lacking in the correct manners and etiquette with which
respect is shown, that person is not a true leader. When dealing
with employees, respect is essential for professional and honorable
action. An executive must respect employee opinions, feedback, and
argument, even if they do not agree with the person’s views.
Employees are the frontline, and their empowerment and performance
are directly related to the respect they feel. Good leaders already
know this. Poor leaders try to preserve their power and status so
that they may achieve their greatness at the expense of the
employee. They may even take credit for another’s ideas or
achievements. To the poor leader, power over the employee is more
important than making the employee powerful. This is the utmost in
disrespect. And if this type of executive is not removed from the
company, employee morale will quickly plummet, taking the company’s
bottom line with it.
Lack of Humility: When they do something they perceive as
“special,” many people believe some sort of praise or award is in
order. When that praise does not come, they believe they’re being
overlooked and they complain to anyone who’ll listen about how
“taken for granted” they are. This is the error of someone who does
not understand what service is.
samurai warriors were in the field innumerable times in their day
and risked their lives freely for their lords and commanders, but
they did not talk about their merit or their valiant deeds. Today’s
executives, however, can be found merely shuffling about their
desks, rubbing the backs of their hands, and fighting battles with
three inches of tongue. This is certainly nothing like risking one’s
life in war. But in both cases, it is the executives’ duty to serve
in just the same spirit of loyalty and humility. And whether what
they do is anything special, praiseworthy or not, is for their CEO
to judge. It is enough that they resolve to do their duty properly;
otherwise they risk displaying an attitude of entitlement.
Lack of Consideration: A leader’s job is to support fulfillment
and security of all employees. Thus, a true leader will never demand
any more than is reasonable, nor will he or she overwhelm employees
by requiring long hours simply to make up for the leader’s
leader is always considerate to staff, sympathetic to suppliers, and
careful no one gets ruined. And though you may not at once settle
the debts you may have incurred in transactions, you certainly must
pay something on them from time to time so as not to cause loss and
distress. Executives whose duty it is to chastise robbers and
thieves must not imitate the ways of these criminals. Without proper
consideration of staff and suppliers, the leader incites rebellion.
Lack of Honor: There is a saying that officials and white
garments are best when new. Though but a joke, it is often true. For
a white shirt is very beautiful when new, but after it has been worn
for some time the collar and sleeves get soiled and it begins
looking very unpleasant. Likewise, when they are fresh and
inexperienced, officials are very motivated and pay attention to the
slightest detail. They respect the oaths and penalties they take on
themselves and fear to transgress accordingly. So they serve without
greed or dishonesty and are spoken well of by all their clan.
officials have been in office a long time, however, they are apt to
presume on people’s obedience, develop a big opinion of themselves,
and do uncivil things they would never have done previously. This
defilement is just like the dirty color of a white garment. The
difference, however, is that the dirt of a shirt can be washed away
with soap, whereas the stain on a person’s heart gets so ingrained
that it can hardly be removed.
happens in corporations. And while it is enough to wash a garment
every week, an executive’s heart has to be continually cleansed and
rinsed. Just as soap and the practice of using it are needed for
garments, so are the practices of Bravery, Respect, Humility, and
Consideration needed in cleansing the hearts of executives.
Yesterday’s Wisdom Equals Tomorrow’s Success: Apparently, the
ancient samurai warriors had it right all along: Lead with bravery,
respect, humility, consideration, and honor and you’ll create an
organization that thrives. Unfortunately, few of today’s companies
list such things in their performance reviews, job descriptions, or
cultural value statements. Rather, they rely on the “program du
jour” or current “status quo” yet never really make any true
you want your organization to be truly successful, you must follow
the way of the samurai. Embrace these five traits so you avoid the
destructive habits that have ruined companies and careers for
centuries. When you do, you’ll achieve the greatest of leadership
and enjoy abundant rewards.
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