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“Dense” Leaders Waste Human Resources

Are you getting the most out of your people? How does your perspective impact your team?

One way to understand the impact you are having is by contemplating the following phrase:“Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Said another way, your people won’t be any better than you!  You set the pace. You shape the culture. And, just as children learn much more from what their parents do than from what they say, your people are impacted far more by your attitude than you might realize. That’s what being a successful leader is about.

It’s just another example of how being “dense” – or having a constricted perspective that makes you unable to see possibilities that lie outside of your point of view – negatively affects your ability to lead; and makes you a dense leader.


Example of being dense?

Susan is now happily retired, but a few years ago she ran a major piece of one of America’s biggest corporations. I was working in her organization at the time and I kept hearing grumblings from her people.  They were complaining that Susan’s boss didn’t understand their business.  They had little respect for the man and openly made fun of him.  I quickly released that Susan had a leadership problem. Her lack of alignment was bleeding through to her people.  Their (and her) resistance to her boss was distracting them from being productive and putting the entire enterprise in some risk.

I called Susan and suggested she hire me as her executive coach for some leadership coaching.  My point to her was pretty simple.  You have two options here; fully align with and support your boss or, if you can’t, resign. We talked about her resistance and how she could shift her attitude.

The light went on for Susan. She began to see her boss in a different way.  She got on board with his agenda and their relationship dramatically improved.  Even more important, the complaining in her organization stopped and her team became more focused on hitting their ambitious goals. Morale improved.

This is a good story because Susan credits this change with saving her job.  It turns out that her boss left the company and she was promoted!  I like to think that doing the right thing produces good results in the long run almost all of the time.


So, what leadership lessons do we extract from this story:

  • Your people are your most important asset. You are counting on them to get stuff done.   And, yet I find many leaders who fail to capture the full potential of their workforce.
  • Your attitude as “leader” is shaping your culture.  People are picking up and amplifying your attitudes far more than you know. Some attitudes I call “brakes” because they seem to slow down productivity (cynicism, negativity, doubt, fear and resentment).  To the extent you harbor such attitudes, you are getting in your own way.
  • People can change. So often we, like Susan, simply can’t clearly see what we are doing that is interfering with our commitment to results. We are dense in some area of leadership. Being dense affects our attitude, which affects the attitude of others.  The wrong attitude can grow subtly.  Wrong attitudes are often supported and amplified by the people around us. Few people want to call out the boss on his or her negativity.  But, like Susan, smart people “get it” when it is made clear to them. Light penetrates the denseness, and they see more. They become less dense leaders.
  • Your change impacts others. Susan’s changed attitude resonated through a few hundred people.  They became less cynical.  They complained far less. They focused more attention on solving problems and making things happen.


You can’t afford to be dense. You must always be assessing how you are showing up in your work community. How are people hearing you? Does it support that which you are trying to accomplish?

One of the most effective ways for leaders to assess their impact on their people is to get regular feedback. I suggest using a tool like the Executive 360 Feeback Tool every 2 to 3 years.  I have found the best approach is to pick 10-12 pointed questions that assess the areas of your greatest concern.


I have a list of dozens of questions within the sample assessment that I would be delighted to share with you. You can download them directly here.


The next step is to pick 10-12 people who will give the best feedback on your questions.  Be bold here.  Pick detractors as well as supporters.


This is a process I have completed for hundreds of executives and business leaders.  It is so important that people are interviewed objectively and with the guarantee of confidentiality.


Much of the anxiety people experience is due to being dense.  A leader who figures out a way to be less dense becomes less anxious, and effectively reduces the anxiety of the team.


If you are interested in more information about the Executive 360 Feeback Tool, reach out to meat any time.

About Jack Skeen

Jack Skeen
Jack Skeen, founder of Skeen Leadership, has been coaching bright and successful leaders for close to two decades, spending thousands of hours addressing every imaginable leadership, business and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.

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