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Introducing Leadership Lessons – The Danger of Leadership Isolation

Posted by on June 27th, 2013 with 0 Comments

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In collaboration with a colleague (Dr. Ralph Hawkins, Old Testament Scholar), we just completed a book entitled, “Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul.”

One dangerous Pitfall of King Saul was his tendency to isolate himself.  When leaders turn their backs on the issues, the critics, and the pain of leadership, danger is near.  Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 4 of the book:

Niccolo Machiavelli, the Political Philosophy who described the evil deeds that leaders do, provides a wise word that King Saul certainly could have used:

A good and wise prince, desirous of maintaining their character, and to avoid giving the opportunity to his sons to become oppressive, will never build fortresses, so that they may place their reliance upon the good will of their subjects, and not upon the strength of citadels.[1]

It is no wonder that leaders are tempted into build citadels of isolation.  Leading places you in a dangerous position.  You challenge values, the way things are done, and the comfort zone of others.  Leadership comes with critiques and critics.  The temptation is compounded with loss and setbacks.  Surrounding yourself with yea-sayers, moral boosters, and pleasant distractions is appealing.  It is also dangerous.

Lose contact with people and seek security in isolation, rebellion is brewing.  Take the Swedish study[2] on the need for social and emotional contact as analogous to leadership.  A total of 752 men born in 1933 in the city of Goteborg were offered a medical exam.  Descriptions of each man’s life stress was collected and catalogued.

Seven years later, the men were contacted again, and 41 of the men had died.  Those who had reported intense emotional stress (common in leadership) had a death rate three times greater than those who said they their lives were calm and peaceful.  The emotional distress was due to financial trouble, insecurity at work, being forced out of a job, being the object of legal action (all too common in leadership today), or going through a divorce.  These men had high blood pressure, concentrations of triglycerides in the blood, or high cholesterol levels.  That’s the bad news.

Here is the good news.  For men who said they had a dependable web of intimacy – wife, close friends, and such – there was no relationship whatever between high stress levels and death rate.  People to turn to, talk with, offer solace, help, and counsel, protected them from the harshness and ordeals of life.  For the man or woman who leads, have an ear to hear.  Leaders need good counsel, honest talk, and respectful critique.

The book is available from Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Lessons-Avoiding-Pitfalls-King/dp/1401677282

 Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.

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[1] Machiavelli, N The Prince

[2] Rosengren, A. et al., (Oct 19, 1993) “Stressful life events, social support, and mortality in men born in 1933,” British Medical Journal

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