In our bodies when a physiological process exceeds healthy limits we call it disease. A significant number of the leaders and organizations I interact with are suffering from a leadership disease identified as BIGGERBETTERFASTERNEW.
It’s an unrelenting obsession with growth and advancement beyond the healthy capacity of the system and its people.
The problem with BIGGERBETTERFASTERNEW is that in the early stages it appears to be an admirable condition. It presents as passion, commitment, and vision. In that form the contagious effects are beneficial. In fact, it is a necessary condition of effective leadership. The problem is that BIGGERBETTERFASTERNEW grows out of control slowly at first.
It is nearly impossible to self-diagnose and even those closest to the leader may not recognize the toxicity until the condition is running rampant. Even at this stage most who are afflicted remain in denial of their illness and actively resist treatment. By then, it is exceedingly difficult to address without amputating the leader from their role, which may be the only hope for returning health to them and the organization.
So what are the early symptoms? How can we try to catch before it becomes damaging?
- Be alert for the constant use of imperative language. “We must”, “we have to”, “the time is now”, “there is no choice”. These can indicate the loss of perspective and creativity needed to prioritize properly.
- Take note of frequent or increasing calls for higher commitment and sacrifice. Leaders who model or demand complete abandon to the cause to the point of physical illness, damaged relationships, or strained mental health are usually suffering.
- Ethical compromise for the sake of results is a strong symptom. Tolerating or initiating actions that would formerly been condemned brings major concern. When the ends justify the means the condition is quite dire and reversing it may be extraordinarily difficult.
- Perfectionism. Refusal or reluctance to appreciate progress is a warning sign. While striving for excellence is generally admirable and appropriate, the inability to accept anything less than absolute perfection indicates a leader is losing touch with reality.
A prolonged course of Perspective is the most likely cure.
Reality checks and regular doses of Humility are always beneficial.
The most promising experimental treatment is the application of targeted Celebration. Leaders are finding that focussed appreciation and recognition of evidence of progress can have a significant impact on BIGGERBETTERFASTERNEW and, when applied skillfully, can remedy the entire organization.
While the formal diagnosis of BIGGERBETTERFASTERNEW is quite recent, history gives plentiful cases where it is evident. It is hoped that greater awareness and advances in treatment may help future generations build a resistance to this disease and we may instead see a rise in the frequency of SIGNIFICANTLASTINGIMPACT.