Let’s be honest. Most leaders possess a sense of drama. This is good. It helps us inspire people, put on effective events, and even communicate well. Yet there is a kind of drama we can lean to which only works against us. Let me explain.
We all like to be the one in the know. We want to have the pithy summarizing statement at our command or say the thing in the meeting that everyone will be buzzing about later. Often, though, what we have chosen to say is something dramatic but fear-inducing, shocking but instilling of nervousness. This isn’t leadership. This is drama for its own sake.
Let me give you an example. I deeply admire the author Thomas Friedman. Some of his books, like The Lexus and The Olive Tree, have been paradigm-shifting for me. This past week, though, Mr. Friedman said in a public statement that the United States is approaching civil war.
Now, this kind of statement draws attention and it will likely help Mr. Friedman get media bookings, but it isn’t leadership. It is dramatic. It inspires fear. It makes people hunker down in their homes peering nervously out their windows. Yet it does not set direction. It does not give anyone an action plan. It does not embed in human hearts words that people can repeat to strengthen each other or that lift vision. These would be matters of leadership. Mr. Friedman’s words are matters of drama. They also, by the way, aren’t true.
Many times I’ve been leading something and had the Drama Queen on our team pull against me. Usually, they did not realize what they were doing. They were just addicted to the dramatic moment, the histrionic effect, the thrill of being center-stage with the spotlight focused upon them.
I remember once my team was sitting around the conference table and an executive said, “I think if Bill doesn’t get his way he will sue us and it will likely mean the end of this organization.” Wow! What a moment that was! Some folks got all stirred up. Some even called their wives and dumped their fears on them. The executive who said this just beamed. He got all the drama he wanted.
Yet none of it was true. A simple chat with Bill solved all matters. A lawsuit never really threatened, and if it had our organization would have been just fine. I knew this and it didn’t take much to help my team know it. I did what you have to do in such situations. Bring folks back to reality and fill them with confidence. Impart some courage and a sense of belonging. Instill a higher purpose than they had when they came to work that day. Why did I choose this path? Because like you, I lead. I’m not a drama addict. I’m an outcome addict. I’m a team production addict.
I let that drama addicted executive go not long after. It wasn’t just because he was always pulling against me with his melodrama. It was because while he was acting, he wasn’t leading and his area of responsibility was failing miserably.
Here is the core truth to hang on to. Drama loves negativity and negativity kills devotion, productivity, and vision. Leadership loves challenge, crafting victories, and inspiration. Don’t let drama take over. Lead. Lead well. Skillfully use drama for your purposes but don’t ever let drama take the lead.