As Halloween approaches I find myself reminiscing about my childhood, when we couldn’t afford store bought costumes. Every other kid was a ghost because most moms had an old sheet out of which she could cut holes for eyes. Of course, I remember the year my mom only had new sheets and we had to be led around because she refused to cut them. That was a tough Halloween.
Ghosts are supposedly spirits that haven’t moved on. They’ve missed their chance to go towards the light, and are stuck in one place doing one thing over and over and over again.
How Ghosts Resemble Ineffective Leaders
When I watch shows like Ghost Hunters and hear the habits of most ghosts described, I have to admit that they resemble a few of the less effective leaders I’ve worked with over the years. Here’s how:
Ghosts might walk up and down the stairs every night at midnight, or stand at the end of the same bed and proceed to walk through a wall in the early morning hours. Whatever the behavior, it is usually repeated and confined to one area in the house.
I know leaders who come into work at the same time each day, eat the same breakfast, walk the same path to the bathroom, and hold the same meetings. They exist, but I believe some of them would prefer to be invisible. Think Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation.
If you renovate your house, or move a picture, or tear up your yard, ghosts seem to get agitated, fighting to return to what is familiar.
They remind me of the change averse leaders who declare that any new suggestion will fail because, “We’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.” They put all of their energy into agitation rather than cooperation.
Have you ever known a leader who throws his or her body over his or her team to protect them from change? They are the leaders who make scary sounds in meetings and shake chains when confronted with a new idea. Unfortunately, he or she ultimately protects a team from progress and the whole group loses.
3 Ways to Encourage Ghost Leaders
I think I will get my license in the paranormal to gently urge some of these leaders to move towards the light. If I follow the structure of most ghost hunters, it will be done in the following way:
I’ll start by learning about the leader and his or her environment. I’ll make sure to know the history of what’s happened and why they’re mired in routine.
If change is coming, I’ll let them know as soon as possible and give them a clearly framed area of change of which they will be in charge. If they understand what’s coming and know their role in it, they might resist less.
Many leaders protect their teams because they’ve experienced change that was negative. Or maybe they’re just scared. Either way, I’ll coax them out of the fear by providing tangibles that prove the change will work. I’ll get a pilot team that can show the positive results before asking them to sign up.
What if None of These Suggestions Work?
If none of these suggestions work, then I’ll have to use the final tool of a ghost hunter — demand that they leave the environment. Otherwise, they will always be a negative obstacle to everyone else in the company. I will have to do this in a strong, commanding voice. And I’ll have a human resources representative handy. 🙂
“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”
― Salman Rushdie