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The Impact of Shiny Object Leadership

Before we dive into this topic, for the purposes of full disclosure, I need to confess that “my name is Leanne Shaw and I used to be a shiny object addict”!

The reason I want to talk to you about this today, is that I have been working with a lot of clients lately have been coming for support on how to manage workplace stress and I have noticed that there are two players that are consistently showing up in the epicentre of their angst. 

The leader who is “too nice” and the leader who is a “shiny object chaser”.

In a recent article, I shared with you the impact of “too nice” leadership along with some tips that’ll help you shed this memorised set of patterns, so today I want to dive into the other type of leadership that is driving good people to go find other, more stable environments to work in, not because they don’t like you, but because they simply can’t work with you, and that is the “shiny object leader”.

Here’s three ‘tells’ that’ll help you identify if you are one.

1. You aren’t a lover of boring planning, strategies, or systems, *yawn* in fact, you may even get a rash at the thought of them.  (As a person who goes into anaphylactic shock when faced with an Excel spreadsheet, I feel your pain my friend.)

2.  You get excited by ideas and dive into exploring them because they feel good, not necessarily because they ARE good.

3. You have many, MANY projects, initiatives or ideas that are partly done but very few that have been followed through and seen to fruition.

Again, I get you – you are a lover of freedom and spontaneity, but let’s explore the impact, your excitement seeking is having on your team.

When leaders lack a clear direction and constantly shift priorities, it creates confusion and frustration among team members. Employees may feel like they’re constantly pivoting, unable to focus on meaningful work or see progress. This can lead to a nosedive in morale, productivity, and ultimately retention, as your talented, focused staff end up looking for stability elsewhere.

Plus, these frequent changes in direction really compromise the trust your people have in your leadership. Team members may become skeptical of your judgment and commitment to long-term goals. This erodes trust, respect, and shared purpose. 

And, to make it event a bit more ouchie – the only staff who REALLY benefit from being led this way are those who prefer to dream about goals rather than actually kicking them.

Again, I get it – we aren’t always aware of what we’re doing.  For me, the idea of giving my team a list of priorities and telling them what to do felt bossy and patronising.  So, when they asked me what I wanted them to work on, I would throw sparkly confetti of confusion up in the air and suggest that they can work on whatever they feel needs doing.  I was totally unaware that this was making life really hard for them and depriving them of feeling a sense of purpose.

But let’s not make it all about them!  Come with me as we explore the impact this style of leadership is also having on YOU!

For you as a leader, the pursuit of shiny objects can be a double-edged sword.

While it may initially seem exciting and innovative, it often leads to a lack of clarity and strategic vision. You’re pattern of constantly shifting focus prevents you from fully committing which results in scattered efforts and missed opportunities for really meaningful impact (and success).

Furthermore, this inability to stick to a clear plan undermines your credibility and effectiveness.

You may find it challenging to inspire confidence and cohesion when your priorities are constantly in a state of flux.  This can lead to feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and ultimately, burnout as you struggle to keep up with the demands of your role.

You begin to feel like you’re doing a jigsaw, without the box.

If you’re beginning to identify that yes, you ARE a ‘shiny object leader’, what do you do about it?

To avoid falling into (or to start getting out of) the trap of shiny object leadership, it’s crucial for you to start creating clarity around your direction and accountability within yourself to recognise when you are chasing the stuff that doesn’t matter and neglecting the stuff that does.

You must communicate your organisation’s vision effectively, ensuring that every team member understands their role in achieving it, because this helps them get a better sense of what they’re working towards and how they’re making a difference.

Regularly revisit and recalibrate priorities based on feedback and results, but resist, I repeat, RESIST the urge to constantly chase the latest trend or idea without careful consideration of its relevance and impact to that core vision.

Additionally, hold yourself and your team accountable for the results you get. Set measurable goals and milestones, track progress, and course correct as needed.

Even though it may make you want to clench your sphincter, you have to be willing to make openness your new ‘normal’.  When you model transparency and open communication (with integrity), your team will feel empowered to voice their concerns and suggestions and feel incredibly valued as a result.

So, to bring it all together, while the allure of shiny objects may be tempting, the pursuit of them is driving your team nuts and leading you on a wild goose chase toward a sense of freedom that’s solely responsible for you not having it.

If this article resonates, I’m very happy to teach you how easy it is to quit your addiction to shiny things and start being a powerful leader who people love to follow … because then the shiniest thing of all is your success.

Drop me a line if you’d like to learn about the training or private coaching that I have created for leaders like you who want to think better, feel better and BE better.

Leanne Shaw
Senior Coach/Trainer
Leanne Shaw

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