On Leadership and Burning a Few Bridges

Mega Shark

Conventional wisdom tells us to never burn a single bridge in our professional lives because you never know when you might need that relationship again. 

I firmly believe that there are going to be circumstances and people that nearly require you to do this:

Burn some bridges so that you will never need to work with those people again.

That’s Right, I Said It…

I have been working for the past 35 years and have learned a thing or two in this time span. For a long time I followed conventional wisdom and did whatever it took to part ways on a positive note.  There are times when the reason I was leaving was more than a promotional opportunity, more money, or a shorter commute.

These are all the generally softer ways of giving notice.

They are often spoken in truth, but many times they are used to cover up the real reasons to avoid burning bridges.

Burning a Few Bridges

As time progressed, I thought it would improve circumstances if I shared the issues that caused me to consider other opportunities, more money, or a shorter commute.

When leaving previous jobs, I did the conventional thing and had candid conversations with Human Resources during exit interviews, explaining the challenges with processes and particular personalities that cause concern and issues in the workplace.

I have spent the past 22 years in learning development, so my core was telling me that people can’t improve until they know that there is a performance gap.

Looking back, I would say that each of those times when I was honest and doing what I thought was helpful, I burned a bridge.  I’m not talking about toasting the wood a little; I’m talking about a five-alarm fire, nothing but ashes when I left.

There was no walking back over that puppy after I was finished burning it.  The people I left never spoke with me again.

And now I am left to wonder if this is really such a bad thing?

Out of the dozen or so people who would sooner slit their throat then say hello to me, I have to be honest that it doesn’t bother me in the least that they do not care about me.

These were folks that the word ethical wasn’t even in their dictionary.  Underhanded, manipulative, rude and down-right mean are better descriptors of their personalities.

I hated working for them at the time, and after leaving I felt a rush of relief at never having to work with them again.

Although it was not my intention to burn a bridge with these people, the fact remains that I did, and the primary benefit was to never hear from them again.

A Bad Referral Backfires!

Burning BridgesWhen they say we are only separated by about six people from each other at most, (six degrees of separation), it does cause a reduction in referrals and future contacts that might cause these people to question if they should begin a working relationship with you.

Recently I suffered the opposite of that type of disconnect when someone contacted an old manager to find out what kind of training professional I am and what it would be like to work with me.

I know that this must have been this guy’s dream come true to work his magic by telling this new contact what a nightmare I would be to work with.

He said this:

“Jim is a purist when it comes to training and needs to do everything the right way.  He plays by the rules and Joan of Arc has nothing on him when it comes to ethics.  It makes it challenging to work around him because he is such a goody two shoes.”

Well thanks to these comments, I have a new client that shares my servant leadership style and ethical code.

What my old manager was trying to do was clue in his friend to how difficult it will be to work with a person like me, and at the same time selling the attributes the new client was looking for in a new working relationship.

Now I will be the first to admit this situation was a fluke.

Understanding Consequences

Most of the time when you burn a bridge with someone, that person will have a negative influence over anyone asking about you, not to mention that they will never work with you again.

When I began consulting 6 years ago I was heart-broken that a particular person wasn’t giving me the time of day or throw me a bone’s worth of business.

He was angry over my leaving because as he said, “I don’t want you to go.” 

I had a difficult time explaining why I was being called to strike out on my own and go from a reliable income to complete uncertainty as a self-employed consultant.  While financially it was not the best decision I’ve ever made, it has brought me innumerable benefits I would not have collected if I had remained.

Finding a Better Route

One of these benefits has been the realization that burning a bridge forces you to find another route.

Without the easy ability to rely on old relationships to fund my new consulting business, I was forced to find new relationships early on and not wait until after the well went completely dry.

While I might have gone along with conventional wisdom in my early working years and left no bridge unburned, I’m glad to look back at a few I burned on purpose and realize that it was for my benefit that I can no longer connect with those people again.

I’ve learned overtime that you can’t fix every relationship, nor should you try.

What bridges have you burned in the past that you are glad you did? What bridges are still in place that should have been burned down? What do you think is wrong with burning a few bridges? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!

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————–
Jim Hopkins

Jim Hopkins is the CEO of JK Hopkins Consulting
He a Consultant, Coach, Author and Speaker in Organizational & Performance Health
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Leaders are Healers: Leaders Must Heal Themselves

When we read the papers these days or watch television, or consult social media we can easily be filled with sadness and even despair.

We seem to have “leaders” who have no boundaries to the hurt they impose on others.

On Leadership Failures

If we made a list of the hundred worst leaders who do more harm than good, the list would be a horrible summary of humanity’s disgrace. The list would include men and women from all over the world; some from under-developed countries and some from so-called developed countries.  

When we confront the evil lives of those who start wars, displace millions of people, abuse and oppress the needy, destroy jobs and families for a better bottom line, use others with no respect for their dignity, we cannot but be overwhelmed by leadership failures.

Certainly we need leaders who can heal others instead of harming them, but first and foremost it is increasingly obvious that leaders must heal themselves.

On Regretful Leadership

 History and contemporary experiences show us leaders who have led followers to atrocities, violence, hatred, division, and polarization.

But even locally many leaders diminish and become less than they could be because of their own leadership styles.

Some leaders are immersed in denial, arrogance, and deceit, and their leadership makes them inhuman. Domineering, arrogant, greedy leaders create victims everywhere. In many organizations, the boss who is responsible for vision, values, and standards cause regretful leadership.

They have:

  • No sense of responsibility
  • No vision
  • No values
  • No standards

Much contemporary organizational disease that cries out for healing results from leaders’ inauthentic, that is, sick ways of thinking and desiring. Other leaders, at least become aware of a gnawing sense of regret for their leadership failures.

Leaders must heal themselves of their own failures and bring harmony into their own lives.

On Healing Leadership

The primary focus of healing leadership is the self-healing of the leader, who like everyone else yearns for wholeness. So much pseudo-leadership today is a festering wound that must be cleansed and disinfected before it will ever heal.

An individual leader must always appreciate that he or she needs healing in order to effectively serve others and the organization.

Perhaps, leaders should take an oath similar to the physicians; first do no harm.

Some so-called leaders could only have a healing influence on the organization by resigning. There are situations that cannot be healed, such as those that arise from deliberate evil and unethical decisions of a controlling boss.

Moreover, individuals who have been absolute jerks for years and years need psychological counseling before change is possible. Healing self from greed, ambition, and controlling attitudes need:

  • Self-discipline
  • Temperance
  • A focus on others
  • A new view of self
  • A new commitment to integrity

On Appreciative Leadership

A leader who wishes to heal others needs self-care, a healthy lifestyle, and behavioral changes where appropriate. He or she also needs to appreciate the meaning of life, have some personal understanding of suffering and sickness, appreciate the benefits of personal healing, and be open to the healing effects of others.

Once a person understands his or her own need of healing, he or she can then appreciate the advantages of healing for others.

A leader then hopes for his or her own change and for others’ too.

The Hopeful Leader

A leader of hope must also deal with the negativity and pain that come with leading others. At times, leaders work with awkward and difficult employees, suffer the stress and even agony of decision-making, and face the anguish of attempting to resolve gut-wrenching situations.

They must cope with the personally felt consequences of job stress, burnout, accidents, others’ harassment, terminations, losses to the organization when workers retire, and even the pressures of success.

Leaders frequently need to deal with their own pain and with the pain of others, and find that leadership can impact one’s health, relationships, sense of purpose, and fulfillment. They can be dedicated to community and feel lonely. Of course, a sick organization makes good leaders of hope sick too, unless they can steel themselves against it.

Personal Transcendence

Healing self in these situations is part of the ongoing conversion of a leader. It means overcoming personal sin, even the small tendencies to selfishness that tend to weaken one’s wholehearted commitment. A leader’s journey is away from self-centeredness to self-transcendence and to a focusing on the importance of others.

This includes:

  • Removing prejudice
  • Being open to others
  • Listening more
  • Talking less
  • Being more attentive
  • Less distracted
  • Valuing others more
  • Judging others less
  • Centering on the legacy of others

Healing of Self

It will also include working for trust and never presuming it, telling the truth and living the truth in love, communicating well and clarifying positions and values, guaranteeing others their own space, maintaining a vision of high hopes amid the mini despairs.

The training of leaders to self-healing includes integrity, honesty, breaking down barriers, releasing others’ potential, being magnanimous in dealing with others.

Healing of self is a redirection of one’s mind and heart and is an integral component of successful spiritual leadership.

So how are you doing at taking an honest look at your personal leadership flaws and identifying where you are broken? How can you work to find remedies to replace areas of trouble. With whom can you seek advise and coaching to improve you personal leadership effectiveness? i would love to hear your thought!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an Author and Workshop Presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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