Some time ago my wife and I owned a small business together. We designed and executed outdoor trips for nonprofits, schools, and other organizations. Quick tip, if you are starting a business, don’t make nonprofits your target market! Anyways, after a couple years I realized that this passion project was not going to provide for my growing family so I jumped into the home building / sales world. The little outfitter that could continued to grow and even seemed for a time to do better without me at the helm.
About a year into our new normal the great folks I had running the business on my behalf were about to explode. Our conversation went something like this. Me: “How are things going fellas?” Them: “Uh not great. You parachute into the office and pivot the whole thing in a matter of minutes, then leave us to pick up the pieces. Other times, we have critical decisions to make and need you to sign off on them but we can’t get a hold of you.” Yikes. Not good. I had asked these guys to take the reins and run the show but I still liked being the owner and jumping in here or there as long as I wasn’t overwhelmed with other projects. When they needed me I wasn’t available or I pushed decisions out, and when I was around I overreacted to problems or opportunities and made life hell for them. Level five leader stuff right there. The organization eventually plateaued and top talent went looking for other opportunities. In hindsight, if I had to boil down the challenges to one specific issue I can say with confidence that what we had was a serious leadership vacuum.