Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Monday, October 07, 2002

Key Man Syndrome

Key Man Syndrome is about being more focused on territory than results. It is an attitude deficiency in which the "key man" believes he or she is so vital to the outcome of a specific function that it cannot occur without them. But as one manager liked to say to his staff to proactively debunk this myth: "an axe handle is made from an ordinary piece of wood."

Translation: people are necessary, but specific people are not indispensible. The corollary, as all good leaders know, is to treat people as if they were indispensible, and they become far more valuable, and far less likely to become barriers to team success.

Some Key Man symptoms:

  • The role defines the person
  • The goal is secondary to the role
  • Turf-sensitivity
  • "If I don't do it ..."
  • It's about them
  • Person's identity is unnaturally linked to a position, function or title
  • Person hoards power
  • Person never delegates - to their detriment
  • Sees him or herself as a superhero, not a coach
  • High stress levels
  • Moodiness
  • Hostility to change


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