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Lack of Confidence Causes the Costly “Avoid & Tolerate” Leadership Style

It was the summer of 1995 and I was in the middle of my 10th season leading a professional baseball franchise, when I was forced to face my shortcomings as an organizational leader.


After a very destructive altercation between key members of our organization’s leadership team, I had to address the fact that I was steeped in a leadership style built on “avoiding and tolerating”, challenging employee performance and behavior issues.


You may be familiar with the leadership style some might call “Ostrich Leadership.” This is a leadership style where the leader puts his/her head in the sand, wishing and hoping problems go away or take care of themselves, or that others will address the issue.


I was the type of leader who would avoid conflict at any cost. And the cost can be exorbitant. For me, the cost was two very good employees and a wife. My first marriage came to an end two years after the incident I described above, as my wife was the instigator.


During a seminar where I was discussing my challenge as a leader with this “avoid and tolerate leadership style”, another experienced business owner admitted he too had a similar problem. In a room filled with 50 other business professionals, he shared that his avoid and tolerate leadership style had cost him about $5 million over the last 10 years of running his business.


What might it be costing you and your organization?


Even though, consciously we know these situations rarely resolve themselves and usually only get worse, we continue to avoid addressing them. Then we are forced to tolerate the impact on ourselves and our organizations.


There are also costs to employee morale and motivation, as well as employee retention. It’s not just the leader that has to deal with the impact of these issues going unaddressed. Everyone on the staff feels the stress. This type of leadership behavior erodes trust in every work environment.


The cause of the avoid and tolerate leadership style is a lack of self-esteem caused by a lack of self-confidence in very specific areas of leadership, and leadership communication specifically. Usually because leaders want to avoid having difficult or challenging conversations with team members regarding performance and behavior issues.


Leadership is a “soft” skill. Yet, we promote people into leadership and management positions based mostly on their performance in the areas of their hard skills.


It’s time for business leaders to acknowledge this fact and begin assessing an individual’s “people” skills when considering moving someone into a management position. And then offer the proper training and development so they can confidently lead their teams in a positive and productive manner.


Otherwise, the “avoid and tolerate” leadership style will continue to cost businesses billions of dollars a year. There are six critical skills leaders must become competent in, in order to gain the confidence to lead their teams effectively.


  • Emotional Mastery
  • Visionary Leadership
  • Motivation Strategies
  • Leadership Communication
  • Problem-Solving, Decision-Making & Priority Setting
  • Delegation
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