“Whiplash Leadership”

Originally posted in our January 2022 Top of Mind Newsletter.

In a recent article from Korn Ferry, we see the continuing impacts of the pandemic on business and organizational leadership. The everchanging development of COVID-19 forced many leaders into making one decision, only to have them change it when the situation shifted. This kind of decision-making has a name, Whiplash Leadership. The issue is this kind of leadership often leads to a lack of clarity from stakeholders, including employees, and if continued, it will foster distrust. 

Whether the organization is well established or only recently started, whiplash decisions are easy to fall into, especially in a situation of such ambiguity as in the pandemic. But, there are alternatives, alternatives that would be bettered by entrepreneurial thinking. Entrepreneurial thinkers are willing to test their assumptions without making bold bets. And, they are committed to critical thinking and validating their decisions on evidence. And sometimes, that means that transparency about shifting decisions is the best course of action. Slowing down how we make a call and being clear on a change of direction can actually improve trust with stakeholders.

“[Flexibility and transparency] will build credibility with stakeholders…even when a manager has to backtrack on an earlier decision, they can maintain their credibility and reputation. Admitting that a prior decision was a mistake, or explaining why it is no longer relevant, can help stakeholders get past any whiplash.”

As you think and read more about how not to fall into this leadership trap, we’d like to give a hat-tip to an ELI friend, Stephen Taylor, who shared this article with us.

Read the article.