Needy Leaders


I can still find my way around grocery stores but I don’t do the shopping anymore. I used to see young moms with toddlers tugging on their pant legs. It was cute to me but not always to them.

You can love someone and, at the same time, hope they leave you alone, at least for a while.

In leadership, somebody’s always tugging. The more they need, the more important you’ve become. Or at least it seems that way.

Needy leaders need to be needed.

Needy leaders make themselves central and indispensable. They’re always signing off on the next order of #2 pencils and paper for the copier. Feel the power!

Needy leaders need to:

  1. Bask in the spotlight of admiration.
  2. Exercise authority.
  3. Control. Supplicants make them feel powerful.

Effective leaders give what needy leaders need.

Needy leaders need things that prevent leadership.

Beyond needy:

  1. Get in touch with neediness. Whisper, “I’m needy,” in your own ear. Talk it over with trusted advisors. The more you see it, the better you’ll be at step two.
  2. Give what you need. Act otherwise. When you feel the need for praise, give it.
  3. Accept frailties. We never improve what we can’t accept.
  4. Welcome support. Needy leaders reject support, they can’t look weak. The more I move away from neediness the more support rises around me.
  5. Develop structures and systems that free. Establish boundaries, and let the children play.
  6. Enable more; control less.
  7. Authorize.

The more essential you are, the less effective you’ve become. Successful leaders develop followers who need them less as time passes.

Tugging toddler-followers may make you feel important, but you aren’t, you’re needy.

Their neediness reflects your neediness.

They won’t act without you because you don’t want them to.

How have you handled your neediness?

How can needy leaders move away from neediness?

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