Leaders: Smashing Into Barriers

Ready for a collaboration discovery? We’ll preamble for a bit while you clear some space for it, which means setting aside any secret superiority felt or pride taken in being a Leader, and gently elbowing away any deference you show others who have more important titles, wealth, acclaim or intellect. When you reach that great levelling place—that sense we’re all just people, consider the following. Without exception and on an on-going basis, each of us are challenged by, and must deal with the personal barriers separating us from our finest selves, our deep-seated collaborative natures and best ways of leading others.

Until we deal with the barrier (by looking at our poor behaviours), we’ll continue taking the same path; smash into the same obstacles; suffer the loss of this or that job, promotion, bonus, plus the affinity and respect of colleagues … and if our behaviour makes headlines, the loss of the larger audience. Sometimes, it takes time to realize we, rather than others, are causing the pain.

 In spite of numerous face-falling fracases, it appears that Jim Balsillie, former co-Chair; co-CEO of RIM, who cut ties with the company in 2012 (He was welcomed into Research In Motion in 1996 by Mike Lazaridis, the man credited with giving us wireless email via the BlackBerry), is taking his time linking behaviour-induced smash-downs (options scandal, NHL debacle, damage to RIM, the York U 60m furore), to his personal barriers. In his years at RIM, he mistook fear-induced agreement to his ideas, as consensus and cooperation, and the sacrifice of any kind of life outside the company as a sure sign of collaboration.

Fearing reprisals, people stayed tight-lipped about his business behaviours. Not so the NHL Board of Governors. At the heart of a written declaration filed after Balsillie’s two failed attempts to buy and relocate the Penguins, then the Predators, are these inescapable words: “… it is his conduct, insensitivity, perceived lack of trustworthiness and unwillingness to accept responsibility for his own actions ….” clarifying their avowal to never again do business with him.

Jim Balsillie. Careening sightlessly—wildly as we helplessly stand by. 

To some extent, we understand Balsillie, whereas many Canadians still look upon the people who ruined the T. Eaton Co. with frustration, anger or puzzlement. At the helm from the ‘70s to 90’’s, ‘the Eaton boys’, under a false assumption of birthright, sent it onto the rocks until the grand old ship … ‘our’ ship broke apart.

Surrounded by executives and staff with thousands of years of combined experience, top-notch retail consultants and the sound legacy of Timothy Eaton carving the way for generations of family management; did the four attempt to collaborate with all or any before, 1) instituting “everyday value pricing”, 2) doing away with departments their customers relied on, 3) ‘up-scaling’ to compete with Holt Renfrew? They did not! Indeed, CEO George Eaton’s icy reply to “C” suite warnings and entreaties was: “Don’t tell me how to run my store. I’ll run it any way I want.”

It just didn’t occur to anyone he meant ‘into the ground’.

The following chart samples some of the personal barriers blocking the development of collaborative leaders. See if they apply to you or your boss, or to your peers and their bosses. If not, what barriers are standing in the way?

Leaders Smashing into Barriers

Hidden Barrier

A Barrier’s Secret Backchat

Barrier’s Bad Behaviour

You & Who?

Fearing change begets rigidity

That’s just a trend.

Dismisses future indicators


Inferiority begets superiority

I’m smarter than all of you.

Pencil-taps while others talk


Over-sensitivity begets anger

How dare you!

Fires savvy people


Lack of love begets neediness

Watch me! Now, look at this!

Seeks constant attention


Hothouse spoiling begets Entitlement

I’ll pass this off as mine.

Takes undue credit


Undisciplined ego begets arrogance

I’m going to stack that team with my people.

Serves the self not the team


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