November/December 2020

The Thriving Lawyer

Why Weathervane Leadership Never Works

Anne E. Collier

A weathervane tells you where the wind is coming from at the moment you are watching it, but it’s not predictive. It indicates a direction, and then it indicates another. It’s decisive and certain, but ever changing. It twirls. It spins. It goes nowhere. By its nature, it is at the effect of the wind.

Have you ever tried working with a Weathervane Leader? You get direction; you feel good about your marching orders. You are busy headed in the direction you thought you and your leader were going, and then you look over and the leader has headed in another direction. Nothing is stable or sustainable; there is no foundation on which to build. In fact, you get the feeling you weren’t really headed anywhere at all.

Weathervane Leaders are usually “nice,” in the Middle English, early French and Latin sense of the word. To be certain, as the term is used today, Weathervane Leaders are agreeable and pleasant to be around. In fact, that is their downfall because to avoid the ire of colleagues, they placate. They struggle to make unpopular decisions and then eschew standing by them. In their efforts to be “nice,” they revert to the more historical meanings of the word, which are not positive but are illustrative. From Middle English and early French, they are “foolish, stupid,” and from the Latin nescius, they are “ignorant,” literally “not-knowing.”

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