Leadership’s Trap Doors


While most spiders weave webs, the California trapdoor spider (resembling a smaller, less hairy tarantula) takes a different approach to hunt its food.

For a home, the spider digs a deep, narrow burrow in the ground. As a roof, the spider spins its silk to build a hinged, D-shaped trapdoor. The spider also lines the trapdoor with silk, and then uses its saliva to reinforce the door with dirt or clay. Next, the spider chews the edges of the trapdoor until it is perfectly contoured to fit over the burrow’s opening. Finally, the spider camouflages the trapdoor by covering it with leaves, twigs, and pebbles.

Once the trapdoor has been constructed, the spider crouches beneath it and waits for an unsuspecting insect or small frog to come along. When it senses movement on the lid of the trapdoor, the spider swings it open, sinks its fangs into the victim, and drags the prey down into the burrow.
In the November/December edition of Ivey Business Journal, John S. McCallum examines four dangerous traits that, like trapdoor spiders, can ambush, drag down, and destroy a leader. Referring to them as The Four Horsemen the Executive Apocalypse, McCallum lists denial, fear, greed, and pride as the attributes most likely to doom a leader.

Denial can sneak into a leader’s life in a variety of subtle ways: refusal to confront a tough truth, unwillingness to listen to feedback, inability to face personal shortcomings, or reluctance to hold others accountable. When leaders turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the problems around them, they lose credibility and the entire organization suffers. Leaders avoid the trap of denial when they ask probing questions, dole out disciplinary action to underperformers, and address little problems before they mushroom into bigger hazards.

Fear in a leader cause either panic or paralysis. In either case, when leaders yield to the emotion of fear, they begin to think irrationally. Their judgment becomes impaired, and they are no longer fit to lead. Leaders sidestep the trap of fear by finding the courage to take risks and by summoning the bravery to fight when their backs are against the wall.

Once greed has taken residence in the character of a leader, it spreads like the most invasive of cancers. A greedy leader can never get enough. He or she is never content – always striving to get ahead and take the advantage. Along the way, a leader greedy for gain loses perspective and discards ethical behavior. A greedy leader is a self-centered, myopic leader. Leaders steer clear of the trap of greed when they are generous with their time, resources, and attention.

A degree of ego fuels ambition, but a surplus of ego conflagrates the ugly quality of arrogance. Conceit in a leader serves as a repellant, keeping others distant. Arrogant leaders lose touch with their constituents, cutoff their closest allies, and make decisions out of personal pride rather than reasoned observation. Leaders dodge the trap of pride by serving those around them. Rather than stepping onto a pedestal, humble leaders kneel down so that others can stand on their shoulders.

Read the complete article from the Ivy Business Journal: "Denial, Fear, Greed, and Pride: The Four Horsemen of the Executive Apocalypse," by Josh S. McCallum.



"Never ruin an apology with an excuse." ~ Kimberly Johnson

"An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything." ~ Lynn Johnston

"Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past." ~ Tryon Edwards

"When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm." ~ Dan Heist

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