Have you ever heard of the Martingale system of betting at a roulette table? It’s a simple concept wherein the player decides to bet on black, red, odd, or even, each having a 50/50 chance of winning and the payout is 1 for 1. How does it work? Say the player’s first bet is $5 on black and they lose. The next bet is doubled, so $10 on black. Another loss and the bet is doubled again; now it’s $20 on black. The player continues to double the bet after each loss until he wins, at which point he gets ALL of the money he lost back, along with a $10 profit. Simple enough, yes? Here’s the problem, a losing streak of say 12 spins of the roulette wheel, requires a bank roll of $20,475 with the 12th bet equaling $10,240, breaking a typical table limit of $10,000. At this point, there’s no way to recover all the money lost. High cost and high risk.
Now think about leaders who draw the line in the sand on a certain position. Something they strongly believe in and wholeheartedly believe will go as they expect. But then it doesn’t. Now what? You guessed it. They double down, putting twice the resources in to going after what they expect to happen. But then once again, it doesn’t. Third time’s a charm right? Put even more resources in to the effort and double down again. The moral of the story in just a few sentences becomes very clear and is closely related to a variation of insanity (e.g. doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result).
We’re poised to ask ourselves “Why do they do it?” When reading about it, it seems like it would be common sense to NOT do such things and it should be simple to see the errors along the way that would make them stop, reconsider their position, and change course as required. But still, they don’t and we’re back to finding out why they do it.
After 30+ combined years in the military, at the White House, in corporate America, and as a small business owner, I believe people behave in such a way based on four key factors:
Fear of being wrong. Fear of being judged. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing money. Fear of letting people down. Fear of change. For the politician, it may also be the fear of not getting reelected. The list goes on and on and on. Fear is paralyzing. The leader continues to push forward only with what they know, which leads to number two, competence.
We all have our competencies, or strengths, and they’re exactly what we put our arms around in a bear hug like fashion when making leadership decisions. The double-down leader cannot let go of this warm and fuzzy comfort zone because it feels good. It feels right! Might that just be a sign of pride?
The definition of pride itself tees it up nicely… a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements. The double-down leader is just a tad bit narcissistic (most likely more than a tad bit), wears a chip on their shoulder, has a hard time seeing or believing alternative solutions or points of view, and cannot get out of their own way. Through this level pride, they’ve built an equally high level of self-confidence in their leadership abilities. Negative criticism be damned!
There’s nothing wrong with having confidence. It’s incredibly important in the right context, such as combining self-confidence with confidence in others, or trusting in your team to deliver. It goes astray when it’s born from the double-down leader’s own qualities and they leave out others, especially those with differing points of view.
Having an understanding of “why” someone would behave in the double-down fashion is necessary in determining “how” to approach and help them.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll breakdown the tactics of “how” to get it done:
· How to use control to take control over fear
· How to use the strengths of others to overcome one’s own weaknesses
· How to demonstrate trust and confidence in others
· How to share all of the above with the double-down leader
I encourage feedback and engagement from my audience. I can’t do better without it. I believe in continual learning and helping others grow and find the value in their own leadership abilities. For consulting, coaching, or corporate training, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please feel free to check out our podcast at www.theboandlukeshow.com where we are on a mission to help others Be, Know, and DO better!
This article was originally published on Medium.com
Photo by Naim Benjelloun