Leadership Termites

For the first six years after we moved into our current residence, my family enjoyed juicy, yellow loquat fruits from the tree that grew with abundance in our backyard.

We would patiently anticipate the tree to come into flower; this was a signal for our taste buds to brace themselves for the tangy-sweet flavored fruit. However, something strange began to happen to the tree.

On the seventh year, some of the branches started to dry off. When the flowers began to blossom, they looked emaciated and unattractive. The fruit that developed that year were tiny, tasteless and fibrous. The following year, the tree was dead!

After a period of heavy rains, it finally keeled over and fell, taking down our cloth-lines along with it. On closer inspection, we realized that it had been hit by the curse of the termites. Termites are small, resilient yet mortally destructive insects.

They had stifled the growth of a living tree by eating the dead bark of the tree when it was alive. In so doing, they had affected normal growth and slowly suffocated the tree to death. The final stroke was to attack the base of the tree trunk from the inside that brought it down with a crush.

As I recollected on the life of the tree, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels on how fragile and vulnerable leadership can become. There are three leadership termites that all leaders need to look out for and urgently remedy.

These termites have sent even the mightiest of leaders crashing into oblivion; mistrust, lack of integrity and disrespect for others.

Termite #1: Mistrust

You think that what you have – mind and body – is the most important since canned Coke. You forget that to lead effectively, your leadership has to have soul to get its groove to work magic.

If you don’t lead from the heart, people will have a hard time trusting your intentions. They will always be second-guessing you, as they don’t feel comfortable enough to entitle you with their trust.

Termite #2: Lack of integrity

Due to our positions, it is very easy to become intoxicated with the power that we wield. We have assets and people at our disposal and the boundary-lines on how to deploy them can become very thin and fuzzy.

We can easily justify our actions by a misconceived notion that it’s a perk that comes with the position. However, it’s even more important to ask yourself the following: As a leader, do I epitomize ‘Do as I say, not as I do’?

Termite #3: Disrespect of people’s inner being

When a leader doesn’t appreciate the living beings that look up to them to be led, then lack of respect checks in. We are all created uniquely different. There is no one-size-fits-it-all strategy to working with people.

The highest level of disrespect of any human being is to box them into a mold you deem fit for them. Instead, a great leader will inspire the awesomeness in every individual knowing that in them lie passion, creativity, and beauty untapped.

Q: Are you walking with your people or working the termites? Have your say by clicking here.

 photo credit: Darmflora von Termiten für Bioenergie via photopin (license)

Certified Professional Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

21 thoughts on “Leadership Termites

  1. Great post Kimunya! I love the way that you ‘married’ the the two to make these points relating to leadership. My experience tells me, once you’ve lost trust in leadership, it’s hard to get it back no matter what ‘therapy/treatment’ one would use. Like termites, it’s hard to eradicate mistrust.

    For me, I always say, integrity is not something one can pick up a book and learn, you are born with it. So it’s either that person have it, or don’t have it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Kimunya

    Another excellent post, drawing on observations in nature and relating them to the growth of leadership! I think the presence of one or all of your three ‘termites’ would be seriously toxic for any team or organisation! Leaders would do well to ensure that they do not creep into their practice as, just like with real termites, they will surely succumb to disaster before long!

    I valued this post so much I am going to Scoop it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. This is some serious stuff, Kimunya. I really like the analogy of termites. What you are talking about can have severe consequences if not attended in time. And this story comes in good time, end of year can help us get the perspective on what we want and how to do it right. Thank you.

    • Iva, these are issues that eat us up slowly and covertly. Only when we keel over do we appreciate the damage caused. Very glad that my story has come at the right time.

  4. Thought provoking and truthful article. Fortifying yourself against the leadership termites calls on us to be open to honest and consistent feedback on yourself.

    And because leadership is a relationship we have to extend trust to gain trust.

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