When the Leader Escapes


When the Leader Escapes

It is a sad thing to witness, and at VIM Executive Coaching we have seen our share of it. For the sake of this post, we will call it “Escape.”

By escape, we aren’t referring to it in a completely literal set of terms though it has happened. Who hasn’t had, at one time or another, the urge to get up from a boring meeting, get into their car and drive off into the sunset? We are afraid that kind of behavior is really the stuff of a Hollywood movie. It rarely happens.

Far more insidious
The far more insidious forms of executive or entrepreneurial escape often lead to personal or even organizational failure. I use those words with intention. Escape mechanisms can include alcohol, drugs, “sex,” gambling, internet usage and even seemingly innocent pursuits such as excessive physical fitness.

Alcohol is not an innocent carry-over from the days of the “Madmen.” Drinking to excess while on the job, at company functions, or even after hours always ends up with varying degrees of negative results.

Drug usage, from “relatively harmless” marijuana to opioid addiction is an extremely serious escape.

“Sex” in the way we are talking about it here can include any behaviors from office affairs to sexual harassment to online behaviors.

Gambling is another serious escape mechanism, ranging from online gambling to fantasy sports. Internet usage from time consuming and innocent to pornography is an extreme form of escapism, while even excessive physical fitness in the form, for example, of two-hour workouts during the day, every day, plus leaving early for more workouts, have been known to happen with greater frequency than we might imagine.

Yes, we can hear the “but, but, but” of it all, and we have heard all of the protests and counter-arguments. For example, “How can one drink with dinner be classified as ‘escape?’” We can all agree, that is not what we’re talking about here. Generally speaking, we know who the heavy drinkers are in our corporate midst’s, and their reputations and health invariably suffer.

The point is that whether the executive dives into a bottle or believes that his or her constant boorish sexual innuendos (or worse) are funny or the executive who gambles away each paycheck on an on-line poker site are escaping the stressful aspects of their lives.

Not psychology, but authenticity
VIM Executive Coaching is not intended to be a psychology clinic, and even stating it in that fashion is not an attempt at humor. There is nothing funny about an executive, young or old, who drinks to excess after every work day. We strive, instead, to guide entrepreneurs and executives into being more mindful and more authentic.

We cannot coach an executive out of an opioid addiction, that would be irresponsible, but we can explore with an executive who is overwhelmed with workplace stress how to become more relaxed, more authentic.

Nor are we marriage counselors. However, from an executive leadership point of view, we can point out the dangers to any executive who says “he or she is attracted” to another executive.

Improper behaviors in the workplace that take place in order to escape unhappiness or boredom will ultimately scar the executive leader, his or her reputation, and the organization. Being mindful of the problems is the first step to being a more effective and authentic person.

I well remember an executive who was an amazing runner. He ran before he came to work, trained nearly two hours at lunchtime and worked out after he got home. He was literally running away from his family. While we could not advise him in terms of his marriage, we did try to help him meditate and to be gentler on himself.

There are no guarantees in life, but it is likely that trying to escape problems will only lead the executive to more problems. Authenticity is the opposite of escape. The authentic leader is here, in the present moment. It is far better than the self-deception of harmful behaviors.

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