REALITY #2: Leaders know when to be the adult in the room.

Regardless of age, level of experience, or position, there are times when adults regress into pure childishness. When they do, they can quickly become petulant, grumpy, nasty, irritating, uncooperative, and well, downright troublesome. Dealing with them can be at best difficult, and in some cases, it becomes nearly impossible. If left unchecked, their ability to constructively serve the organization is reduced, and their potential to unproductively disrupt the organization is increased.

Effective leaders know that ignoring childish, or any other unproductive behaviors for that matter, in the hope that they will just go away on their own is generally a poor option. They know that responding in kind, regardless of the provocations, is also not an effective route to take. Contrary to what their personal angst or frustration could easily drive them to do, they avoid immature retorts and reactions. Experience has taught them that engaging at a juvenile level only exacerbates such behaviors in others, gives rise to potential conflict, and further encourage such behavior. Instead, they step up as the adult in the room.

It is essential that an organizational leader address unproductive and problematic behavior, such as childishness, as directly yet nonconfrontationally as possible. To do so serves notice that such behavior will not be ignored or tacitly tolerated. Dealing with childish behaviors proactively also reduces the possibility that immaturity will become part of the organization’s working ethos or operational character.