People with allergies can have severe reactions to small amounts of an allergen. My dog immediately heads for the closet when she hears a boom (whether from a neighbor’s trash can being moved or from fireworks). Corporations tie themselves in knots trying to accommodate every puff of the political winds.

These are examples of hypersensitivity. A small stimulus provokes an out-sized response. Hypersensitivity is bad for leadership. It can make for poor decisions and rash actions.

When I was learning to sail, my instructor pointed out that the wake behind the boat was in a snake pattern. It meant that I was over-steering and not keeping to a fixed point. Over-steering wastes energy and makes for slow sailing.

Are there things that you are overly sensitive to? Are there times when your reaction is not a great match for the situation at hand?

Leaders can be overly sensitive to  all sorts of things, like:

  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Criticism
  • Perceived lack of speed by others
  • Feeling rushed
  • People who cannot get to the point
  • Not having hands-on control
  • Need for acknowledgement
  • Need to please others
  • Things being too quiet
  • Needing to be the smartest person in the room

Every leader can have triggers that that can provoke an unhelpful response. What are yours? The more that leaders have a handle on their triggers, the smoother the sailing will be—for them and the crew.