Why Precious Leaders Fail

Gollum - The Hobbit

Gollum, in The Hobbit, referred to himself as “My Precious.”

Preciousness turns leaders into self-consumed beasts.

The only one:

Direct reports don’t understand the pressures squeezing you. The board doesn’t appreciate tensions between short-term profits and long-term success. Your boss doesn’t realize your plate was full last year! Employees reject the big picture.

No one understands precious leaders. They’re “unique.” But, thinking, “I’m the only one,” is deadly.

Dangers of preciousness:

Precious leaders have precious problems. Simple solutions won’t work. Small steps aren’t sufficient. Nothing helps because no one understands.

Precious leaders create their own prisons.

Precious leaders grow discouraged and isolated, then defeated. Eventually, they run.

You’re frustrated and stuck because you’re precious. You can’t take actions that work for “average” people.

Overcoming preciousness:

Humble yourself and join the rest of us. Preciousness is arrogance in disguise. You aren’t unique. Under the surface we’re the same. Everyone wants:

  1. Meaning.
  2. Affirmation.
  3. Approval.
  4. Support.
  5. Encouragement.
  6. Challenge.
  7. Opportunity.

Everyone wants to feel understood. But, precious leaders can’t feel understood because they’re too precious – too special.

Commiserate with trusted colleagues. The world is full of people who face challenges like yours. The power of pain weakens when it’s named in front of another.

A little progress goes a long way. Take an imperfect step toward your preferred future. There are no precious solutions.

Stop looking to others for choices you should make. Precious leaders wait to be understood and are discouraged when they aren’t. Draw some lines. Create boundaries.

Find a coach, mentor, or adviser. Precious leaders, above all others, need outside eyes.

The sooner you realize you’re not precious, the sooner drama ends and progress becomes possible.


Precious leaders read these suggestions and reject them. Simple suggestions aren’t precious enough. Preciousness prevents you from beginning again.

(Several people told me the ring, not Gollum,  was “My Precious.” I thought it was both. I stand corrected. – added on 10/8/13)

How has the problem of preciousness expressed itself in your organization?

How can leaders address the problem of preciousness?