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When 'Stay the Course' is a Recipe for Disaster

Every great leader has a vision that serves as a sort of compass to guide their actions. Most successful entrepreneurs get rejected a hundred times before anyone even gets a glimpse of what, in their mind, is crystal clear. But the real question is how far do you go with a vision nobody believes in before you should give up?

Lately, I'm beginning to think somebody's teaching American leaders that the answer to that question is never. Maybe it's the business schools. No, that doesn't cover everyone on my list. Well, I guess it could be a sort of leadership personality disorder, like Staythecourseitis, or STCI.

George W. Bush had Staythecourseitis, big-time. When it came to the war in Iraq, he definitely had blinders on. Right or wrong, it caused him to squander all kinds of opportunities to fix lots of other things that were broken around here, like border security, health care, and social security, to name a few.

But this dreaded disorder is definitely not limited to one political party.

Just look at Barack Obama at the G-20 Summit in Toronto. There he is, with his hand puppet Tim Geithner, still pitching stimulus to an entire continent of nations that have spent years gorging on deficit spending until now, having seen the error of their ways, they're all going on a strict austerity diet. I mean, it didn't work over here, so let's sell it over there. That's got to be the thought process of a deeply troubled, if not diseased mind. It's got to be STCI.

Don't even get me started with Al Gore and climate change. The world's warming, it's cooling, doesn't matter. It's a crisis. STCI.

Now Bill Clinton, that guy knew when to give up and change direction. Sure, he had to lose congress for that to happen, but I still give the guy credit. I mean, Bush lost congress and he still couldn't figure it out.

Then there's the corporate world, BP's Tony Hayward, for example. Nice guy, heart in the right place, said all the right things, except when he didn't. And the way he said them, week in and week out, one appearance after another, it sort of got to the point where you'd ignore the whole "we're not going to leave until we get this mess all cleaned up" thing and just wait for him to say something incredibly lame like, "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean ..."

Then, at the congressional hearing, he finally just gave up talking, period. Maybe his STCI got cured, who knows?

You know, even small business owners can get STCI. And you know what? I think it's contagious. Check this out: Along the only highway that connects northern California's largest city (San Jose), to the beautiful coast (Santa Cruz) is a destination called The Summit. The Summit has but one restaurant location that you can't miss.

But even though thousands of hungry people drive by every day, nobody seems to be able to make money at this place. It's changed ownership at least 10 times over the past 15 years or so. And, for some reason, every new owner hangs a ginormous sign outside that reads Mouthwatering Baby Back Ribs. Nobody seems to get that folks don't eat that kind of food around here. They like seafood, organic salad, and wine. That's why it's called California Cuisine. Must be contagious STCI, for sure.

Speaking of food, here are three ways to determine if you've got Staythecourseitis so you can avoid that recipe for disaster:

- The only people that still agree with you are the sugarcoating, yes-men, suck-ups who depend on you for a job.

- You're constantly looking for ever-more-creative ways of measuring the success of your plan or updating the success metrics. Not a good sign.

- You know about the "smell test," right? Well, when it becomes the "red face test," followed by the "laugh test," and finally the "laugh out loud test," that's when you know you're in trouble.

So, any CEOs, executives, or business leaders you suspect of having STCI disorder? If you like this sort of thing, let me know by clicking the "recommend" button and I'll do a follow up post including some of your responses.

Image CC 2.0 via Flickr