Stabilizers vs. Destabilizers

We’ve all known both of these types in our lives I’m quite sure, enough to be familiar with some of the signature characteristics of stabilizers vs. destabilizers:


  • Aim to provide a solid foundation
  • Grounding; centering
  • Make people feel confident and sure of themselves
  • Reinforce and repeat the plan
  • Always want to get to the truth


  • Pull the rug out from under your feet
  • Distracting; quixotic
  • Leave people feeling confused and unsure
  • Undermine and confuse the direction
  • Purveyors of disinformation

Stabilizers vs. destabilizers as leaders

I’ve had my share of bosses who are both of these types — and I cannot stand the destabilizers. I have no patience or tolerance for them anymore, as I know now that all the bluster generally hides seething incompetence, insecurity, and lack of domain expertise that can be picked apart to gain ground. It can be difficult to do this politically and tactfully enough to get benefit out of it without alienating others on the team.

Moving too fast is a way of covering over or papering over incompetence, sort of by simply refusing to stand still and be measured or pinned down. They seem always in a rush, always flustered and overwhelmed — there’s never any time to go over any plan or question in any detail.

Destabilizers also like to knock you off your perch with some regularity — to reify themselves and shore up their insecurity in their ill-deserved power, because it’s based only on hot air to begin with and requires a fair amount of puffing up. The Venn diagram with narcissists and destabilizers is, I’m willing to bet, pretty tight.

My ethics: Be a stabilizer

As a leader on my team I strive to be as much of a stabilizer as possible — even at times when my own life was in considerable turmoil and feeling very unstable. The ability to stay calm and impart an attitude of facing the truth and bracing for impact in the face of sometimes buffeting winds has been invaluable to myself and my teams over the years I’ve been in management.

It’s wise to cultivate a certain zeal for uncertainty, in work and in life. No amount of fancy predictive analytics is going to be able to predict unexpected extreme events — we’re never going to squeeze out all the variability of life, of organic systems.

We don’t live in a watchmaker’s universe. We live in a messy, meldy, morally grey sort of universe.

It’s complicated. πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ

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