A Failure to Scale

Organizations may be able to do a successful “sprint” by asking leadership to go after short-term goals, but any organization that expedites operations to reach new levels of performance cannot sustain this based on a foundation of overfunctioning.

Consequences of Overfunctioning

Consequences of Overfunctioning

Jim Collins uses a flywheel analogy in his famous book "Good to Great" to describe how well-run companies produce and sustain high performance. He recounts several examples where companies slowly and carefully build their capacity and capability to compete and win in their marketplace. Collins’s point is that successful company “flywheels” pick up speed gradually, incrementally, not as a result of short bursts of overfunctioning, but rather with sustained, ongoing development of capability and capacity.


We describe resilient leaders as those who “lead from strength, know how to care for themselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and can sustain their leadership efforts over time.” By definition, sustainability is key to long-term success, and the most resilient leaders are those who have learned to pace themselves at just the right speed over the long haul. The effects of a leader’s burnout can be devastating, and unfortunately, most organizations have many stories of the way a leader’s burnout had become a dead weight on the organization.

Poor health

Prolonged overfunctioning creates a sustained stress response, which results in our bodies being overexposed to cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones, which disrupt normal bodily functioning. Accumulating research studies have documented the increased risk of health problems that result, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Resilient Leadership 2.0 ©2017 by Bob Duggan and Bridgette Theurer. All rights reserved.

Tools for Recognizing Overfunctioning:

  • Consider your various relationship systems at work and at home. Consider where and with whom might you be overfunctioning?
  • What is the impact of overfunctioning from you (or other members of your team) on you, the people around you, and on the system as a whole?

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