Guest Post: 5 Dimwitted Leadership Strategies

Last Updated Jan 18, 2011 2:10 PM EST

I rarely post material from other writers, but in this case I'm going to make an exception. Success coach Dawna Maclean published the following riff on Sales Machine posts which she's kindly allowed me to repost. I think it's definitely worth reading:
Today's post was inspired by The 8 Stupidest Management Fads of All Time and The 5 Dumbest Management Concepts of All Time by Geoffrey James. I would respectfully disagree with some on his lists but I did enjoy his provocative perspectives.

Geoffrey's articles got me thinking about the most dim-witted leadership strategies that continue to linger in today's business community. The good news is that there is growing momentum in our appreciation for transparency and we are finally starting to embrace the power of mass collaboration.

Let's agree to abolish these 5 useless and more often dooming leadership strategies:

  • #1 Command and Control. Command and control leaders might as well put a blindfold on along with some earplugs. Typically these leaders rationalize their methods emphasizing the negative outcomes of consensus based strategies. Consensus based strategies, while polar in nature, are as dysfunctional. Both strategies are negligent and like most things in life the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. Decision makers are crucial, as are collective buy-in and the voice of the team broadly. We need more leaders that have the confidence to act and the humility to listen.
  • #2 Bottom Line Be All End All. Leaders that put the bottom line above all else will eventually find themselves at the bottom without the line. And assuming they defy the odds and sustain this risky strategy, they will not be maximizing their potential. They are simply gaining more than they are losing. I'm not suggesting the bottom line is not important, it is without question a key performance indicator, but it is no more significant than customer experience or employee experience and arguably less important. A healthy bottom line can be a goal, but it is not a strategy. Once again, it's about balance, we need more leaders with the courage to focus beyond the all mighty dollar.
  • #3 Tradition and Prescription. While tradition might provide comfort, familiarity, and even bind groups of people, it can also inhibit and even sabotage meaningful change. I'm not suggesting all traditions be tossed, but they do need to be examined mindfully and they should never be maintained blindly. Similarly prescriptive leadership may provide consistency and reduce complexity but the reality is we do not live in a one size fits all world. It stifles creativity and fosters inflexibility. The effort required to develop a universal solution is enormous and commonly fraught with compromise on behalf of the customer. That said, highly regulated industries often require a more prescriptive approach, such as Health Care. The key is to examine all practices through the lens of your customer; it is possible to both meet regulatory demands and remain creative. Bottom line, we need more creative leaders that embrace and celebrate change.
  • #4 The Black Hole. Every company has a black hole, that is where all the wasted money, energy and talents fall when the are misused, misunderstood or worse unnoticed. I would bet that we could feed an entire continent, if not the world, if we could monetize this waste collectively. Every company needs a 'waste master', chances are they would be your most profitable investment. Leaders are often aware of some waste and blind to even more, we need leaders that have the courage and foresight to eliminate waste and in so doing maximize their potentiality.
  • #5 The Lone Ranger. This is the "I need to do it myself if it is going to get done right" leader. News flash, you are NOT a leader if you are doing everything and deciding everything. Being a leader is about making others successful and motivating them to act like an owner. A lone ranger may feel like a rock star but nothing could be farther from the truth. This leadership approach will chase away the talent on your team, it clearly does not scale, it is not sustainable, and it puts your business at massive risk. We need leaders that cultivate positive results from others; a smart leader surrounds themselves with those smarter then they are.
READERS: What do you think? As you probably know, I'm not big on using the term "leader", but her identification of these pathological strategies is, I think, quite brilliant.

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