I’ve been intrigued over the last couple of months how leaders can be so vulnerable to those around them in terms of their leadership or executive team. Vulnerable?
I’ve personally seen or heard of at least three leaders who have made poor decisions or come close to doing so because of their senior management team around them.
Well, we all know that the team is the sum of its parts, that it’s about teamwork and synergy if the company is to move forward. We know that the leader can’t do everything and has to delegate roles and responsibilities.
We also know that the “fish rots from the head” as the saying goes. Now it is certainly not the case in the instances that I know of where the CEO or GM or MD is “rotten” in any way. Quite the opposite in fact. They are all, in my opinion, fine leaders with integrity and sound values.
But for certain members of their executive or senior team it is a different matter. These execs sift, distill, fabricate and filter the information that is passed through to the leader at the top. Hence, the leader at the top could well be compromised or indeed, be accused of making poor decisions. Now, it is not being suggested that the execs are blatantly lying or purposely being deceitful, but they are certainly skewing information, and withholding certain pieces of information and perhaps setting up specific scenarios.
It’s not always obvious. It might be subtle and covert, but it is often there.
Of course, the leader needs to be able to trust his or her lieutenants, but to do so blindly is perhaps naive or ignorant at best. How does the leader then, keep in touch and ensure that the information being passed to them is “pure” and unadulterated?
It’s a difficult one, but it is suggested here that it’s the leader’s job to ensure that they are in touch with all levels of the operation. Yes, I know that they don’t have time, that they have a million other things to do, that they are not necessarily operational and need to be strategic.
I’m reminded though of the MD of a large manufacturing operation who made it his business to weekly come out of his office and walk the factory floor. He’d not only get to know his employees who were absolutely delighted that the big 2 boss saw their work and took an interest in them, but more particularly, he was gaining information about how the company was travelling from the shop floor. He’d often ask two simple questions, “How are you going?” and “Do you need anything to do your job better?” He always said he was amazed at the conversations that followed and he gained more information than any of the organisational surveys could tell him.
So, let me ask the obvious question: How do you really keep in touch with what’s happening within your organisation?