What I am writing here is based on my own experience and what I observed and learned. It is my point of view and it makes sense to me. It has worked for me and is still working for me. It remains being your responsibility to do your own critical thinking, don’t just believe.

And that is exactly my intention: making you think for yourself.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Silly Little Detail: Can You Rely Upon Your Leaders?

You lead an organization / a company. Depending on the size of your entity you have some leaders running the different areas / departments. The larger an organization becomes, the more of these leaders you need. There are only so many people you can lead directly. Hence, you and the success of your organization depends directly on relying upon your other leaders. And that has proven time and again to be a real problem in large organizations.
Here’s a case in history to illustrate the point:
You have certainly heard about Napoleon Bonaparte. And ‘Waterloo’ will ring a bell. It has become a synonym for strategic blunder. Even though Napoleon’s field commanders, mainly Grouchy and Ney. knew the strategy, they still failed to fully comprehend it. Both were amongst the bravest, yet, not the smartest leaders.
Marshall Grouchy was following the Prussians with one third of the entire French army. He failed to hinder the Prussians joining the allied forces of Wellington at the battlefield. Instead of keeping them separate of Wellington’s army, he pushed them towards Wellington’s army.
And Marshall Ney misinterpreted a tactical retreat of Wellington’s army. He mounted a very brave attack with the entire French cavalry charging and without any infantry support. Very brave and very stupid ignoring the basics of strategy and tactics. And against the orders given by Napoleon before.
The result was a complete and utter defeat of the French at Waterloo. Napoleon himself had overlooked a silly detail: “Making the bravest your field commanders instead of the smartest always results in blunder.” His words and something he had known well to be true.
Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. Organizations / companies, successful at a time, are suddenly run into disaster by their leaders. An organization is only as strong as its leadership. And leadership is only as strong as its weakest part. Common sense and as such very well known, often ignored. And one big issue is seldom talked about:
  • Did these leaders understand and do what had been agreed upon?
  • Did they always have the overall objective in mind?
  • Did they stick to the strategy?
  • Were they capable of adjusting their tactics / actions to what the particular situation required?
  • Could they be relied upon 100 percent?
  • Could they put their egos aside?
  • Were they smart enough or just brave?
  • Did they have character?
There is a reason why turnarounds are needed so often. And the reason is always leaders. Leaders leading their organizations straight into blunder. And then the cry for a turnaround arises. The shareholders fear for their money. And they bring in new leaders. Leaders who might have certain merits but not necessarily expertise on turnarounds. Thus, the next mistake is made. You can’t perform turnarounds with the same type of leaders that has caused the problem in the first place. Turnarounds are indeed a different beast. Leaders unable to make the tough calls required not even in good times won’t make the much tougher calls in a turnaround.
Have a thorough look into your organization:
  • What kind of leaders do you have?
  • Are they first and foremost reliable?
  • Can they do what’s required and not just their best?
  • Are they willing to put themselves to the line?
  • Do they have character?
  • Do they have what it takes to be a leader?
Also, check the use of the language of your leaders.
  • How do they talk?
  • How do they write?
  • Are they crystal clear and concise in expressing themselves not leaving any space for doubt?
  • Or do they prefer using euphemisms and buzzwords designed to impress people?
And by the way: start with an honest assessment of yourself.