Imagine a new soccer coach who is called in to save a team that is on the verge of relegation. Such a coach will do his/her work with ease if there is no interference from the club management. The management worth their salt will just communicate the vision and let the coach run with what he or she knows best. They will not meddle with game plans and the player selection and other tasks that the coach should be concerned with expect the alignment to the vision of the club. This is because these coaches are (or should be) hired for their track records, skills, and experience and not to be loyalists and sycophants who please the narrow ends of their bosses.
In her 2015 HBR article, The top complaints from employees about their leaders, Lou Solomon relates that “employees called out the kind of management offences that point to a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders, including micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, indecisiveness, and more”.
The survey highlighted the following communication issues that employees believed to prevent effective leadership:
- Not recognising employee achievements (63%)
- Not giving clear directions (57%)
- Not having time to meet with employees (52%)
- Refusing to talk to subordinates (51%)
- Taking credit for others’ ideas (47%)
- Not offering constructive criticism (39%)
- Not knowing employees’ names (34%)
- Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in-person (34%)
- Not asking about people’s lives outside work (23%).
These factors point to the absence of critical ingredients for effective leadership which include self-awareness, communication, learning agility, trust, and vulnerability, among others. Instead of promoting respect for human beings, open and effective communication, promoting a culture of belonging and inclusivity, such leaders are obsessed with gaining power by putting others down, judging and shaming.
The consequences are dire if the board and the CEO are not leading with integrity. The executives who are not rooted in authentic leadership will do what the board and the CEO want. The executive leaders will use aggression and try to exert their “absent power” on senior leaders. If senior leaders are not solid, this poison will reach the lowest level of the organisation and there will be no organisation to lead.
This is just to demonstrate how easy it is for the organisation to become dysfunctional and rot from the head like a fish. The interesting thing is that leaders who lead from hurt and smallness never believe that the organisation will get on its knees. They are like gamblers who believe that their victory is on the horizon until they are faced with a zero-bank balance and no family around.
If leaders remain recalcitrant and do nothing about the elements raised by Lou Solomon in her survey, they are bound to:
- Lead by monologue: They are bound to try to be the smartest person in the room because they believe that there is no perspective better than theirs. These leaders should not convince themselves that silence means consent. It simply means that people are tired to give their views because the leader does not listen, he or she thinks they are a knower and that there is no better perspective than theirs. Andy Stanley was right when he said that “leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”.
- Lose top performers: Employees who have the competence and are not enticed by politics will not stand for micromanaging, bullying, narcissism, and indecisiveness to be thrown in their face every day of their lives. These types of employees know their self-worth and they are concerned about making a difference in their jobs than to be absorbed into siloed environments marked by politics and fear.
- Be left with non-performers: The environment with elements highlighted by the survey does not usually promote a high-performance culture. In this type of environment, leaders will be left with employees who have actually long resigned but who are active paycheck collectors because they have no-where to go.
Respect the leaders you bring on board and allow them space to do what you hired them for. Rekindle your values and respect the ethos of your organisation if you were to leave the organisation better than you found it.
Tex Hlalele is a Life & Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author. Book Tex for coaching and speaking engagements to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror.