The pitfall of imposed leadership

I was chosen by Heaven.
Say my name when you pray.
To the sky! See Carolus rise.

(...)

No man alive or dead commands me, I answer to the Lord!
Hear my orders, question me and die.
What I say was set in Heaven, and so it shall be done!

Sabaton "Carolus Rex"

Anointed by the gods

We have a huge problem with leadership in enterprises. The bigger company is, the more severe problem appears. Quite ironically, it's a problem we barely notice - partially because we've get used to the status quo, but more importantly - because in majority of cases leadership is the fact imposed, not a subject of healthy open market-like (supply VS demand, quality wins) rules (this is what traditional, pyramid-alike hierarchical management is about).

Sounds familiar? Just try to give it a bit of consideration & answer these questions:

Team VS Leader
  1. How did your leader become a leader - was it due to proven leadership skills?
  2. If team is not satisfied with a leader, can they eventually swap him?
  3. If team member is not satisfied with a leader, can (s)he change teams?

And it works the same the other way around as well:

Leader VS Team
  1. Who has matched you as a leader & your team(s) - did you participate in forming the team or have you been assigned to it? Would you pick those people to your team, if it was up to you to choose?
  2. If (as a leader) you don't get along well with team member(s) (different goals, expectations, ambitions & visions), can you swap her/him out?
  3. Does you organization give you (or at least, doesn't maim ...) the proper leadership tools necessary to motivate / recognize / develop people in your team(s)?

I believe by now it should be clear what all of this is going:

  • if leader doesn't emerge naturally within a team, but is set due to her/his past achievements (usually in a different field), ...
  • if there's no actual, honest feedback mechanism between leader & team that would work BOTH WAYS, ...
  • if leader & team(s) are just stuck with each other, in a stasis: without any hope for appropriate alignment (shared goals, methods, cooperation rules), ...

... these puzzle pieces were not meant to fit

Let's face the facts:

Random person is paired with bunch of random people. With a very limited chance to gain trust (both ways!) & align properly - due to people playing safe & preferring ass-covering over transparency. The more traditional management model, the worse as the leader tends to become a single point of contact with higher level management & even key stakeholders - it actually makes him pretty much immovable for subordinates and seals her/his position in the pecking order: for the sake of external communication, (s)he can shape any kind of message that fits her/him. And team may not event suspect that.

Leader himself may end up just as screwed or even more - if his actual power (within the organization) is limited, (s)he may have only a virtual impact on team. Stubborn (& mutinous) team may wreck any efforts (check this post) in such a way that you won't be able to find anyone guilty without a thorough investigation. Sometimes it's not even a single bit of a bad will on the team's side: leader lacks charisma, experience & fails to inspire / credentialize her/himself in his role. It would be completely unreasonable to expect team to follow a person they lack belief in.

Fortunately (?), the whole thing is mainly on people - and it means that if reasonable & pragmatic people may be able to work out a healthy foundation for mutually beneficial cooperation. People who are patient, willing to listen (not just hear) & sometimes sacrifice (or at least adjust) their ambitions to fit the interest of whole group altogether.

Pic: © shockfactor.de - Fotolia.com