Even if you've read just a bunch blog posts of mine, you've probably identified my key mantras:

  • about the importance of the trench-level leadership (setting the correct example in real-life situations when your colleagues can observe you directly in action)
  • about the A2E (ability to execute) - assessing, coaching, giving feedback, challenging
  • about the critical role of the org culture (& its daily cultivation)
  • about learning/knowing the individuals' (real) motivations and their alignment
  • about the energy (mgmt) in the environment
  • about the social contract

I firmly believe that all of these topics (& many more) should be in the centre of your interest as an organisational leader. Sadly, that's the theory - many organisations pick a completely different path. The path of de-leadership.

De-leadership

What does it even mean "de-leadership"?

De-leadership happens that people who were supposed to lead do NOT do that, because get busy with something entirely else instead. Usually a worthless substitute - duties that have been (more or less explicitly) invented as something more proper for their "new status" or as a result of layering the control mechanisms within the organisation.

In some cases, it occurs that assumed leaders do not want or simply can't fulfil the leadership duties (because they are afraid, overwhelmed, don't like it or are just not capable) - so they look for anything else just to look busy.

Leadership have their (separate) leadership agenda. That's de-leadership.

What are the typical de-leadership duties?

  1. bureaucracy (all sorts of) - countless approvals, layered committees, procedures, policies, ...
  2. matrix organisations - where a single thing doesn't have a single owner, but every single decision has to be confirmed by several executives with different priorities & ephemeral accountability
  3. proxying - adding steps to every decision process (even if you don't care/have the knowledge necessary), so the responsibility is watered down enough and
    no one feels left out ...

Reality check

Honestly, in a large-enough organisation (100+) one can easily generate himself an infinite amount of work ... which doesn't add any real value but keeps him 100% busy.

What's worse, many lose the contextual awareness and are not able to identify it as a waste - they get used to nonsensical policies, procedures & other "rituals" that do dictate them the rhythm of the day.

"It's the way we do stuff here."

That's how the "we VS them" syndrome is born. The former leader stops being a TRUE leader and remains just a person of high status (respected for fear of being able to cause harm), but completely detached from the actual work. He plays his own game. The one "the little ones" won't comprehend. A game which is important, only because someone important said it's important (aka the infinite loop of madness).

Now the bold point: 95% of these people could have been fired on the spot. What's important - without any negative impact on the organisation (quite the contrary). Obviously, it would have been significantly more beneficial if those people ditched all the invented, meaningless crap-work they do and rolled up their sleeves to lead their teams in the field, but for many it's already too far out of their comfort zone ... Isn't it?

How not to get de-leadered?

Be honest with yourself. Every day, after you're done with your work (you do have a strict borderline between work & private life, don't you?), ask yourself few questions:

  • how did I help my team(s) today?
  • where did I make an actual difference? what wouldn't have happened w/o me?
  • was my involvement/interference an actual leverage? was it really necessary?
  • who (personally) I had a positive impact on? what kind of lessons were taught? did I give any feedback today?
  • imagine that you were not in work today, just a random impostor, dressed up for you - would anyone spot a difference? or would this person do as well as you did?