"The only way that you will succeed on my team is if you are married to the job!"
"The reason that I am not in any family vacation pictures is because I'm on the phone. If I'm in the picture, I have a blackberry stuck to my ear."
Yeesh. What a jerk!
The quotes speak volumes about this individual's leadership style, priorities and character. A "my way or the highway" approach, coupled with an "I will succeed on the backs of your labor and you will help me succeed or else," philosophy. It also speaks volumes about the culture in the organization that tolerates this leader's style.
While I live in the perhaps naive hope that this type of leadership will be stomped out in our lifetimes, some environments not only tolerate this approach, they foster it. From listening to the description of how things run in this organization, it sounds a lot like that commercial that starts with the big boss looking at an underling and barking, "How did you let this happen." The underling barks the same thing at one of her underlings, and so on, until the issue comes to rest with the poor sap running the mail-room. A "no accountability, CYA, highly politicized environment where the ends justifies the means and fear rules the day. Again, yeesh!
With no intent of letting the blackberry-addicted, picture-phobic, priority-challenged leader noted above off the hook, this type of behavior exists because senior leadership either tolerates or encourages it. I find this style to be commonplace in organizations with weak cultures, where driving short-term results at all costs (operative phrase) is viewed as the best way to reach the future.
Leading through fear and intimidation is certainly a well-documented style in the history books and one of the potential tools of leadership. The history books will even support that this approach works and drives results with groups and entire civilizations for a period of time. But, at what cost?
The Impact of Leading through Fear and Intimidation:
- An environment where innovation and free-thinking are nowhere to be found.
- A workforce that is demoralized.
- Shared-values are non-existent.
- Success and career development are gained on the backs of others.
- Decisions are arbitrary.
- Long-range vision and strategy are sacrificed in favor of short-term results at all costs.
- Loyalty is rewarded excessively, spurring highly political behavior.
- Survival, not creating value becomes the goal.
- Innovation through risk-taking is non-existent because mistakes are not tolerated.
- Talented people tend to move away from these types of organizations at the first opportunity.
- Since talent development is non-existent and turnover high, the organization gets stuck in an endless loop of hiring and replacing, along with all of the inherent costs and impacts of that activity.
And I could keep going...
The long bottom-line:
The manager described above has likely adopted his style based on his perception that it is the best way to ensure his survival. While he is accountable and responsible for his approach, it is the leaders above him and the culture and behaviors that they perpetuate that I find fault with.
I love competing against these types of firms. Their tactics show the market and customers that they are morally bankrupt. Not all customers care, but many do, and that is enough to build a business on by differentiation. I also love recruiting talent from these organizations, as the best and brightest are anxious and grateful for the opportunity to make a commitment to a leader and organization with strong values and a positive character.
If you work for this leader, recognize that there is no security. Listen and learn, and file the learnings under "approaches I will never use when it's my turn." If you are this type of a leader, I hope that you fire yourself, but you're probably not emotionally intelligent enough to recognize the errors of your ways. If your leadership perpetuates this behavior, well, I am an eternal optimist on the ability of the universe to eventually even things up. Meanwhile, I'm on a talent search and I know where I'm going to look first.