Daily Archives: April 9, 2015

Organizational Damnation 61: Leadership

In an average organization, leadership is both a blessing and a curse. While good leadership can be the saving grace for an organization on the verge of collapse, bad leadership can quickly take an organization at the top of its market into obscurity in just a few years. (Remember what happened to Apple during Steve Jobs’ absence?)

Plus, even the best leadership can be a curse if the leadership is more insightful than the rest of the organization and tries to steer the organization on a course that the organization is not yet ready for (and won’t be until it gets the proper education to understand where it needs to go, the training to get there, and the systems and processes to support it). If the leadership decides that the organization needs to change its modus operandi in a mere six months, but the best estimates are that it will take eighteen months to get the organization there in a controlled and orderly fashion (that will decrease organizational chaos instead of increasing it), it’s not hard to see that there is at least one disaster waiting to happen.

But this isn’t the biggest problem. A leader that is insightful enough to realize that the organization needs to do a 180 can often be convinced of the necessary means and with the right education will often reach a realistic compromise. The biggest problem is a leader who is stuck two decades in the past, refuses to change his ways, and is intent on bringing the entire organization down with him if that’s what it takes to keep doing things the same way he’s done it for the last twenty years until he hits retirement in five years.

Such a curmudgeon will not only block every advancement effort you try to put forward, but will deny his team any training that relates to new systems or processes, instruct them to keep doing things the old way regardless of what Supply Management adopts as a new standard, and even publicly disparage Supply Management’s efforts (and might even go so far as to threaten dismissal of anyone who sides with Supply Management).

In addition, such a curmudgeon, who will rule his fiefdom with an iron fist, will do anything to make sure the size of his domain does not decrease (so forget about any efficiency improvements that could eliminate the need for tactical personnel who are the most expendable, least able to find a new job quickly, and desperate to hold onto their jobs at any cost, even if it includes serving as the court jester). He will badmouth your organization and its efforts. Stab your leadership in the back. And generally do his best to make your life a living hell should you threaten his current way of life in any way or attempt to do anything that would increase the effort he needs to apply to his job.

And if the CEO, CFO, or C-Suite at large feels he is essential to the organization, there isn’t a thing you can do about it, until such time as you manage to convince them that the cost savings or value that will be generated from your plan will significantly exceed the cost of the effort required and may even be the difference between success or financial ruin. A task that will require considerable effort with the curmudgeon blocking your way at every turn and a task that might not succeed until the CEO realizes that the only way to quell the uprising is to take a lesson from the monarchs of old and deal with problematic fiefdoms in a terminal fashion — off with their heads! (Figuratively speaking, of course.)