Leadership – don’t believe the liars

hubrisThe moment you are a senior executive, ‘liars’ surround you. Many of the people report you are ‘lying’ to one degree or another or another-whether unconsciously (as a transferential reaction) or consciously (for political reasons). In hierarchical situations, people have a tendency to tell those above them what they think the superiors want to hear. People who don’t acknowledge this are fooling themselves. Eventually, because candour flees authority, senior executives who aren’t careful will find themselves surrounded by sycophants. And in senior positions of organisations, hubris can become a contagious disease. Leaders become easily intoxicated by its sirens call.

Intoxication and intimidation will go hand-in-hand. At its core is an unholy alliance between disposition and position. Subordinates become intimidated by the power and symbols of the office, and leaders become the vessel of their projected fantasies. Large, impressive office suites, chauffeur driven cars, private jets, dynamic assistants, and secretaries, who fawn and cater for all, contribute to that awe that surrounds many leaders. Power leads to dependency reactions and even physical illness in others.

Many top executives don’t , however, the extent to which people project their fantasies on them; how much subordinates are inclined to tell them what they want to hear as a way of dealing with their own feelings of insecurity and helplessness; how willing subordinates are to attribute special qualities to others simply because the office they hold.

Even those who recognise these tendencies don’t necessarily do anything to counter them. They start to like it, however their failure to recognise what is happening to them can lead a company astray and destroy it. Guarding against hubris means creating an organisational culture where Frank feedback is encouraged; where leaders are prepared to ask themselves whether their own need for recognition is encouraging dishonesty in the ranks.

(Extract from conference papers – Cambridge Judge Business School (University of Cambridge) –  Author – Professor Manfred F R Kets de Vries)

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Ego – The great leadership disability

Ego - The great leadership disability

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Primark, Dhaka (Bangladesh) disaster and leadership

Rana-Plaza--Bangladesh-building-collapse-jpgAt the time of writing, the tragic events in Dhaka Bangladesh following the collapse of factory buildings, have caused the deaths of 920 people. It is reported that bodies continue to be found and that the final death toll may be significantly higher. These are events of a monumental scale.

Clothing retailers such as Primark and many companies who use these factories as part of their supply chain have been severely criticised about their involvement in perpetuating the appalling standards of working conditions by taking advantage of the cheap production facilities. We have seen demonstrations outside their flagship stores and claims are being  made that if proper measures had been put in place by Primark, the disaster could have been avoided.

The knee-jerk reaction to apportion blame is a compelling one, however, we need to be very careful in apportioning total blame to them in this situation.

Primark have  already taken the lead out of all the Western clothing manufacturers to recognise that their activities may have contributed and have committed substantial assistance. Immediately after the disaster, they partnered with a local NGO to address the immediate needs of victims including the provision of food aid to families. They are also committing to pay compensation to the victims of the disaster and have made open-ended commitments to continue to do so. They seem to be leading the way in accepting their liability and as such should be commended in doing so, unlike other companies who are in the same situation.

However, this does not get away from the facts. Primark were using cheap labour, working in appalling conditions. It should not be a surprise that the building should also be an appalling state of repair. They have a liability, but their leadership have recognised and acted on this.

What is more important is that we reflect on the main cause of this disaster – ourselves.

The constant demand for cheap fashion items seems to be insatiable. However, we seem to be able to turn a blind eye to how their produced, as long as they’re cheap. On a global basis, there are very few people at the moment the who can honestly say that they don’t own the garment made in the sweatshops. And worse, we all know the conditions under which they are produced.  This also includes the demonstrators outside Primark offices, which is quite ironic.

We are all to blame!

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Leadership dysfunction and your organisation

dysfunctional leadershipBy Mike Myers published in Forbes……very good article        full article

Have you ever wondered why organizations tolerate dysfunctional leaders?  The answer is dysfunction is so prevalent it’s often not even recognized as problematic. Many corporations just desire leaders to go along and get along more than they desire them to lead. It saddens me to articulate this next thought – corporate leadership is rapidly becoming an oxymoron.

Think of those you know in a position of leadership, and if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find they are likely not a leader, but a risk manager. When leaders become conformists who desire to control instead of surrender, they not only fail to inspire and challenge, they fail to lead. Leadership has become synonymous with babysitting in many organizations, which does nothing more than signal a lack of trust in the workforce. I can think of no time in modern history where employees feel less valued and trusted. Remember, a leaders job is not to place people in a box, but to free them from boxes………………More

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KPI’s and targets-be careful what you wish for!

KPI I have a dreamYet again in the news today we have examples of KPI’s and targets driving perverse behaviour.

A special police unit in London has been accused of persuading women to withdraw charges of rape. The motivation for this was alleged to be to improve performance in relation to a KPI target that they had been set, for crime clear up ratios. The KPI’s and targets here were directly driving this behaviour.

While this sort of  behaviour is totally unacceptable, it is completely understandable and is a prime example of a complete misunderstanding of KPI’s and targeting by those who set up these management processes.

Another example is the recent horsemeat contamination scandel. Again KPI driven by the big retail chains with KPIs designed to target the rachetting down of cost to the point where some suppliers were only able to complete an retain business by cheating.

A key performance indicator is exactly that, an indicator. Targeting KPI improvements will drive and change behaviour, but if the KPI is not selected very carefully, it will not achieve the performance improvements that it is engineered to achieve.

There are some fundamental principles to be borne in mind when deciding upon KPIs

1. Does the KPI measure actually measure what it is thought to measure. i.e. is there a direct linkage to performance. If so, how robust is the correlation. In the police scenario above. the KPI showed improvement, but actual outcome performance showed deterioration.

2. What possible negative behaviour could be generated as a result of trying to improve the KPI.

3. What steps can be taken to eliminate the prospect of negative behaviour, on the basis that it must be assumed that if negative behaviour is possible, it will happen.

What we need to realise is that KPI’s are only  indicative of performance outcomes, they are not the outcomes themselves. Perhaps we should start differentiating between KPIs and KPOs (Key performance outcomes), then perhaps we may get a better grip on reality and start targeting the outcomes and not the indicators which are in themselves are often quite false measures.

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Blaming Somebody – The Tale of Four

blameThe Tale of Four 
This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody‘s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

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Whats for dinner?

ImageIn the UK, the scandal of contaminated horse meat being fraudulently introduced into beef burgers seems to grow by the day. Right now, extensive testing of processed meat products is being carried out on a full range of other processed meat products. Europe is currently braced for further very bad news next week!

However, this is not just isolated to Europe. There is now some certainty that food fraud is occurring on a global basis and what we are being sold to consume is not necessarily what we think.

Following the banking scandals, and other almost daily exposures in other sectors, business culture maybe heading towards a situation which is totally out of control, unless somebody gets a grip.

Now that a great deal of the truth is out in the open, the blame game appears to be starting. Organised crime in Eastern Europe is being cited as one of the main reasons, but this may be just a distraction. This week, further raids on meat processing plants here in the UK have revealed alleged purposeful contamination of meat products. The evidence, once it is known, may reveal food contamination as a mainstream practice within the global food supply industry. So who is accountable?

The answer to this question is complex, and no doubt will come out during what will be a prolonged enquiry. However, what is certain is that the leadership of regulators, major retail organisations, suppliers, and weak practices in supply chain management will be called into question. Also, potential criminal proceedings may result across the whole supply chain and third parties.

The public is now calling into question the degree of trust that they can have in large retail outlets and  whether these often soulless organisations can ever be truly ethical in the way which they conduct their affairs.

It may be that the days of the small independent retailer as trusted and preferred option are back!

Do you really know what you had for dinner last night?

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