Leadership By Not Getting
In The Way
When I was promoted into middle management, I was assigned to a group that handled Federal Regulatory work. We had to deal with executives in our corporate headquarters. There were the typical meetings, phone calls, analysis, drafts and re-drafts.
One of the people I supported, Mike, became very proficient, knowledgeable and distinguished himself as source of excellent analysis.
Mike and I had many interactions with one Vice President, Alex, at headquarters. We developed a good working relationship with Alex. There was good chemistry and we all seemed to work together. All of this was during the days of high bureaucracy and when management levels were saluted with military precision. There was a chain of command that had to be followed.
I vividly recall one day when Mike came into my office with a perplexed look on his face. He told me that he was concerned that Alex was calling him directly with requests for information rather than calling me first.
I asked Mike if Alex was satisfied with his analysis. He said yes. I asked Mike if he needed me to complete the detailed analyses he was conducting. Mike said no. I said, “ Alex doesn’t need to get me involved, just let me know how things are going.”
Politically this was a stupid move. I could have increased my political credentials with Alex, even though I wasn’t adding much value. I detested office politics and the corporate bureaucracy. There was no reason for me to waste time by dutifully following the chain of command.
I’ll never know for sure how this incident influenced my career, but I was promoted a year later.
Fortunately the corporate command and control systems have eased. However, corporate organizations are still political and there is still the temptation to improve your “credentials”. But if you are to improve as a leader, sometimes you just have to get out of the way.
Lessons For Leadership
"A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so they can get on with their jobs." — Robert Townsend
True leaders are not selfish. They share successes and their power.
"E-leaders must create a culture that mirrors the Internet – open, knowledge-based, collaborative, experimental, and boundaryless." From E Leader by Robert Hargrove.
Leaders encourage people to learn and grow. They point them in the right direction and then get out of the way.
Leaders create and sustain a high performance environment and empower people by providing learning opportunities.
“… Bureaucracy is the Dracula of organizational design. No matter how much we fight it, Bureaucracy always comes back to haunt us. So we have to keep putting stakes through its heart.” Jack Welch, CEO GE
"The ultimate test for a leader is not whether he or she makes smart decisions and takes decisive action, but whether he or she teaches others to be leaders and builds an organization that can sustain its success even when he or she is not around." Noel Tichy
To lead people, walk beside them ...
"Why do some companies succeed while others fail? As an organizational psychologist and management consultant for nearly 30 years, the answer I have come up with is that winning companies win because they have good leaders who nurture the development of other leaders at all levels of the organization." Winning Companies Build Leaders At Every Level by Noel M. Tichy
About Ed Konczal
I had the opportunity to work with people up and down the old corporate organizational chart – from dynamic and innovative clerks to bumbling, ineffective VPs and CEOs. I tried to eliminate bureaucracy when and where I could and help executives recognize that people are their greatest assets -- interesting that these are now attributes of the New Economy.
I consider myself fortunate to have met and worked with some great people. Currently, I am co-founder of Vital Relationships (formerly Generation 2000 InSite) Management Consultants (www.g2insite.com). This article is one of many other stories that my partner Jeannette Galvanek and I have written as part of our forthcoming e-book Simple Stories For Leadership Insights.
Contact Ed Konczal by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .