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Should you be a dictator?

Jul

6

2010

Should you be a dictator?

Few leadership articles have stirred a response like the one titled Your Company Is not a Democracy by George Cloutier. There was even some question about whether it was serious – or if it was a parody of old-school “command and control” leadership styles. However, it’s a bona fide opinion article, and most of the comments made us cringe.

Here’s Mr. Cloutier’s advice, and Humanergy’s take.

Be a dictator. Give direction, but not about everything. Dictate the mission, values – the critical few things that will keep your organization focused and successful. Don’t waffle on those.

Tell your employees: “Don’t think – obey.” If your employees aren’t thinking, they should stay home. You need all intellects, skillsets and experiences actively engaged on your organization’s problems and opportunities.

Forget your likeability score. Earn respect through true leadership and likeability will probably come. True leaders don’t walk around with the goal of being warm and fuzzy, but they do treat people with genuine respect and kindness. They know that engaged workers who see themselves as an integral part of the organization produce better results. Therefore, good leaders communicate often, get input from their people and earn trust and respect at the same time.

Be a feared general. Don’t use fear as a tool. Using fear as a leadership tool is a sign of the leader’s own insecurities. Anyone holding the reins that tight is doing so out of fear – fear of losing control, new ideas or not being the smartest person in the room. You cannot command respect through fear. What you will create is an environment that encourages in-fighting, short-term gains and employees doing anything possible to look good.

Fear is the best motivator. Praise is a far better motivator. Our blog post on praising employees quoted research on the connection between praise and performance. Employees who receive regular praise have higher productivity and lower turnover, and they make fewer mistakes. Fear, on the other hand, may produce some short-term compliance to avoid reprisals. But because fear increases physical and emotional stress, employees are less productive over time. They’re also profoundly unfulfilled, which in turn causes your employees to dust off their resumes and find a less toxic environment.

Penalize poor or negligent performance. Spend more time feeding good performance than pointing out what’s not going well. Indeed, poor performance must be addressed as soon as it is noted. However, if you as a leader spend most of your time doling out penalties for poor performance, you are taking time from your most high value work. You should spend the vast majority of your time figuring out what is working and building on that success.

Fire incompetent employees. Surround yourself with only the best people. There should be no room in your company for people who operate contrary to the values, ethics or best practices that you’ve established. Hire and groom people who’s goals align with the organization’s and with passion to continually learn. Do that well, and you won’t need to fire many people.

Enforce, enforce, enforce. Adapt, adapt, adapt. Plans are made to be adapted to an ever-changing business environment. Rather than insisting that people follow your plans exactly, encourage adaptation within key parameters. The goals and best practices won’t change, but you’ll be nimble and responsive in how you get there.

Being a dictator requires a leader to possess all the wisdom, creativity, experience and judgment necessary for success in an ever-changing world. No one can do that. Unfortunately, some people still operate in the mindset that they can do it all, that they have all the answers. Scary. As Emile Chartier said, “There is nothing more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!

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