As the story goes, the super successful, type-A, incredibly driven, commanding CEO said to the VP in front of a room of his peers: “tell me again why I pay you to be here?”
Executive work is immensely challenging and complex. The amount of work is enormous, the pressure beyond description and the threat of losing a high-paying job is continual. It is very difficult to be an effective executive. It is the rare executive who can withstand all the pressure well.
Many executives don’t use their positional power well. When results are below expectation it may seem justifiable to become impatient; communicate with overpowering nonverbals and a demanding tone of voice. When a boss uses the hammer to make people do things, employees often feel bullied. I recently read that “72% of bosses are bullies.”
Extraordinary leaders understand the consequences of using the hammer. They understand what it feels like. Only the worst leaders use it most of the time. Executive’s behaviors make a big imprint on the culture. Executives who always wield their positional power create a feeling of disrespect and a culture of fear. For this reason, hammered cultures struggle to be creative, innovative, productive, and as efficient as empowerment cultures. Employee engagement is minimized when people are intimidated.
Unfortunately, fear-based cultures are easy to maintain because old stories and the threat of the hammer maintain the fear. Many people are already prone to be fearful. Often fear-based cultures coincide with people feeling judged as ‘not good enough’ and insecure. When employees are not fully engaged there will be sub-optimized growth and profitability.
In the “Fourteen Key Principles for Management Effectiveness”, the late W. Edwards Deming. shared his 8th Key Principle – Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
Do you want to be a great leader? Do your people choose to follow you or do they feel forced to follow you? Look around, just because you are out in front of your team does not mean you are leading. If no one is following you, you are not leading, you are just taking a walk.
Effective leaders do not seek to control others so that they can feel powerful. Great leaders’ power comes from influence. They practice using a request instead of a demand. And they know their emotional triggers and have habits that reduce the chance of them becoming triggered. They work at being emotionally intelligent instead of trying to show everyone how intelligent they are.
Executives who have built their career on using the hammer, often see every situation as a nail. In Good to Great, Jim Collins showed that the “personal humility and indomitable will” of the CEO created incredible results. If you want to be a great leader, learn from the bad examples around you and find a great leader you can emulate.
To rapidly develop your leadership ability:
- Learn how to lead without using the blunt force of the hammer. Read about “Level 5 Leadership” from Jim Collins.
- Hire a coach!