My Thoughts by Rick Stephens

Where Have All the Leaders Gone

Posted in Leadership by Rick on the September 16th, 2006

I find it disturbing that in many businesses these days we find an obvious lack of leadership. We can find managers everywhere, but no real leadership. What ever happen to independent thinking and risk taking?

It is easy to be a manager. Managers follow processes and monitor the action of people around them and insure the “Process” is being followed. Leaders on the other hand create independent thinking among their teams. They inspire pride. They stand out from the crowd and command respect. They are entrepreneurial. They are willing to take chances. They are innovative. They are willing to accept responsibility for decisions, right or wrong. They are people whom others will follow. Because of these characteristics, they do great things.

I am seeing a trend in business today that does not encourage leadership, and therefore does not produce leaders. Instead they produce managers. Here is what I am seeing. When a difficult challenge is presented to a manager, he or she will form a committee to discuss the issue before them. The committee is made up of team leaders (managers?) who sit around a conference room and throw out ideas regarding the challenge at hand. The committee may have appointed or been assigned a committee chair who will report back to the manager. When all of the ideas have been discussed, they vote on what to present to the manager.

The manager then takes this suggestion and forms another committee of peer managers and again the ideas are tossed around until a consensus is reached by the committee. The decision is then presented as the solution to the problem.

No one during the process wants to be responsible for the solution. Instead all of the blame for any mistakes can be placed upon the whole team. “Well, we all agreed that was the way to handle this.” So no one gets in trouble. If it turns out to be the best decision since “sliced bread”, then everyone begins posturing to take full credit for having originated the idea. What a hypocritical mess corporate America is making by encouraging this type of decision making.

That is why I really respect the small business owner. There is no committee to reach consensus. If the decision is wrong, the owner, not only bears the burden of being wrong, but pays the price for the error. If the decision is right, he/she goes on to the next decision, no fan fare and no pat on the back, but if lucky, will someday benefit from the decision.

It is easy to be a manager, just follow the processes. Leadership, on the other hand, is rare. How sad that is for corporate America.

To Your Success –

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  1. Barry Lynch said, on September 17th, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Isn’t this the truth. I know your in Texas Rick, here in Florida the issues are similiar. leadership is something you can learn. Some people are natural leaders and always take charge when there is a vacuum. Others are not and need to be taught. Maybe the real issue is that managers do not take the time to mentor and nuture talent like they used to. Is it because they do not have time or they don’t care. Who knows.

    But what is known is that a lack of leadership in a company invites organizational disfunction and the inevitable downward spiral that “leaderless” companies endure.

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