Leadership Spotlight The Leader Knows Best?
The Leader Knows Best?
When describing a megaproject being built on the Las Vegas strip, a business executive referred to it as “the sort of project God would build if He had the money.”1 This quote proved ill-fated because the project fell on hard times and teetered on the verge of bankruptcy in 2009. Like many other business people at the time, this individual took the point of view that growth would occur despite relevant economic indicators showing otherwise. As a leader, this executive approved spending millions of investors’ dollars based on his positive assessment of the economy.
Although an industry leader, another longstanding company failed to foresee the threat of a new digital revolution, despite employees’ suggestions to position the company for success. “Of course all the people buried in the hierarchy who saw the oncoming problems and had ideas for solutions made no progress. Their bosses and peers ignored them.”2
As in the case with these companies and others, leaders often assume they know the best course of action, regardless of statistics and the voices of contrarian advisers. Based on their past accomplishments, executives sometimes assume that any decision they make will lead to success.
Leaders must realize that they will not have a proper solution for every problem the organization faces. The mistake made is succumbing to the myopic belief that alone they can overcome every obstacle in the way.
While important to have confidence in ourselves as leaders, it holds equally critical to recognize the need to trust the opinions of our subordinates and advisers. Having such trust accomplishes multiple objectives across the leadership spectrum. First and foremost, an open atmosphere where people can present contrary advice prevents overconfidence while allowing for the consideration of different perspectives and perceptions. Another important ancillary benefit is that the participant becomes vested within the organization through this same expression. By creating a sense of ownership among members, the flow of relevant information through an organization will increase and allow the leader to make better, more informed decisions in difficult times.
Does someone in your organization have an idea that could save money, lives, or both? Is that person confident enough to come forward and present the idea to you? As a leader, make sure the answer is “yes.”
1 http://www.constructionknowledge.net/blog/?p=546 (accessed August 31, 2012).
2 John Kotter, “Barriers to Change: The Real Reason Behind Kodak’s Downfall,” Forbes Magazine, May 2, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkotter/2012/05/02/barriers-to-change-the-real-reason-behind-kodak’s-downfall (accessed August 31, 2012).
Special Agent M. Bret Hood, an instructor in Faculty Affairs and Development at the FBI Academy, prepared this Leadership Spotlight.