Apr 12, 2011

Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders

Internet is teeming with articles and blog posts on Leadership. Google search ‘Qualities of a leader’ yields 21.3 million results in 0.14 seconds whereas search for “Qualities of ineffective leaders”, gives just 1.73 million results but take 29% more time – are we ignoring the unpleasant side of the leadership coin? Granted that it is charming to be a great leader, but I think it is easy to be a bad leader than being a good one. Probability of being a bad leader exceeds that of being a good one. Like a consultant Kent Romanoff said   “... [we get to see] a spectacular cavalcade of incompetence...” so spectacular that I can’t help but rant about it. 

Attitudes and beliefs are influenced by culture, they give leaders a distinct local shades of behavior patterns. Here are some common symptoms of bad leadership in India, one at a time:

Habit #1 - Coterie Complex
: bad leaders nurture a coterie around them - this is devil’s temptation, nothing less, an age old failure function that leads to inevitable decay. History of India is replete with stories of kings, their fiefs and their deputies indulging in this suicidal orgy, building coteries of yes men around them -
sucking up to someone has never gone out of fashion!

Like bacteria infested water,

these coteries breed incompetence -  a gang of yes men and women who might despise each other but work together nevertheless - these people become eyes and ears of the leader. Bad leader blocks out all other channels of information - avoiding listening to anybody other than the gang members - virtually building fortresses around themselves. Consequently, members of the coterie share the spoils, the goodies that bad leaders can offer, most promotions, most hikes, most of most benefits. People outside this circle are treated as alien scum.

Antidote for Coterie Complex: Coteries help incompetent people more than bad leaders. Outside protective shadow of poor leadership, incompetent people are like fish out of water - they disappear into oblivion soon after bad leaders get booted. We have umpteen such disasters all around us.
  • A good leader should keep a check on these unhealthy cohesions around him, make it absolutely clear to every one that only performance counts.
  • Never ever depend on one person's versions and opinions before taking a decision - always double check, better still, check it out first hand. Seek alternate views from different people -  and evaluate them - thinking and decision making can't be delegated. The decisions that a leader needs to take, only he should.
  • The more a leader is in contact with others, more graceful and open minded he becomes. Instead of getting into fortress mentality, a leader should float in and out of different circles and mix with people. That kind of mobility protects leaders from evils of Coterie Complex.
Habit #2: in the next post...

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