I have been reading (in fact listening) to the biography of Apple founder, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and because it was so compelling, I also went for his biography of former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
Both of these exceptionally able people were frankly autocrats, never wrong in their minds and totally consumed by the drive to succeed.
Their management style as a consequence could be cold and distant while they both realised the need to have great people around them in order that their dictats would be properly implemented.
Both of them understood the need to have the very best people around them even if they didn’t always value them fully. Steve Jobs, in fact, said that he would only employ A-players in the business as B-players took up too much management time and effort.
Not many of us are leaders in this mould, perhaps happily, so we need to develop a leadership style that is effective without the need for autocracy.
It is important then to make sure that the business is not a “top down” organisation, with all the decisions being made by the senior team, or worse, by the leader alone. Will Hopper, in his wonderful book, The Puritan Gift, extols those companies that involve their people to the extent that they develop “bottom up” management.
Think on these things:
People cannot implement what they do not know - when strategy is implicit and not explicit. Remember that in the end it is the people who will implement the strategy not the leadership so it makes total sense to involve them at an early stage.
They do not implement properly that which they cannot understand - when strategy is developed in isolation. Again they are far more likely to understand if they are actively involved in the process.
We do not implement that to which we are not committed - when strategy is imposed from outside those accountable. It is essential that people own the decision so that they feel accountable for its success.
We give up on a strategy whose implications have not been anticipated - when the critical issues have not been identified in advance. It is all about communication and clarity, two factors that can frequently go missing.
Operational people are generally not good strategic thinkers - when they are excluded from the strategic development process! Make sure that they are encouraged to give of their “shop floor” expertise and experience, factors that can be lacking in the top team.
People find it very difficult to hit a target they cannot see, or embrace aspirations that they don’t share or are not shared with them. We can’t over emphasise the importance of transparency in the process so that everyone feels involved.
All of this means that people must feel and, indeed, be involved (the current fashionable word is “engaged”) and it can take a leap of faith to implement it.
It all comes down to that emotive word “TRUST”. Unless we trust our people and allow them to make decisions (and mistakes, by the way), they will never feel involved and will always just be doers and not thinkers.
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