It’s always interesting to hear the dichotomy between how the successful, rule-breaking, convention-busting Leaders describe their success and the way Conventional Wisdom keeps dismissing their simple ways as not workable, not realistic, unique to them, etc.
Thinking differently doesn’t necessarily cost any more — it just takes a commitment to not doing more of the same. While no company would ever buy into a marketing campaign of “We Are Every Bit As Good As Everyone Else In Our Field,” that is effectively the way many of the world’s biggest corporations have conducted their business for generations. In my experience this bizarre “stay inside our little comfortable box at all costs” mentality is frequently a by-product of the malaise that goes by the name of “shareholder accountability.” When the leaders of a public company’s primary focus is their stock price — and with it their performance-linked bonuses — it makes it very difficult for them to take in the big picture. When the going gets tough the standard big corporation approach is to try and slash and burn their way back to profitability, and with labour generally constituting the greatest single cost, cutting heads and/or pay freezes are invariably the first thing to happen.
Now maybe I’m oversimplifying things, but if one of the primary reasons a company’s profits are suffering is poor customer service, then following a round of morale-destroying lay-offs by asking the diminished workforce that remains to do more for less strikes me as a somewhat foolish expectation. Rather than digging their way out of a hole, such slash and burn tactics will typically only dig it deeper. Smaller companies that have the freedom to turn the traditional corporate pyramid of stockholders first, employees last, on its head and put their employees and customers ahead of shareholder interests are usually doing the latter a far greater service. Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow.
Of course, what credentialed MBA worth his salt would listen to a high-school dropout?
There are two approaches — feel free to choose yours:
- The Sophisticated Method of leading an organization by the numbers, trusting that people’s multi-faceted need for their jobs will keep them following your lead;
- The Unsophisticated Method of leading people as people — hitching your wagon first and foremost to your people, trusting that the numbers will follow.
Call me unsophisticated, but I know which way I’d rather lead.