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Edition 417 – My Way or the Highway

Have you ever come across a business owner where it’s “my way or the highway”?

They’re mostly dominant personality types. They don’t like their position, or their opinion, being challenged and will use volume and projection to push their line of thinking.

They’re often incredibly demanding and expect their staff to commit to their roles well beyond what most of us would reasonably expect.

Sometimes they’re perfectionists, exhibiting little tolerance for errors, be they from senior team members, or the newbies in the business.

Most commonly, they’re bullies, presumably learning the skill in the school yard, back in the day, and now refining it in the workplace.

Perhaps that style of management worked once, years ago. It doesn’t now! It creates a massive cultural issue in any business, if the key leaders are those who believe they’re right, and are unwilling to countenance contrary viewpoints.

In my experience, when individuals like this lead businesses, people don’t invest fully in the relationship with the leader, or with the business.

If I have something to say, and it’s different from the leader, I can get my head shot off, quite possibly in front of a group of my colleagues, simply for raising an alternate viewpoint.

I’m humiliated, either verbally or obliquely, for what I’ve said and, by extension, for who I am.
So, I learn from this and decide that, in order to ensure I don’t become a casualty of war, I’d better just crouch down slightly below the top of the trenches.

My passive retreat is seen as agreement by the dominant personality, who likes to surround themselves with people that never challenge them, and only ever support the leader’s viewpoint, even if, deep down, the employee actually doesn’t.

Ultimately, for some of us, there’s only so long you can keep doing this, so you decide to stand up. You throw on your helmet, take a deep breath, then proceed to challenge the authority. The barrage of fire ramps up, and your commitment to the cause is questioned. “You’re not part of the team” is often the lament of the leader, towards the now recalcitrant employee.

Others merely desert the business. They decide, one day,  this is not what they signed up for, and walk out. A colleague spots the move and, before long, they too join the slowly building exodus.

Most, however, stay crouched in position, not venturing an opinion that waivers much from those of the leader. The job is good. The rewards are good too. If they keep their head down, they can build a good life. Perhaps not as satisfying professionally and personally as what it could have been. But, maybe, they’re prepared to sacrifice that given the returns they’re receiving.

I’ve been advising family business owners and their management team for 37 years. When I’ve come across these alpha type leaders, what never ceases to amaze me is their inability to connect the dots when the growing exodus of individuals from the business starts to build to a crescendo. Blame is laid at the feet of the departing (or departed) employee, all whilst that person’s character and commitment is questioned.

Funny thing is, those same leaders need to look up, and into the mirror,  to see exactly where the issue rests.

This Week’s Tip

Take a moment to reflect, what is your leadership style? And, how does it positively, or negatively, impact those around you?