One of the earliest recorded incidents of this, and one of the most extreme, was when King Henry II made the statement:
"Who will rid me of this troublesome Priest?"
Unfortunately this statement was taken literally by four Knights of the Realm, ultimately resulting in the death of Thomas Becket; quite a serious outcome of a statement made out of frustration.
Nevertheless, on a smaller scale this happens daily within a lot of organisations, where the frustration or impatience of a Leader results in them making a request, either explicit or implied, to one of their reports that results in additional work, change in direction and usually frustration from the individual and team.
This leads to an atmosphere of uncertainty and an innate cynicism in the organisation and creates what I call a 'False Action Orientation', where short-term stimuli create knee-jerk reactions from Leaders and spawn frequent changes in focus for the team. However, the Leader gains a 'hit' from having, in their view, achieved something and solved a problem.
The simple fact of the matter is that most of the time, the apparent urgency of what they have directed their people to divert their focus to doesn't actually matter to the organisation; certainly not enough to warrant the diversion of attention. However, because it sits in their area of control (or strong influence) the Leader can 'solve' the problem and get their fix. This fits very well with the short-termism inherent in the Human Psyche, whereby immediate action and activity provides the reassurance of perceived progress.
However, this frequent change in focus is a Hurricane within the organisational culture, breeding insecurity that effort in the current priorities may be wasted and thus diminishing our People's motivation and engagement.
This fits very well with the short-termism inherent in the Human Psyche, whereby immediate action and activity provides the reassurance of perceived progress.
What we need in our Organisations' Leadership is the discipline to remain trained on what really matters; to maintain a laser-like focus on the Goals of the Organisation and the Initiatives that the team have engaged upon to deliver them. As I wrote in my article, "The Secret Ingredient of Business Success", those organisations that are successful at this utilise a form of Policy Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) to ensure that they can align all of their people around common Objectives and effectively manage their resources.
This does not mean that these Organisations are inflexible; quite the contrary; their focus and discipline facilitate the speedy achievement of their goals and provides their personnel with the bandwidth to solve problems and deliver results. Contrast that to the undisciplined leadership of mediocre organisations, where the lack of alignment is symptomised by an overload of meetings, emails, working hours and missed KPI targets.
It is therefore essential that Leaders are mindful of their impact on the organisation and think through thoroughly the direction that they want their people to take, as the alternative is to be the cause of their Organisational Hurricanes.
There are many Lean Leadership Books out there but I have reviewed those that I think are of most use on my Book Recommendations page.
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