Leadership, Management & The Rising Tide

Wave by Lee Fenyves

Wave by Lee Fenyves

A leading businessman told me something remarkable last week. More than 30% of people are looking for a new job.

He wasn’t talking about those “between jobs”. He meant 30% of people in jobs.

On average around 13% of employees are looking for a new job at any point in time, but that number has jumped nearly 150% in the past year

Among the would-be movers there were 3 reasons for the urge:

1. my company is going nowhere and management has no idea what to do about it;

2. our bosses keep beating us up because they keep getting beaten up by their bosses;

3. my company retrenched so many people that I can’t stand working here any more.

The majority of people want a new job because their managers are too useless, too awful, or have damaged the company too badly to work with them any longer.

There has been a consistent theme in this downturn, summed up wryly by Warren Buffet as: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

That vivid mental image applies to more than just banking and derivatives. It sums up how we are recognizing all the bluffers, muddlers and office politicians who have risen to their highest level of incompetence and beyond.

Anyone can succeed in management in the good times when nearly everything seems to make money and there’s enough of it sloshing around to cover up one’s mistakes.

That all changes in a recession.

Managers run to find costs to cut. Real leaders, not having surplus costs, have no need to cut and know that one can’t cost-cut one’s way to market leadership.

Managers feel lost in a crisis because their plans were built on “more of the same” from the good times. Real leaders are used to innovating around what their organization is and does so are used to managing change and creating successful options.

Real leaders know where their costs are going and their profits are coming from. They can defend everything they have without their staff even knowing they had to be defended. Their staff often think the recession isn’t nearly as bad as everyone else is saying.

We all have to do some “management”. It’s the administrative part of any leadership role; part of tracking one’s progress in leading an organization. It’s also the protective equipment we use when running a subsidiary or division of a company with its headquarters and focus elsewhere.

As the “green shoots of recovery” grow taller, leaders will increase their pace of innovation and build even greater advantage; managers will breathe a sigh of relief and go back to what they were doing before the downturn.

The rising tide will lift all the boats again. However, talented people will jump ship to better organizations and wise captains will lead superior crews, in better equipped craft, to greater glory when it does.


2 responses to “Leadership, Management & The Rising Tide

  1. I’ve always drawn direct parallels between business, and sport; team sport specifically. We are all only as ‘good’, or great, as the people around us. ‘Superstars’ are just that when they are allowed to shine from a platform of equally if not more talented players. This ‘hierarchy’ arises from said individual’s own big promises and the promise of their ‘brand’.

    So as you said, when the tide goes out,those with the most to lose, the champs on the pedestals, sometimes become reactive and unpredictable, developing blaming behaviours and damaging interpersonal dynamics. It’s tough trying to stand on your staff’s heads when the floor has fallen out. This is a true test of the ‘star performer’ brand’s mettle – how good am I really when the chips are down and everyone Is suddenly out for their own?

    There are dozens of John Lennon’s working class heroes looking after the bosses. Not the othe way round. More of them need to find their burn, look up and ahead, and jump that ship- the game has changed, and when the ride has gone out, I reckon what matters is how big are the balls you’re left standing there with.

  2. Dave,

    Real leaders help people be the best they can; better than they imagined they could be.

    Leaders build people’s confidence in themselves. Good! Productivity soars.

    Some stars may resign to start other great companies. Good! The economy soars.

    Broad, sweeping generalizations, but you get the big idea, right?

    The average manager gets in people’s way.

    They inhibit, with-hold and try to control. They generally subscribe to a narrow perfectionism that leads to despair and frustration.

    The main reason managers fail to build people is fear of being challenged and “found out.” They prioritize covering their own backsides. Everybody loses.

    Thanks for commenting and keeping me growing.


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