The Absent Leader

While most people identify micromanagement as the worst leadership style, there is another type of boss who is equally destructive to an organization, the absent leader.

This is the type of boss who is distant, aloof, or so busy that they don’t perform the basic duties of a leader. Leadership is about being present. It’s about setting the direction for your team and accomplishing goals. It’s also about resolving issues and conflicts when they arise.

When a leader isn’t present and isn’t carrying out these critical duties, chaos reigns.

Absent leaders create a situation where each employee does what they think is best for the organization. Most people care about their company and they want it to succeed but, when the leader steps away, there is not one person guiding the organization. Everybody decides what’s best to do. In the absence of clear direction, the organization will drift further from its mission.

The other problem is that one individual might choose to go one way and another person goes in a different way. This results in the organization getting pulled in many different directions. This creates internal conflict, unnecessary debate, and arguments which wastes precious time and resources.

When there is no leader, or when the leader is silent, chaos takes over.

Another example of this is rumors. When a leader doesn’t adequately explain what’s happening in an organization, especially during times of change, rumors will begin to get started. People will speculate on what’s going to happen. These rumors will run through an organization and do nothing but create worry and waste time, energy, and resources.

Rumors happen when leaders aren’t leading.

There are three ways to avoid becoming an absent leader.

Be present. Be there for your team. Listen to what’s going on in the organization. Walk around the workplace and be seen. Be alert for rumors and internal debates. Understand where people may be wasting energy and where divisiveness exists.

Lead the organization. Set the vision and the objectives. Establish clear boundaries and expectations. Let your team know what the priorities are. Be there to resolve conflicts and make hard decisions. Don’t shy away from your responsibilities.

Don’t stand for chaos. It’s the leader’s job to build a stable, smooth-running business. Chaos should always be the exception and not the rule. It’s good to have debate and discussion but allowing constant infighting and arguments only wastes the time and energy of an organization. It does not put you closer towards your goal. Take a look at your organization and see what’s going on. If there is chaos and confusion, you are not doing your job. You are an absent leader. You might have the leadership title. You might have the corner office. But you are not leading your team and that can be devastating to your organization.

Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

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Barnevik on Leadership: Getting the Most out of your Team

I was a 32-year-old engineering manager with virtually no manufacturing experience, but that didn’t matter. The company needed a strong leader to take over one of the key manufacturing operations in the division and, because I had demonstrated the ability to get things done, I was asked to lead this business. This was the culture that Percy Barnevik created.

My first job after serving in the U.S. Navy was working for the global engineering company, ABB. Our CEO at the time was the legendary, hard-charging Swede, Percy Barnevik. In 1988, Barnevik created ABB by pulling off the largest European merger at the time, bringing together two engineering powerhouses, ASEA and Brown Boveri Ltd.

What I loved about Barnevik was his bias towards action. He got things done. He was decisive and he expected the same from his employees. The company culture at that time reflected his personality. We moved fast and we fixed it along the way. He knew how to bring out the best of his employees by challenging them to do more.

“Leadership Is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people” – Brian Tracy

Barnevik believed in getting the most out of his teams. He created a culture where we challenged each other to do the impossible. It was a company where the status quo was constantly challenged and we worked hard to create new levels of performance.

He understood the most important role of a leader is to set expectations and Barnevik kept his standards very high. He expected strong performance but he also knew that he had to create an environment where employees could take chances and try out new methods and techniques to improve the business.

Here are four things Barnevik did to get the most out of his teams:

Challenging assignments. Barnevik thought good people should be challenged. It was not uncommon for strong performing employees to be placed in high profile assignments which were far beyond their proven abilities. This allowed employees to have the opportunity to showcase their skills and provided management with a way to quickly evaluate talent.

Professional development. Barnevik believed in giving employees opportunities to grow professionally. In my time working for him, I attended countless domestic and international training sessions which exposed me to new ideas and helped me further develop my leadership skills.

A forgiving culture. Barnevik pushed decision making to the lowest level and embedded a culture of decisiveness at all levels. He created a culture of speed, decisiveness and forgiveness. If you made a bad decision, it was not the end of your career. You were expected to fix it and move on. This allowed leaders to try new ideas to improve performance without the constant fear of being fired.

Recognition for high achievement. Barnevik also understood that excellence should be recognized. He had countless programs to acknowledge significant achievement throughout the organization. This created positive feedback for high performing employees and generated internal competition which continued to boost performance.

“Good leaders boost the achievement of everybody, bad leaders can have the opposite effect.” – Percy Barnevik

I was fortunate to serve under Percy Barnevik during his time at ABB. Because of the culture he created, I was given the opportunity to lead a manufacturing operation at a young age. The company continued to invest in me and I grew as a business leader. Like many, I thrived in the culture he created where speed, decisiveness and forgiveness were embraced and high achievement was recognized.


 

Read more about Barnevik’s leadership in this rare book written by Percy himself.  This book is hard to find so I purchased a limited supply of these books and only have 4 left. This book is often stocked-out on Amazon and other sites.

Price includes shipping to U.S. customers. Overseas customers, contact me.

 

Percy Barnevik on Leadership (Shipping in U.S. included)

(Paperback – 2014) Percy Barnevik on Leadership is largely based on the author’s own experience gained in different leadership roles over a period of nearly 50 years. The emphasis is on efficient execution. This is, in his view, what mainly differentiates successful leaders and companies from less successful ones. The advice, contained in 200 separate points, covers a wide spectrum ranging from personal efficiency, strategy, handling of crises, company acquisitions to, not least, building successful teams.

$24.99

Are you Leading a Rebellion in your Industry?

39085804 - fake dictionary, dictionary definition of the word rebellion.

“Rebellions are Built on Hope” ~ Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. In fact, I’m old enough to have seen the first three movies in the theater when they were originally released. I love all the movies in the Star Wars franchise but Rogue One spoke to me as an entrepreneur and a leader.

If you haven’t seen it, the story features a character named Jyn Erso who leads a small team of rebels to capture plans which will help the Rebellion destroy a powerful new weapon the Empire has developed.

In one scene, the leaders of the Rebellion are meeting to decide on how to confront the Empire and their new weapon. Discouraged by fear and the overwhelming force of the Empire, the rebel leaders decide to disband and hide.

It’s at this point when Jyn and a small team of committed volunteers decide to do something about it. Against all odds, their tiny band of rebels takes on the Empire. Their heroic actions create a spark that ignites the rest of the Rebellion forces to join in the fight.

As a leader of a small company competing against large industry giants, I have been in those meetings where fear was present.  It’s natural to look at the size and strength of your competitors and become discouraged. What gives me confidence in these situations is to remember other David and Goliath stories.

One that I recall the most is the story of Netflix and Blockbuster Video. Back in 2000, Blockbuster was the giant in the industry and Netflix was just a small start-up. I can imagine the small team at Netflix was easily discouraged when they considered the size and strength of their rival who had 60,000 employees and 8,000 stores.

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

This is where hope comes in. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most brilliant military leaders in history stated that, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” This is especially important in a small business facing overwhelming odds. A leader must be the spark that ignites the rest of team.

As in the Rogue One story and the case of Blockbuster Video, large and powerful competitors always have a weakness. It’s the job of the leader to find that weakness and rally their team to exploit it. We should never underestimate what a small team of committed volunteers can do against overwhelming odds.

We each have the power to lead a rebellion in our industry. So, what are you doing to lead your rebellion? Have you found the weaknesses of your largest competitor? Are you rallying your team to exploit those weaknesses? Does your team look to the future with hope or are they discouraged by fear?

As a small business leader, we deal in hope. What hope are you providing today?