I’ve been doing some light reading this week…light reading usually means pointless reading in usual DeMarco Fashion…books like Death Star by Michael Reeves and Steve Perry (don’t think it is the same Perry of Journey fame…but you never know). The book chronicles the building of the Death Star and career of Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin.
Combine The Death Star with the Five Characteristics of Weak Leaders a podcast by Michael Hyatt…and it got me to thinking…there is a big difference between evil leaders and bad leaders.
I know that seems intuitively obvious, but how many times do we look at a weak leader and immediately assume he/she is just pure evil…as opposed to simply something less than competent.
History is full of evil leaders: Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin Dada, and one could argue they were effective as (evil) leaders…Hitler’s aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe. To this end, his foreign and domestic policies had the aim of seizing Lebensraum (“living space”) for the Germanic people. He directed the rearmament of Germany and the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht in September 1939, resulting in the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Under Hitler’s rule, in 1941 German forces and their European allies occupied most of Europe and North Africa. Of course ultimately Hitler was defeated and committed suicide…but his evil accomplishments required a great deal of leadership.
One might see an evil leader come up with concepts such as the “Tarkin Doctrine” which emphasizes ruling “through the fear of force, rather than force itself.”
But a weak leader is something all together different… a leader who is incompetent, scared, and usually very worried they will be found out to be…just that…a weak leader. Michael Hyatt uses General George B. McClellan, commander of the “Army of the Potomac” and, eventually, first general-in-chief of the Union Army as his example of a weak leader. Hyatt notes poor leaders suffer from five flaws that appear consistently in weak leaders.
Flaw #1: Weak leaders hesitate to take definitive action.
Flaw #2: Weak leaders complain about a lack of resources.
Flaw #3: Weak leaders refuse to take responsibility.
Flaw #4: Weak leaders abuse the privileges of leadership.
Flaw #5: Weak leaders engage in acts of insubordination.
Not to pile onto Hyatt’s flaws, but I might add:
DeM Point #1: Self-delusion. As humans we tend to overestimate our skills. Be aware that we might be self-aggrandizing. If we don’t understand our strengths and weaknesses we can quickly kid ourselves into believing we have no room to improve.
DeM Point #2: Heedlessness. Simply not taking heed…those in “power” are watched carefully by their subordinates. Do we reciprocate? Don’t forget to remain curious about and engaged with our direct reports. Build a culture of caring and family–everyone wants to contribute and everyone has a story–get to know your folks.
DeM Point #3: Insulation: We need to create a culture where dialog occurs and is encouraged. How do folks feel about bringing you bad news? Is the messenger lauded or shot on sight? Over-communication is key to any successful leader.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses… let’s focus on our strengths and partner with team members and direct reports to compliment our weaknesses. AND… when we look around us today… don’t mistake that weak leader for an evil leader…