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Bad leadership is…

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time reading/thinking about leadership. While I think it’s valuable to think about what makes for *great* leadership, in wonder if it’s equally, if not more valuable to be able to identify the characteristics of *bad* leadership. Think of it as “leadership anti-patterns”:

Bad leadership is…
…about you, instead of them
…about taking, instead of giving
…about power, instead of empowerment
…about “my vision”, instead of *our vision*
…doing what’s expedient and easy, instead of doing what’s right and hard
…exercising control, instead of the control you can relinquish
…taking credit, instead of giving credit

What leadership anti-patterns have you observed? Perhaps more importantly, which anti-patterns are you guilty of? :p

Toyota in crisis and the merits of navel-gazing

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

I caught this article today on Twitter which looks at some of the reasons for Toyota’s current financial state (two consecutive years of reported losses after half a century of outstanding performance).

The article is a really interesting read. But you only have to read the first paragraph to get to the part that really stuck out in my mind.

Shoichiro Toyoda, the 84-year-old family patriarch and honorary chairman of Toyota Motors, responded to this by announcing a stunning shake-up of top management. He chastised top managers for losing sight of the fundamentals that had made the company so outstanding and promised that the company would “return to basics.” The company’s financial reversal occurred, he indicated, not primarily because of the recession’s severity, but because after 2000 the company’s top executives made the mistake of pursuing finance-driven growth and pricing at the cost of sacrificing the basic principles that had made Toyota thrive.

In a situation where many leaders would look outward to explain their organization’s situation, Toyoda looks inward. “Here’s what we’re doing wrong”. “Here’s what we can do better”.

This is not to say that an organization’s situation isn’t to some extent a result of external factors – it isn’t a closed system. And it’s not to say that an organization should just shrug off the external factors – part of responsible management is to be aware of the external factors that might impact your organization’s success and, to whatever extent possible, manage these factors. But realistically you can only have so much leverage over these external factors. Internal factors, on the other hand, you do have control over (or should have control over).

Just from personal experience I also tend to think that the inward looking, reflective mindset tends to be much more compatible with the “learning mindset”. After all, if the reasons for my situation are “out there”, where I have little or no control, there’s not much I can do about it, and therefore not much motivation to look for more answers. On the other hand, if the answer is “in here”, where I do have control and can do something about it, I’m much more likely to keep thinking and learning until I find a solution.