Can leadership lead to self-delusion of infallibility?
The IT and Telecommunications sectors have had their dose of sparkling personalities with apparent strong leadership qualities over the past decade. We have all wondered at their seeming ability to grow organizations with speed and control which reinforces greatness until a sudden fallibility comes into prospect with a change in economic environment.
Where did the dynamics of their great leadership go wrong? According to some recent articles on leadership it comes down to two human frailties; narcissism and the control and the dependency they create amongst others.
It is easy to envisage that the leader of an enterprise grows in confidence after a series of successes in enhancing their vision and strategy. They believe they have found the formula, the model or some other epithet, which reflects their success in carrying forward their objectives and visions. The sense of greatness tends to be reinforced by the plethora of media, the PR and the business and sector press fawning for interviews for self aggrandisement, and professional advisers, who wish see the fee potential in providing financial, advisory and consultancy services for the enterprise.
More importantly, perhaps, with a few successes under their belts, leaders can substantially underestimate the scale of resources and the time necessary to accomplish their visions and objectives.
Overwhelming self-confidence brings out another disturbing trait; the growing reluctance to debate or accept contrary views leading to a 'dependency culture'. This drives away the talents of complementary but creative people, who are either ignored or driven out of the enterprise. At the same time a complementary culture of dependency and sycophancy develops.
Second rate or weaker, less talented people surround the leader enhancing the notions of self-delusion and greatness. Those dependent on the leader frequently make extensive and excessive commitment in their efforts to meet the objectives set by the leader. Short cuts, half-completed actions and sometime unethical behaviour are the consequences.
This leadership model was unfortunately not uncommon in the Chief Executive of many fast growing enterprises and seemingly successful enterprises of the past decade, buoyed along by a favourable economic climate and benign financial markets. They do get their 'come-uppance' eventually but not before they have damaged the value of their enterprises, some subordinate's lives and the shareholder value. What price leadership?
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