Friday, December 11, 2015

The Refuge of Poor Leaders

Poor leaders rely upon the short memories of their followers. 

They often boldly and successfully revise accounts of events to avoid accountability for inactivity or failures. That success is due to two facts: 1) few people carefully follow events and 2) people are usually unwilling to believe that anyone, especially someone enjoying high status, would so shamelessly pervert the truth.

A good way to spot such tactics is to read the minutes of meetings and to keep a status log on key projects. What you'll discover is the use of recent events as a sleight-of-hand to distract attention from the status of last month's promises or last week's crisis.

"Out of sight, out of mind" is the silent mantra of such leadership. 

Close monitoring and long memories are its greatest enemies..


Bobbocio said...

Does this ever resonate with me.

So often the goal posts are completely moved, and a leader hopes no one notices.

"Sure our project was delayed and overbudget, but it was a resounding success! We created an important dialogue in society." - project champion

When this project was first proposed, I don't remember the goals being to create a dialogue but no profit...

Michael Wade said...


There is a lot of that going around!


Anonymous said...

I've been putting off digging out this story for too long, so I'm just going to mangle it and tell it myself. I believe it is from Drucker, but I might be wrong.

Pondering his upcoming retirement, the CEO of a company decided he needed to make himself useful before he left. After some deep thought, he decided the most important thing he could do was leave a pool of trained executives for the company's future needs. After some further thought on how to accomplish it, he had personnel place on his desk, every day, one middle manager's yearly review. After reading the yearly reviews, he would frequently note the reviewing manager would note some training or extra activity the reviewed manager needed. When the CEO found the reviewed manager had not received such, the CEO would call the reviewing manager and say he had read the review and noted nothing had been done. The CEO would then remark "Why hasn't this happened and what impact do you think this will have on your personal review?" and hang up.

One of my favorite stories. Sorry for being too lazy to dig out the actual reference and text. I'm a busy guy, blah, blah, blah.

In terms of the original post, it's a sin of omission carefully disguised as forgetfulness.


Michael Wade said...


That's a great story. Unfortunately, I can probably count on one hand the number of executives and managers I've met who've adopted a similar approach with regard to employee development.